I wasn't diagnosed until I was 26, but looking back on the thought processes I recall from early childhood, I think I've actually had depression since I was six years old. I do take medication, and I know better now than to think I'll ever be able to go off of it -- my brain does not
kick back in and start producing the right chemicals on its own, so I have
to give it that chemical stimulation.
The thing is, I don't act depressed at all, and I'm rarely sad for very long -- nobody would ever guess I had this problem! In 25 years, I've learned coping skills and thought processes that (in combination with the medication) allow me to avoid most of the emotional traps and trains of thought that get a grip on you in depression. And even at my worst, I've always loved
life -- even at times when life held nothing more than a good book to read.
The fatigue and tension of depression are harder to deal with, and if I let myself run out of medication and can't get it for a few days, I feel
it: my back clenches up and goes into spasms, I develop a crippling headache, and I alternate between complete insomnia and oversleeping (sometimes 16 hours out of a day).
This is why I wish we had a better word for it than depression. People think it's just about feeling sad and listless, having no initiative... but it's much more complicated and variable than that.
Years ago, I used to watch Oprah occasionally, and on one show -- if I'm remembering this right -- she was talking with someone about people who somehow just cannot keep their homes clean, people who stack junk up to the ceiling and let their houses fall into appalling squalor. Her guest said that this was often a result of depression, and Oprah said something to the effect that it just made her want to shake the person and say Come on, snap out of it!
Well, someone must have given her an education overnight, because she apologized the next day. She said she was sorry for all the people she had offended, and she understood now that depression is not something a person can just "snap out of."
So... if even Oprah, the queen of compassion, didn't get it
about depression, then how oblivious is the rest
of the population?