Attempting to write effectively about depression
I think that due to the imprecision of language, the lack of a specific way to convey certain things due to the failure of words a a device of true understanding, the seriousness and experience of psychotic depression is lost on many people. Depression is a synonym for sadness. The disease of depression, for me, is not anything like sadness in the way a normal person feels sad when they don’t get a promotion or their team loses the Super Bowl, when a pet or even a parent dies. Those generally, for most people, elicit a normal level of sadness and depression that is just part of human experience, of caring about things and people. Depression for me is like experiencing every negative thought and emotion at once and being unable to function on a basic level due to a lack of ability to simultaneously hold all of this and also perform the basic things required of a human to live and function. Like eating food becomes a problem or a burden.
It is like torture in a way that makes me hesitant to use that word because it sounds like hyperbole and torture is also another uncommon human experience. But every word I am using is being carefully chosen in a way that I am hoping will not seem trite and melodramatic.
A writer once said that suicide is not the act of a coward, that no one truly wants to die, that it is an act of desperation like a person forced to jump out of a high rise building that is on fire or die burning to death. That, to me as a sufferer of suicidal depression, is a very real, true and clear statement. It was also made by a man who eventually came to take his own life.
Depression is an unbearable mixture of fear, anxiety, self loathing, and anger. And for people who have to deal with those of us who are sick in this way, it becomes contagious. Our loved ones become as affected. They get angry, they get frustrated, the get depressed themselves, and they feel helpless. And they should feel that way. It is a mental illness and because of this it is entirely irrational. You cannot understand it or talk the person out of it anymore than a schizophrenic can make you understand why he believes that God has spoken to him and then take that rational understanding and walk the person out of that irrational thought process. But unlike a schizophrenic, a depressed person knows entirely that they should not, may not, have any reason to feel this way, and the unintentional pain they spread creates a feedback loop that causes further feelings of helplessness, sadness and pain.
My goal here is to create empathy and understanding, mostly for the loved ones of those of us who go through this. I’ve not seen a terse, effective explanation of the feeling of clinical depression. The most effective example is Ally Brosh’s Adventures in Depression at Hyperbole and a Half. I recommend it.