I wanted to share a really personal experience with you.
In February of 2014, I was officially diagnosed with Clinical Depression, also known as Major Depression. I want to really unmask this monster and show people the real face of depression. My therapist, after we spent many hours in counseling, determined my depression was caused by a chemical imbalance in my brain and thought I was genetically predisposed to depression. She also determined my depression was moderate grade.
The clinical symptoms of depression listed on any health website does not capture to what depression really is like. The most notable symptom to me was something that was no really understood by regular people. Depression is usually seen as just this pervasive sadness and boredom, but one symptom that is generally overlooked is the feelings of worthlessness. The psychological aspects, as compared to the physiological aspects, are not really talked about from what I have seen.
Therefore, since we usually focus on the physiological, the experience I had was much different from what my friends expected. We seem to neglect the fact depression affects the mind. My mind was profoundly affected by the illness. I suffered from these cognitive distortions. These are generally not talked about at all. I would feel like everyone hated me, and neutral statements would be picked up as negative statements in my brain. I had trouble making friends because I felt so inept and different from everyone. I also had my thoughts telling me no one would really like me once they got to know me. They would grow bored with me. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
My head would lie to me. It made me keep a distance from people because I felt like I wouldn’t fit in. My brain would lie to me and torture me with horrible lies. For example, one time my brain lied to me once that it would make my friend and her mother happy if I killed myself. Luckily, I slightly knew at the time it was my brain playing tricks on me again and that night just cried myself to sleep. The thoughts are so painful and so debilitating. My own mind seemed be stuck in this self-destruct mode. It was like my own brain was trying to destroy me and had pushed the self-destruct button. It was like my own mind had turned on me. It would tell me I was a terrible person and no one could like me because I was boring. My mind would blame everything on me. If my friends didn’t invite me to hang out with them, than in my mind it was because they didn’t want me around and were only tolerating my existence. It would tell me my friends didn’t care about me and they didn’t love me. It then would blame that on me. I grew very confused at times because I would find justification for these notions. For example, if my friend didn’t hug me, but hugged her two other friends with us, then I would think she really didn’t care about me. I would think I didn’t mean anything to her. This was hard, especially since I was using my friends as something to latch onto for purpose of why I kept fighting my illness. If one of my friends wasn’t happy to see me than I would feel like I was a burden and they didn’t like me.
There were many crazy outrageous things I would think, and all of them really hurt. What was happening in my mind was cognitive distortions. As I mentioned before, these are generally not talked about in the symptoms of depression. My brain was distorting things and sometimes I couldn’t tell if I was caught up in a barrage of distortions until a few hours later when the attack had ceased. The part that hurts the most was a few of my friends didn’t understand when I would tell them “depression lies.” They would think I could control it, but I couldn’t. I can control the small attacks with what techniques my therapist taught me. However, my therapist told me sometimes I just need to hang on because there will be attacks I can’t fight and will just need to hold on and wait out the storm. The distortions weren’t something they could accept as something my illness was doing and that it was part of me being sick. I don’t say this for pity, but I say this so others can be aware and be different.
These distortions were so pervasive that during some attacks I could only just lie prone in my bed with tears running down my face. There were often times my heart would psychically hurt so badly from all the emotional pain. I would actually get heartache. Sometimes I would hurt in other places too from the emotional pain like my stomach. My body actually would physically hurt because of the emotional pain I was in. I would compare the experience to having the worst heartbreak you can imagine and it never leaving. the pain only ebbs and then flows back in like ocean waves.
The distortions would really complicate my relationships. One way I had adapted to this was to ask my friends bluntly if something was true. If I could hear it from the person’s mouth something wasn’t true than it would put an end to the whirring lies going through my head for short while. This in simple terms can be called by some as reassurance seeking. The reassurance was to help me grab hold of what was actually the real perception and what was actually a distorted perception caused by my sick mind. This cycle would continue of lies and reassurance though, because the distortion of perception always seem to come back to torture me. Another adaptation I developed was looking at people’s actions. I would pay close attention to the actions people did on a regular basis and what their actions would say. I use to question if my best friend found me annoying. It wasn’t until we started texting daily that I could see based on actions she cared because she put in the effort into the friendship. I basically looked at the effort someone was putting in to being friends with me as an indicator for if they liked me or not. Though, the two adaptations together would back fire at times; it would conflict with my other adaptation of asking outright about the distorted perception. Sometimes people would say the right words, but their actions were inconsistent with their words. Sometimes the actions showed they only cared a little bit for me.
As you can see, these cognitive distortions seemed to affect every aspect of my life. It was made worse by the symptom of hopelessness that also accompanies depression. Depression really affects the mind in thinking and its perceptions. I’m not sure if I did my experience justice, but understand depression tortures the person who is sick with terrible thoughts. I have lost friends because of this and in general I have lost friends because they couldn’t take being friends with me when things got tough. They didn’t truly love me and did not choose to love me and stick by my side when I needed them. I learned who my real friends were real quick when this illness came on in 2013.
I may write more parts to this and make it a series of posts. I did not write this for attention or pity. I wrote this to help people understand this aspect of depression. I am still on my way to recovery and am on antidepressants. The antidepressants have seemingly stopped the distortions for the most part, but I do get bad days where the medication doesn’t hold back the monster who lives in my head.