Depression is Terrifying
You are sitting in your psychiatrist's office. The office is large. Her desk sits in the corner near the window. The blinds are always closed. The halogen lights seem much too bright--they hurt your eyes. Eyes that constantly threaten to close, and you wish you were back home where it is safe and dark. Back home where you can pretend there is nothing wrong. But there is: that is why you are sitting across from your doctor, across the small oval table. You glance at the stagnant art and your heart races. Your hands sweat. Your mind moves too quickly and then not fast enough.
Welcome to the Terrifying Non-Space of Depression
You are trying to figure out how you can express how you feel. How you can put the words together in the proper way: one word following another, hoping they make sense. But you're not really sure. You are stuck. Caged in your mind.
A bamboo plant sits across the room; you notice it has grown since you were last here---sitting in the same spot with the same hat pulled over your eyes. Maybe in the same clothes. You cannot remember. Did you walk here? Did you drive? It all seems so confusing. It is all so damn confusing.
A voice: "How are you feeling?"
You immediately recoil. You move back in your chair just enough to feel a little more comfortable. This is when you are supposed to tell your psychiatrist how you are feeling. But how are you feeling? Are you feeling anything at all? How can you describe what you don't think exists?
Your voice, quiet, barely audible but present: "I do not think I am feeling good. Probably not. I missed work this week. I told them I had the flu. I imagine I will be fired. I don't even care." You are not really sure you said this out loud but you must have because your psychiatrist is responding:
"Maybe we need to change some medications."
She scribbles notes on paper. You wonder: why do doctor's all have horrible handwriting? You have never seen an exception to this. Is it so you cannot read it? Cannot read about yourself, your life? It does not make sense. But nothing makes sense right now. Breathing does not make sense and walking is hard. You cannot remember when you last ate. Or what food tastes like. Your bed is never made because you are usually laying in it.
The voice across the table keeps talking. And it sounds so far away but it is not--a couple feet. An entire country. Psychiatrists, if you are lucky, are skilled enough to diagnose based on body language. And you are not moving---save for wringing your hands underneath the desk. They sweat. Your forehead sweats.
Depression is Absolutely Terrifying and Recovery Comes at a Cost
Soon, you have left her office. You are standing in the dim bathroom of the clinic. You make your way to the stall where you sit down and cry. You walk to the pharmacy, legs like bricks, and hand the pharmacists who know you by name, your new prescription.
The Waiting Game
The only time you feel okay is when you enter your home. Where it is quiet--where you feel safe. Nothing can get you here. It is just you--and your mind. It is frightening. Sometimes, the depression makes you angry. Agitated. You might throw things because you cannot stop to think.
Your family, your partner, even your damn pets know something is wrong. The dog licks your face but goes to the other room when you cry. If you can muster tears. Crying is hard work. The cat, he disappears into another room, he is afraid of you. You, well, you are scared of yourself.
Those who love you say you will get better but they worry you will not. Nevertheless, they try to make you eat and take you out of the house. They assure your boss that you will be back soon. And you will.
A Promise in a Bottle
You take your medication as the bottle tells you to: Twice a day and with food. But eating is hard. You eat too much or too little. Nothing is balanced. That is the experience of depression and this is where you have arrived.
Weeks pass, they feel like months, like years, and slowly you open your eyes a bit more. You go for short walks and call your boss. Back to work next week you tell her hopefully, always hopeful. This is the experience of chronic mental illness--for some of us.
Back in the Office
"How are you feeling?" You hate that goddamn question. At that moment, you have never hated anything more. Except for the depression. You wish she could be more creative. Why can't she ask you if you have risen from bed lately, eaten anything, smiled? Human things that make us feel normal.
"I think," you tell her, making eye contact, "I am feeling a little bit better."
And you are. This much is true. You are back at work. You are recovering. You are becoming well. A month later, you will sit in the same chair and smile, you might thank her for helping you become well or you might cry because you fear it will happen again. The fall from grace.
But when I am well I work to live in that moment, the succession of months and, with any luck, years.
It's easier to describe depression in the third person. And, I hope, my experience will be shared with some people. Above all, I hope that you too work to stay well. This blog is entitled Recovering from Mental Illness for a reason: it is something we need to work at every day.
