A Disclaimer on Depression

*A Disclaimer on a disclaimer* – I am not going to discuss my feelings on the use of the term ‘depression’ at this point.  I shall be using the term for illustrative purposes as my feelings on the ‘condition’ are often in flux.  I have a strengthening view that depression is not a psychopathology, but a natural response to events which is deeply personal and bound up with our own individual understanding of the world…Maybe I’ll hit this in another post – for now – I suggest you visit www.adisorder4everyone.com to get a sense of the general thrust of my view…

I’m going to be writing plenty on disability here, a lot of that will be coming from a place of (in no particular order and not all at the same time) rage, grief, sadness, fatigue, annoyance, self doubt, insecurity and anger.  When I’ve voiced some of this stuff before, particularly when I first became conscious of it, a noticeable trend of responses emerged.  They’re all worded slightly differently but they could be summarised like this:

“Wow, there’s a lot going on there, sounds like it may be depression, do you think you’re depressed?”

There is a short answer and a long answer to this rather bland and seemingly trite question.  The short answer is, “No”.

Here’s the long answer…

I can only speak of depression from my own personal experience.  I have had several very long and intense episodes of constant, unyielding depression that I can only give the vaguest sense of here.  They have left me feeling hollow inside, as if my body was a deserted building and I was the only one there overnight.  I’ve been left on mute, when I needed to scream and cry and rage, someone pulled the power from the microphone in my voice and I had nothing to say.  I have poured my soul into the pint glass just in the faintest hope of feeling anything.  I have lain on my bedroom floor in a foetal position unable to move or speak just waiting for the pain within to dull.  I have driven 150 miles at 1am with no destination in mind except maybe to find where my vitality had escaped to.  I have been left so numb and detached by my demons to know that nothing mattered.  I have wanted to die more times than I can remember.  I have tried twice.

I hate to use the same tired phrases, but some of them are true.  Until you’ve been there, you can only have the vaguest inkling of what depression is.  Though more people have been there than we would like to believe…

And I know that what I’ve been experiencing in the past 18 months for all it’s pain, heartache, rage, grieving, introspection, exploration and sheer bloodyminded hard work on myself, is not depression.

You can feel negative emotions about something in a deep, meaningful and profound way without being depressed.  It’s a funny thing, but as depression has become less of a taboo, it has lost some of it’s mystique in that sense.  I think now that sometimes people mistake emotional complexity for the black dog.  We’re getting past the idea that depression is simply feeling sad or blue, but we still haven’t got to grips with the notion that you can be present with deep sadness and pain without compartmentalising – and still be mentally well.

Personally I am often struck by a sense of grief (and I’ll go on in a future entry to talk about grieving for that which you’ve never had), of what Susan Roos has termed ‘chronic sorrow’, but added to this is a sense of movement and constant change and examination.  One of the best ways I can tell that this isn’t depression, is that I can engage with this enormous problem of disability.  And it is fun to do so.  I have taken to likening my therapy on this to a session at the gym: It’s hard work, it can be fun, exhilarating, help you develop yourself and keep you fit – but there’s always the chance you can leave the session aching and bruised and if you’re not careful in your warmdown, or are with the wrong staff support (therapist), cause yourself a further injury.

Do I risk getting depressed about this in the future?  Possibly.  Every time I deal with my demons I learn a little more – emerge better prepared for the next fight and better armed.  But those demons are clever and they can always find ways back eventually.  That is OK.  I could run the risk of dredging up some depressive behaviour by investigating.  But disability is a part of myself I’ve not explored in nearly enough depth for something that I was born with.  I owe it to myself, because currently it is not OK with me.  I am not comfortable with my body.  And if I don’t explore that, far from guarding against a depression by ignorance, I’m actually ensuring it.

So when you read this, please do not worry unduly.  This blog is here to give things to think on, not purely an emotional diary.  Depression is such a problem for society in large part because the very word is at once heavy with meaning and mundanity.  I am not depressed (currently), and if I become so again the so be it…

But simply acknowledging deep, profound and multifaceted sadness and anger is not the same as depression.


6 thoughts on “A Disclaimer on Depression

  1. Absolutely it’s a catharsis – but there’s an element of explaining it to myself as well. If I can write it, I understand it better.

    Thank you for reading.


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