Some of us feel tired and run down all the time. We can’t summon the energy to exercise or go out with friends or get rolling in the morning. We notice it’s hard to organize our minds around a project. Our weekend to-do list gets lost in the detritus of unfinished business. We go back to bed. We watch TV. We surf the internet with no particular goal – or with a goal that becomes slippery and hard to grasp. We wonder why we can’t stop eating graham crackers. Our pets go without their baths and dust collects on our furniture.
Some of us get back trouble or arthritis or something we can’t quite figure out that gives us pain. Pain working out. Pain having sex. Pain getting in and out of the car. We have trouble getting comfortable. We have trouble sleeping. We get a flare-up of an old injury, a migraine, an odd ache our doctors can’t explain. We creak out of bed in the morning with a stiff neck and shuffle to the bathroom, half bent over with soreness that makes us feel decades older than we should feel.
Some of us get relationship sickness. We seethe at our mates for mysterious reasons that may predate our mortgages. We want to be left alone. We avoid sex, but we feel sad about being celibate. We feel lonely even in the presence of those we love. We feel we don’t deserve to be truly connected and cherished. We think constantly about the times our partners let us down. We worry our children can feel the pain we try to hide.
Some of us get work sickness. Work never feels right. We regret our decisions. We regret our college major. We regret jobs not taken and talents not pursued. We think we should be doing more, advancing more, acquiring more skill, working faster or smarter, doing more online. We think, everyone else does it all – so what’s wrong with me? If you ask our families, they say we’re impatient with the kids. Our kids say they wish we’d do stuff with them. We feel preoccupied and we feel never enough of anything to anybody.
Some of us experience every plague on this list. Depression makes us hurt, keeps us awake at night, drags us down in the day, makes the world seem like a zombie apocalypse, makes us feel like failures, blocks the beauty of the moon and stars, and keeps us feeling separated when we most need connection.
And we’re surrounded by people going through the same thing.
The CDC estimates about 9% of American adults suffer some form of depression. Women appear more likely to be depressed – but this may reflect serious under-diagnosis of depressed men. Rates of depression have been rising – and continue to rise – worldwide. This epidemic is connected to:
- Post-Traumatic Stress
- Substance Abuse
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Disordered Eating
- Heart Disease
- Divorce, Separation, and Death of Partner/Spouse
- Other Interpersonal Problems
But is it all bad? Depression is no picnic, but researchers now suspect depression has evolutionary value for the person. When we’re depressed, we see interpersonal dynamics more clearly and we tend to analyze situations up close. Science illuminates how our brains function with this disease – and how our bodies change with treatment. New therapies can really make a difference – and suffering can motivate us to reach out for help, talk to our partners, leave a demoralizing job, talk to an old friend, or take a vacation.
I’ve made a list of ideas here, to start you on a track toward something new and different. Depression thrives on inescapable ruts. When we adjust something small, we open the door to all kinds of change.
- Add a new element to your exercise routine: add yoga, a new cardio workout, a Pilates class, square-dancing.
- Write a poem. Write a series of naughty limericks. Share with a friend.
- Visit a place of worship that is completely foreign to you.
- Go to a seed store. Ask about flowers or vegetables you’ve always wanted to grow.
- Pick a local charity and find out what they need. See if you can help them.
- Write to someone from your past. Let them know you were thinking about them.
- Take a ceramics class. Go, even though you want to stay home.
- Get up 30 minutes earlier each morning and write about your dreams.
- Start replacing not-so-healthy meals with green juice.
- Go on a day trip. Take your journal and camera.
Depression makes sense when we shine light on all the little pieces of it. Maybe we should get together and have a look?