100. The Quiet Crisis of Chronic Depression

Since I have written my novel, Too Late in the Afternoon: One Man’s Triumph over depression, and since I have started coaching those who are depressed, I have been deeply struck with the high number of people who have depression and don’t want any help with it. The next category is the high number of people who go to a medical doctor and are prescribed an anti-depressant that may or may not work. If it works, that’s all they need. If it doesn’t work, then maybe it wasn’t depression after all; it was just them.

I talk to people who think they are being punished by God or

are just destined to go through life depressed and don’t want to confess their weakness. They don’t want to admit either of these conditions to anyone, and so help that is available to them is shunned. I have to say that this phenomenon amazes me. I admit that I was a bit like this when I first became depressed, but then when the depression became so bad, I was seeking help from every corner – and I eventually came out on the other side.

I keep searching to understand this phenomena. Let’s see what John Folk-Williams has to say.

From Storied Mind

 I’ve come to believe that no form of diagnosable depression should be called “mild.” Yet I frequently see the terms “mild or moderate” depression to distinguish the chronic form of illness (dysthymia) from the more episodic and severe variety (major depressive disorder).

My concern is not about the accuracy of these terms according to a standard measurement scale. I worry about their effect on people considering what they should do about depression.

Years ago, when I was trying to ignore my problem, I liked to say that I had “minor” depression.

“Mild,” “moderate” and “minor” may not be the formal diagnostic terms, but they worked well in helping me downplay the illness and put it lower on the list of priorities for action. People devote themselves to solving big problems. No one has time for the little ones. I thought my depression was in the category of the little problems.
That bit of self-deception enabled me to sidestep the inconvenient truth that this “minor” condition had been with me since childhood and had played a part in undermining many aspects of my life. I chose to focus on the undeniably “major” depressive episodes as the real problem.

Those were the periods when I lost almost all motivation, energy, mental focus, ability to relate to people, and at times even the will to live. There was no denying that I could function only at a minimal level and that I needed help to get through the illness.

But when this acute phase ended, life rarely went back to normal. Because I had lived with depression for most of my life, I didn’t have a very good idea about “normal” anyway. To me, normal tended to be about 50% of the level of energy and drive that I needed to feel capable of doing everything I knew I could do.

Since I didn’t concern myself with “minor” depression, I never tried to learn much about its effects. Instead, I assumed that what it was doing to me was not the effect of an illness at all but simply a part of my personality, the given traits that made up my identity as a person.

Many people with chronic depression seem to believe the same thing. They don’t do anything about it. Perhaps they believe the condition is just the way they are.

If you’ve lived with depression for a long time, it’s hard to shake the idea that there is “really” something wrong with you or that you’re faking it because you can’t handle life or one of the other stereotypes that plague us.

These stereotypes, I think, are just as deeply rooted in depressed people as they are in those who don’t want to understand mental illness.
If something plagues you for months and years, it’s serious and severe and needs to be at the top of your list of life problems to work on.

The long and short of this is that if you need help with depression, get it – body, soul, and spirit. Or if you know someone who is depressed, be a friend and tell them to get help. Depression is not easily dealt with on one’s own. You can always e-mail me at pday@pjdcoaching.com if you want to know how to get help for yourself or someone else.

About Patrick Day

In 2010, I escaped from four long years of deep, dark depression. This blog shares lessons I learned from those years as depicted in my autobiography - How I Escaped from Depression - as well as other insights about depression and anxiety that only come from someone who has gone through it. When you have a heart attack, you become an expert in heart attacks. When you have diabetes, you become an expert in that condition. As such, I am an expert in depression, with a four-year experiential degree and graduate studies in how to live a life going forward that keeps the ever-lurking Depression at a healthy distance.
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