And I do--I hope you do as well.
Jeanne, N. (2011, November 21). Depression is Terrifying, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, November 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2011/11/depression-is-terrifying
Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne
Depression is a BEAST.
That's a word I've definitely used to describe it as well! A very apt description, for sure.
This is how I feel sometimes. If its not this then I feel like I'm on top of the world. Either way I'm always scared...Scared of when my mood will change. Scared of what I will do. Ands scared of who I will hurt.
At time I wish someone would actually diagnose me so I could get help. But I can't stand the thought of how people will look at me...
This was like reading about myself. Such a perfect account brought me to years. I stay home and hide. I barely eat. I try to go for walks but every step hurts every part of me. My dog stays by my side when she can my spouse doesn't understand why I can't work why I can't just get better why I don't care enough to be well again. I hurt so deeply worse than cuts and bruises every inch of me screams out in pain. I am also bipolar so antidepressant s are a no. Now I am trying my fifth different medication this time an anti seizure medication that is supposed to change the brain signals I am not sure I don't think it's working nothing is working I have now been referred to an outpatient day program. But again I don't know if it will be of any help. So sad all the time nothing brings me not anymore.
none of the many people i know who suffer from mental lillness are able to work....
Thank you for writing this.
I agree with many of the others that it felt like you were inside my mind, especially when I'm at my doctors office. When I'm feeling worse, and he asks me the "dreaded question" How are you feeling today?, often I have spoken an inaudible answer that he has to move closer and ask again. I don't do it on purpose but I naturally speak softly & when I am very depressed talking is very difficult, I seldom even answer the phone at that point. He will usually ask a different question than because he knows the answer to that. Thankfully he also believes in small offices too. It still doesn't make it any easier. My friend often calls & asks if I remembered to tell him that I've hardly been eating (or even been thinking about it, which she cant understand). She asks if I remembered write down anything that we both knew I wouldn't remember to ask or say & bring it with me (but I almost never do). When I am very down my dog comes by me & will push my hand to pet him & he lets me know when he needs to be fed or go out, even though my son lives with me (he tries to get me to do it all the time). I try to do what I can but when I am very depressed it is hard to function, but I do the best I can... even though I feel (when I can feel) no matter what I do it is not enough. Then sometimes I don't care though... as long as someone doesn't ask... "How are you feeling?"
Amazing piece. Nobody else seems to think about or mention the total confusion and terror and how you literally forget how to walk, eat... people talk about the flatness, hopelessness, whatever emotion/lack of emotion they experience, but I'm not sitting here staring at the wall because I'm sad, it's because I LITERALLY DO NOT KNOW HOW TO DO ANYTHING ELSE. I can't form thoughts. I spend weeks wearing the same outfit because picking out another one is unfathomably difficult. My daily activities consist of putting that outfit in the washing machine and dryer every day and sitting there staring at it.
That inability to feel anything is for me often deliberate. Well, more subconsciously deliberate. Right underneath that flatness is feeling EVERYTHING and I have to block it out.
Anyway, a testament to your post is that I haven't written anything this long or personal in months. I'm sorry I turned this into a personal rant but , I needed to do it and I've already maxed out my guilt meter by doing much worse things to people than wasting some space on the internet.
Thank you for this comment and for appreciating the blog. It is so hard for people who do not live with depression to understand how hard it is to do 'normal' things like eat. Sometimes, I find it hard to even move. It's hard to feel when you are feeling down and I agree, it is hard to even want to feel.
Again, thank you for this comment it helps others feel less alone.
I, too, share the feelings and experience life in the ways you described. I am trying to help others, the 'depressed' and the 'not depressed', better understand this illness. I have shared some blogs and articles from this site on my facebook page. I wanted to share this one; however, being a follower of Christ, the use of God's name, in this way, makes me uncomfortable. I realize this is an illustration of how severe depression is; however, I continue to choose not to use God's name in vain. I cry out to Him...I don't describe my feelings and thoughts by using His name, along with such a negative word, as an adjective.
