Living With Depression: Three Voices of Experience

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Three people (ages 45, 57, and 61) who have each managed chronic depression for 30 years or more, recently allowed me to eavesdrop on a conversation about living with depression. Below are some snippets from their time together.

If you are depressed, you may find comfort or insight in some of their words. If you know someone who is depressed, this sharing can provide understanding.

Voices of Experience

“Seeing a therapist helped me a lot. It helped me see the difference between me and my symptoms—something I didn’t see before that, and I learned to express anger and other emotions. I still get depressed but knowing those things makes my life go better.”

“I didn't know what it was like to feel good, to have good days, until I started taking an antidepressant, but it still irks me that I can’t get along without it. I stopped the medication twice and both times, I tried so hard, but ended up in a black hole. I still think I should be able to be OK without it, but I swallow the pills every morning.”

“It’s so frustrating when friends or family give me advice about how to fix my life, get rid of the symptoms. What I hate is not that they want to help, but when people have an agenda for me, even a short one, they are talking at me, not—you know—connecting with me. I walk away feeling more alone.”

“What helps me the most with symptoms is mindfulness. I’ve practiced mindfulness for over 20 years. When symptoms are bad, like I’m thinking of suicide, I can’t always quiet my mind. But, I can always–at least to some degree—step back from my thoughts and observe them. This puts some distance between the thoughts and feelings, and myself. It helps.”

“It’s hard to let go of the stigma because—well at least for me—when my mood is in the toilet I always think the depression is my fault, like I should be able to snap out of it. It doesn’t seem to matter what I think about [depression] when I’m doing better.”

“Sometimes I worry that I do have a choice, that I can choose to be happy or happier, but I don’t. Other times I wonder why everyone isn’t depressed—there’s so much craziness in the world, so much pain, and sadness. I wonder, why isn’t everyone crying all the time like me? But crying about what’s wrong with the world, it doesn’t change anything.”

“It gets confusing. According to experts, depression might be partly genetic, a bad habit, caused by tissue inflammation, food or environmental toxins, a gluten sensitivity, a hormone imbalance, not enough vitamin D, or B12, or magnesium. The list goes on. But, I think its important to keep trying things, to find out what helps and what doesn't. You really have to take managing symptoms into your own hands because it’s not the same for everyone.”

“When things get really bad I think of a Lily Tomlin joke. She said, "The chief cause of stress is reality." That makes me laugh, or remember laughing.”

 
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