I know that feeling of being alone in a crowded room.
[Disclaimer: I wrote this piece many years ago. I would like to make an updated version eventually, but much of the information here is still relevant, and hopefully useful. ]
CRISIS HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255
(important number to keep on hand. You never know when you or someone you love might need it)
There is a difference between “being depressed” and clinical depression. Everyone has their moments where they have that overwhelming sense of sadness. But it typically lasts a short period or fades over time. Clinical depression seems different. From my perspective, it is a constant, nagging sadness. It causes you to burst into tears over trivial things, or for no apparent reason at all. You feel like no one cares about you. You stop eating, enjoying life and even consider ending it. I have been through all of these things, some of which still lingering in my life.
I saw a quote floating around online: “Suicide doesn’t kill people; Depression kills people.” Unfortunately, It made sense to me. I have felt like ending my life on numerous occasions (but never further than thoughts – no plans or attempts). I get to the point where I think that not enough people care about my existence and I wonder how many people would care if I was gone.
Social media does not help depression. Life has always been a popularity contest that I have never won nor been a runner-up. My circle of friends is small and there is nothing wrong with that. The people I keep close are the ones that I care about tremendously. Sometimes I do wish I had more friends. It has been so difficult these past few years to allow people into my life, for which I have lost opportunities for friendships. Social media connect people in ways we could not have even imagined. It also shows us how many people care on a day-to-day basis, and events/gathering that you have not been invited to participate in. Sometimes I post stuff just to see how many ‘likes’ I will get. I receive maybe one or two texts a day and knowing that people around me are constantly chatting with friends is disheartening. I see it as a reflection about how many people actually care – clearly very few.
If you have, or may have depression, please get the help you need as soon as you can. If you wait or live in denial like I did, you dig yourself into a hole that is much more difficult to climb out of. The silly mnemonic we learn in medical school SIGECAPS helps make a quick diagnosis.
Sleeping difficulty (too much/too little)
Loss of Interest
Loss of Energy
Loss of Concentration
Appetite changes (eating too much or too little)
Psychomotor retardation or agitation (lethargy or restlessness)
There was a point not too long ago that I felt ALL of these signs. I never pieced it together until we learned this in school. It all makes sense now – crying myself to sleep every night with no apparent cause. I used to lay in bed for hours feeling weak, and sleep an alarming amount of time. More recently, I had been waking up very early every morning and not being able to fall asleep. At one point, I was averaging about 4 hours of good sleep a night. Shopping, one of my favorite past-time as my parents can attest to, no longer interested me and even became a burden on my life. I was eating less than I was used to or eating too much in one sitting, which I attributed to stress. Stress could be a contributing factor to all of this as well, it is a big part of my life. My loss of concentration made me start slipping in my studies, something that is not conducive with being a medical student. Feeling worthless and unloved was almost a way of life for me and contributed to the suicidal ideation on numerous occasions. It is almost laughable that it never occurred to me that these things should NOT be happening. After feeling this way for almost 8+ years, I just accepted them.
Although most of these symptoms have resolved for me after getting some help, thankfully the suicidal thoughts are mostly at bay, the worthlessness seems to remain. I have my good days and bad days. Luckily more good than bad, but I still fall back into my old way of thinking – no one cares about me.
Depression as a clinical diagnosis is a lot like many of the other psychiatric disorder. Some people believe that people with depression are ‘faking’ it, or that the sadness can be fixed with some material item. From my experience, I can promise you that I am not faking it. I have no desire to feel like my life is not worth living. It is also not as easy as someone telling me that they love and care about me. I know that and my brain knows that, but for whatever silly reason, it does not respond the way it should.
We have some idea about the biological processes in our brain that lead to depression – lack of dopamine release being one of the most significant. There are medications available to help stimulate hormone production. There are even methods of essentially “shocking” your brain to reset your emotional state, which is considered definitive treatment. All of these are great advances, but it would be most ideal to not have to go through depression in the first place. It would be nice to have a more full understanding about what causes this to happen.
I hope that is helps at least one person. I wish someone had told me years ago that my thoughts and actions were abnormal, even dangerous, and I should find someone to talk to. I probably would not be in the position I am now.
CRISIS HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255
RESOURCES TO CHECK OUT!
Suicide Prevention Lifeline
An emergency resource with 24/7 support
Columbus Recovery Center
A comprehensive resource for Mental Health, including information for different organizations, youth, men, veterans.