Wow! How did you know how I feel? Did you put a recorder in my brain? Just kidding, but I cannot believe the way you described how I feel. I live with severe Major Depressive Disorder. I, too, hate that question, "How are you feeling?" I get better for years sometimes, days sometimes, minutes sometimes. My doctor told me last year when I had a bad run, "Well, you've had a couple of good years." He's been my doctor for a long time, and I know he watches out for me and knows when I'm not doing well. My 61st birthday was December 29th this year. I was struggling before that, but it's been so hard on my since then. Thank you so much for describing how I feel even down to that horrible question. Do I tell the truth - that I haven't felt like this since I was first diagnosed in 1998? Do I just say fine, and get my prescriptions filled again? I just read this article for the first time today (Feb. llth), and I am so happy I did. I've written some things, too, for magazines. I hope my articles helped people feel connected like yours has. I wish you strength and courage to endure until tomorrow. That's what I pray for every day for myself. Alice
It's so nice to know that people can relate--that's all I can ask for when writing these blogs:) The 'how are you feeling question' is ridiculous! It can be so hard to answer at the best of times. Depression comes and goes--I have had a good year and that's rare for me--the winters usually bring me down.
Thank you for the positive comment!
The practice of writing and reading allways make me feel better, bot this is like an upside down world that picture me like a non working person and every day i work more than ever in my mind to skip and fight whith thoughts and rumination of all the news about be deppresive and learn living with this with the world outside that seams to be organice and reflexive. I ounly think that in this live my mission is to be like this, because is the only way to be in touch with my soul and my place in this world. Ilike to share my feeling, even if my mind do not want to move my body. It is terrible ba e deppresive! Thank you.
P.D. I'm from Mexico City and my English too, sorry!
thankyou for writing this! this has made me feel much less alone and stupid for feeling how i feel.. it's kind of reassuring that people get through this, so thanks :)
Thank you for the comment. Never, EVER, feel stupid for feeling this way!
Well written. I could relate to a lot of what you said. Good to know I am not alone. Thank you.
Natalie, you just narrated exactly how i felt...
I am glad you can understand, its tough.
I sat in that chair today. I am sick of that question. Also sick of my wife letting me know how much I have screwed up In my life and how much I have hurt her. Then wonder why I am so depressed.
Thank you for the comment. I am so glad people can relate. Sometimes, those we love most cannot understand our illness. I won't give any relationship advice (if you read today's blog you will understand why!) but my past partner said many hurtful things. Express how much this hurts you. Also, it's a good idea to present some literature on the illness to your partner.
Depression as mental disorder embraces a lot group of psychiatric entities that are distinguished with depressive phenomenology, against different causative and provoking factors. Indeed this is a universal experience that from time to time attacks everyone of us. But this undesired life felling isn't depressive illness if the same didn't ruin personal, professional and social accomplishments. Therefore, depression as total bio-psycho-social weakness should be treated by psychiatrist, in order to cure actual unbearable sufferings, as well to prevent next complications. Moreover, when it is well-known fact that this illness by a competent psychiatric treatment, could to cure in properly manner. Beside this encouragement veracity, through long-lasting psychiatric treatment and management, we would to impede eventual somatic and psychic damaged of respective depressive patient.
I was absolutely stunned reading your description of the depression because it is so much like what I have gone through - as if you had somehow been able to peek into my life and give words to the experience as I never could.
I've been there a number of times, in that chair across from the doctor, wondering how I will answer the question 'How are you feeling today?'. So locked up inside myself that I was afraid to even speak out loud. Somehow, with the help of my family, managing to describe the weeks spent in bed with the window shades drawn, not talking, barely eating, hiding. It' not easy but I am mostly better these days with a particular therapy. I'm thankful for that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Very brave.
I am so glad you could relate. It was one of those posts that I hesitated to write about because it is so personal. Knowing others relate really helps:)
I am glad you can relate. It is, unfortunately, a shared experience among those diagnosed with a mental illness. Time does not always feel as if it is on our side--but learning to be patient, well, we can try:)
I am glad you are feeling better!
Oh my, this sounds so familiar to me. I've sat in that chair, my eyes closing, not knowing what to say when asked how do I feel. I've gotten better now, after 3-1/2 years, it's been about 2 months that I feel, shall I say "good". But everytime I feel better it only lasts three to six months, then the medicine stops working. I am so worried about that, but know I should just take this and roll with it.