I have been asked often what it is like to be in severe clinical depression. It is very difficult for someone who has not experienced this illness to understand the unending darkness, anxiety and pain. Almost everyone experiences ups and downs in life. Periodically many people also experience mild depression for a day, a week or a bit more but usually come out of it with no lingering after-effects. The depression I am describing here does not just fade away or disappear. It does not respond to exercise, change in diet, positive thinking or even love. Sometimes it can be masked by medication but it is seldom cured that way. Medication is a temporary solution. I have found that the right kinds of talk therapy combined with other tools will cure this debilitating illness but that is a discussion for another article.
The other day I was asked what a good day and a bad day looked like when in severe clinical depression. I thought this would be a good way of explaining the experience of deep depression and wanted to share it with you. Maybe it will be helpful for you or someone you know who is going through this darkness.
It has been many years since I was in depression but I still remember it very well. I was in severe clinical depression for 3 long years before I got rid of it.
When I was sucked into this darkness I was a psychotherapist in private practice. One of my talents was hyper-empathy. I was able to feel my clients to the depths of their souls. I was also able to take on some of their pain to give them relief for a couple of weeks. I would usually take a bit of time between sessions to get rid of the negative emotions that I have taken on but I started getting lazy about doing this. Then a relationship I was in ended and I was devastated. I spiraled down into depression.
I went to a psychiatrist I knew and he prescribed anti-depressants. They did not help and I tried to commit suicide. After the unsuccessful attempt I was hospitalized in a psychiatric unit and they tested various combinations of antidepressants on me. After 2 weeks they sent me home. After another few months I let the psychiatrist know that the medications were not helping and that I would prefer to come off them.
I was fortunate that I was making a very good living with my home recording studio at the time. I only needed to work about 1 week a month at home at tasks that were not too demanding for me. So I hired a personal assistant to live at my house and to take care of things like cooking, cleaning and paying bills. I was unable to do these things for myself. I stopped doing counseling since I felt that I was not in a position to help anyone if I could not help myself.
Here is a short description of what my days were like. I prefer not to get into too much depth for a number of reasons.
Wake up slowly. “Shit, I am still alive. Why? Oh, I have some work that needs to get done today so I can get paid”. I slowly get up. Put on some clothes. Get washed up. Go to the recording studio in my home. Do the work I need to do. Finish the work. Go lay on the couch and curl up and go to sleep. My personal assistant fixes me a meal and lets me know that it is time to eat. I eat and go back to the couch and try to sleep. When it is dark I go back to bed and beg not to wake up in the morning but to die. The entire day is clouded with incredible pain and darkness. I was functional enough to focus and do the recording studio work as long as I did not have to interact with people or have any major technical issues. Now and then I would meet a friend for a meal in town and would pretend that I was ok. Then I would drive home and go back to bed.
Wake up slowly. “Shit, I am still alive”. I stay in bed in pain and darkness. My personal assistant lets me know that it is time to eat. I put on some clothes, go to eat and then go lay on the couch and go back to sleep for the rest of the day to avoid the incredible pain. When it gets dark I go back to bed and pray to die before morning.
That was my life for 3 years. I traveled some in hopes of feeling better. I went out and camped in nature. I tried to be with friends. I spent lots of money and bought lots of stuff and gifts for friends and my ex. I worked for some time in the USSR in hopes of being distracted from the pain. I moved to another city. I tried to get into relationships. Nothing stopped the pain, sadness, anxiety, exhaustion, desire to die and the crushing darkness. Nothing. It was darker every day. It was a dark pit with no bottom and I was swirling down deeper and deeper every day. All I wanted to do was to die. Eventually the darkness became all I knew. It was like a warm, wet blanket. It was my comfort zone, my constant companion, my only real friend. I had no idea what happiness was or that it was even possible.
People would tell me that I would hit bottom and then start coming up. They would tell me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Be positive they would say. You have everything in life, how can you be depressed? None of that was helpful and none of it was true. When you are in clinical depression there is no bottom to the dark well of pain. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. Any positive statements sound like lies and just make it all feel worse.
That is deep, clinical depression. I know it well. That is why, when I finally got rid of it, I was able to help others in depression get out of it as well. My clients/patients knew that I knew what they were going through intimately like no one else did. Because of that they listened to me.
I pray that you never experience this.
If you do, I can tell you from personal experience that there is a way out of it. I found that way out and have helped many others get out of it as well. Depression is not your friend or your welcome companion. It is like a dark vampire feeding on your life and it will suck you dry until you die unless you stop it. And stop it you must and stop it you can.
© 2017 Jon Shore
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