From allpsych.com (found by searching for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)), the symptoms for dysthmic depression are described as:
“Depressed mood for most of the day, for more days than not, and ongoing for at least two years. During this time, there must be two or more of the following symptoms: under– or over eating, sleep difficulties, fatigue, low self-esteem, difficulty with concentration or decision making, and feelings of hopelessness. There can also not be a diagnosis of Major Depression for the first two years of the disorder, and has never been a manic or hypo-manic episode.”
Okay, so that’s been me for about 20 years. I’ve gone through patches of “clarity”, which is usually when I’d go off my meds, thinking, “I’m fine, don’t need ’em”. Then, boom goes the dynamite, I’m back in the hole. Every once in a while, my brain has changed things up by offering up Major Depression, evidenced by:
- depressed mood (such as feelings of sadness or emptiness)
- reduced interest in activities that used to be enjoyed, sleep disturbances (either not being able to sleep well or sleeping to much)
- loss of energy or a significant reduction in energy level
- difficulty concentrating, holding a conversation, paying attention, or making decisions that used to be made fairly easily
- suicidal thoughts or intentions.
Just to be clear, that SUCKS. And it’s not something one can “snap out of”. I’ve come to describe depression as this, to those who’ve never been cursed with it. It’s like being stuck at the bottom of a 20 foot hole. It’s pitch black, and I can’t climb out. I may very well have a loved one, maybe more than one, standing on the edge of the hole, looking down at me (usually literally and figuratively), telling me, “What do you have to be depressed about? It’s a beautiful day! You have all this wonderful food and sweet music to listen to, and people who love you!” Um, down a mine shaft, here. Can’t see the sun, hear the music, or taste the food. “Well, you know, there’s lot’s of people suffering like you. You’re not alone”. Yeah, I’M DOWN AN EFFING HOLE. I CAN’T SEE THOSE PEOPLE OR HELP THEM IN ANY WAY.
But I haven’t become bitter. No, not at all. Actually, in recent days, perhaps better described as recent hours, I’ve had a realization. See, this last weekend, I had the deepest, darkest depression I’ve had since my boyfriend blew his brains out 16 years ago. I was so close to the edge, the wind coulda knocked me over it. What was probably most frightening to me is that I’ve been taking my meds for years now, with no real gaps. They just stopped working. In my effort to connect to something, anything, I found the memoirs of William Styron. It’s called “Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness”. So I bought it on my Kindle and read it. I found myself highlighting many passages, and sharing them with my husband. And after reading it, I realized, that I had been guilty of the same denial and condescension I’ve become accustomed to from friends and family. I’ve been feeling guilty for years, feeling like such a burden on family and friends because I was “moody”. Well, to hell with that. I have a disease. A disease with the capacity to be just as deadly as cancer. Yes, those who die from depression die by their own hand, but they’re still dead, right? I quote William Stryon:
…the pain of severe depression is quite unimaginable to those who have not suffered it, and it kills in many instances because its anguish can no longer be borne. The prevention of many suicides will continue to be hindered until there is a general awareness of the nature of this pain. Through the healing process of time – and through medical intervention or hospitalization in many cases, most people survive depression, which may be its only blessing; but to the tragic legion who are compelled to destroy themselves there should be no more reproof attached than to the victims of terminal cancer.
So, who are some of these “moody” people, these sufferers of depression who succumbed? A brief, brief list:
- Vincent van Gogh
- Virginia Woolf
- Sylvia Plath
- Jack London
- Ernest Hemmingway
- Abbie Hoffman
- Kurt Cobain
- Spalding Gray
- Michael Hutchence
- Richard Jeni
- Alexander McQueen
- Freddie Prinze
- Hunter S. Thompson
Wimps, right? Hardly. And having spent more than a few moments in that blackest of moments, the moment when absolutely nothing matters to you, not your job, your money, your house, even your husband or your child, I can tell you, I’m grateful I survived them. Here’s hoping I continue to survive, and maybe someday, live. Here’s hoping I stay out of the hole.