It seems that my depression has decided to act up today. I'm fine; I'm not looking for sympathy or advice or anything - I have an appointment with my psychiatrist Friday, anyway. But I thought I'd describe what it's like to be in the middle of a depressive episode for the benefit of people who aren't depressed. It might help them understand a bit better.
I've been diagnosed, among other things, with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
, and Atypical Major Depressive Disorder
. Most people with GAD or other anxiety disorders also have depression; Atypical Depression is the kind usually associated with GAD. Having both Dysthymia and Major Depression is known as "Double Depression," so I've got that
going for me as well.
Most of what I'm feeling today is the depression, not the anxiety, so I'll mostly focus on that. But the two are linked, and sometimes hard to differentiate, so I'll talk about both. I should also mention that I'm on anti-depressants and doing CBT/talk therapy. These have helped; everything below would be a great deal worse without them, though they obviously don't make everything go away. Mental illness isn't one of those things where you go get treated, then you're fixed; it's the sort of thing you're stuck with forever, and you try to manage. It's a chronic thing.
So what's this like?
GAD Physical Symptoms:
- Butterflies in stomach
- Tingly arms
- On edge
The thing to understand with GAD is that it's, essentially, a misfiring of the fight-or-flight response. My brain is convinced there's a lion about to eat me, all the time
. The best way I can describe it is to ask you to imagine you're sitting in a chair. You lean back... and back... and back... too far! You almost fall! That feeling of panic, and surge of adrenaline... that's what I feel. But not just for a moment. All. The. Time. Or, at least all the time when I'm anxious. Fun, eh?
There are also emotional/cognitive symptoms associated with GAD, but today's more of a depression day than an anxiety day, so I'm not really feeling them at the moment. Which means I'll leave them off here. If anyone's curious, though, feel free to ask.
Depression Physical Symptoms:
- Constantly tired; I could sleep twelve hours right now if I wanted to
- Sluggish and slow
- Heavy feeling in the limbs (this is known as "Leaden Paralysis," and it literally feels like I have ten pound weights strapped to my wrists and ankles)
- Lack of facial expressions
- A general malaise, and unwillingness to do anything - even to move. You just want to lie there
- Teary; I've nearly cried a few times today
Depression Emotional Symptoms:
- Well... depression. Sadness. General hatred of life and myself
- Nothing is good. I focus on the negatives in my life to the exclusion of everything else
- Right now, to me, I'm nothing but a failure
- I'm lonely and will always be alone
- I will never have the life I want
- These automatic thoughts are caused by being in a depressed state... and they further feed that depressed state. They're cognitive distortions that feed into the depressive spiral, and make it self-perpetuating
All this stuff? I just woke up this way this morning. Yesterday wasn't like this; tomorrow probably won't be, either. But today? It just is. No helping it.
These symptoms are also for Atypical
Depression. There are other kinds of depression, with entirely different (and often opposite
) symptoms. Melancholic Depression, for example, often results in insomnia rather than oversleeping.
The most useful way I've heard it described is that depression is like the weather. Some days it's sunny. Some days it's rainy. Some days it starts sunny, but then the clouds roll in. Nothing has really caused it; nothing can fix it. It just is
. All you can do when it rains is try to find some shelter and wait until it clears up.
That's depression, too.
Of course, sometimes things can happen that trigger
depression. I've had those happen; they're not nice. But that's not today. Today's just cloudy. It'll blow away.
Anyway... that's what it's like. At least for me, and at least for today. I'm going to be honest here and say that I'm a little apprehensive about posting this... but I think it might help people better understand, and it might help other people who are depressed know they aren't alone. So I'm going to suck it up and hit "Submit" on this.
By the way, since this is kind of meant as an informative post, if anyone has any questions - whether you suffer from some form of mental illness or not - I'd be happy to try my best to answer them for you.