Contemplating the Masks of Depression

What do you think of when you hear the word, “Depression”? Is it an image of a sullen, morbid soul who is sitting in darkness by themselves? That is a very common stereotype facilitated by pop culture and some of the easiest to understand extremes of depression.

Depression has many masks. The name is quite literal. It literally depresses a person’s ability to experience many emotions in a way that you would expect from a healthy mind. It can look very stereotypical, like anger, or in some cases, it can look like nothing at all. The person may be totally functional in every day life. They hold down a job, have a family, go about their lives; but they are unable to feel the emotions they are supposed to.

How many people do you know that are just angry and bitter all the time for seemingly no reason? And I’m not talking about just a hard life either. That can certainly contribute. Even people with hard lives do have temporary reprieves from time to time. Maybe it’s being proud of a child for an accomplishment, getting a raise at work, or having a great night with the spouse.

Instead? There’s just nothing there. Just emptiness, hollowness, pointlessness. And that emptiness gets filled with anger and bitterness as the weeks, months, and years grind on. Depression won’t let that person feel happy or any kind of joy or satisfaction. Maybe enough time passes where the person moves past that into a desolate landscape where the mind can’t even muster up anger anymore.

Many people think that because life is hard, it’s normal to never feel joy or happiness; for anger and bitterness to replace sadness. It’s not.

It’s depression. And it can be caused by anything from a bad diet, to poor sleep hygiene, to trauma, to not exercising, to the seasons changing, to a lack of sunshine, and so much more.

Are you depressed? I think there are a couple of pretty easy questions to ask yourself to determine whether or not you should speak to a doctor.

Do you feel any strong emotions other than emptiness, anger, or bitterness? How did you feel the last time something good happened to you? Were your emotions appropriate for what transpired?

Many screening tools ask a question like, “Are you able to enjoy your hobbies or interests?” The reason is that you’re supposed to be able to, but depression can rob you of that, too.

Sadness and depression get a bit trickier. Genuine sadness is not supposed to feel empty or hopeless. It should also not make you feel as though you should hurt yourself or not be here any longer. Genuine sadness is not a black hole. There is supposed to be emotional pain there. A lack of emotional pain and numbness may also potentially point to depression.

If this writing resonated with you, if it’s something you see in yourself, talk to your doctor. That does not necessarily mean you need or should go on meds, either! Quite a few people successfully combat depression with lifestyle changes and healthier habits.

Life is difficult enough as it is. Don’t let it rob you of the ability to feel emotions, too.

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11 Responses to Contemplating the Masks of Depression

  1. Dee says:

    Finally somebody explains depression. You explained a symptom we have been seeing and receiving for years from one we love soooo much.
    I finally can see the symptoms explained in my own feelings from time to time. We do not like labels. We want to be happy, encouraging and helpful. We don’t like the label “depressed”. So finally you explained it, and I thank you so much. You are a blessing.
    I hope many, many more people can learn and understand so that they can try to decide how to accomplish new ways to help and to love and to deal without denying or enabling the situation. May God bless you.

    • Dennis says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and the warm wishes, Dee. Depression is a very misunderstood thing by quite a number of people, unfortunately.

  2. Bemily says:

    When you tell someone you are depressed they ask why, as if there has to be a reason. They are talking about an emotional response, not depression; I am sad because something happened. That is not what depression is like; something doesn’t have to happen for someone to be depressed. If you don’t have depression then you likely can’t understand what it’s like. Some things that have been shown to work are ; Vitamin D supplements as levels are low in a lot of people with depression, taking an EPA/DHA supplement( omega 3 fatty acids, daily morning sunlight, and of course a healthy diet.

    • Dennis says:

      The way I usually describe depression to mentally healthy people is, “How do you feel mentally when you have a really bad cold or flu? Lethargic, numb, miserable. Depression is very similar to that feeling except more stark, it can last for months, and you have to listen to people constantly ask, ‘Why are you depressed?'”

  3. Julie says:

    Dennis,
    Thank you for your honesty and this blog. One of the problems I wrestle with as the separated spouse of a mentally ill husband is that there is so little I can do. Hippa laws and his having a right to decide how he deals with his mental illness. He has decided to deal with his illness by being alone. I had to leave our home because he was suicidal, his family doesn’t think he has a problem, I became quite ill myself because of his abuse before I left and believe it or not, I still love and miss him. His reason for being alone is because that way he can “remain calm”. Is that something you can understand and can you explain that to me? It is so difficult for me because I feel like I have been tossed away.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello, Julie.

      Yes, I can relate to that. You see, Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder. Moods are just another name for emotions. So, anything that can cause emotions, even if they are positive, is a potential threat to stability. That includes love. Now, previously, when I was unstable, I wanted to minimize any exposure to anything that could “upset” me. And that was a long, long list of things; including romantic partners. Because not only do you have love, but you also have the frustration and tedious stuff that goes with relationships that can explode into major problems.

      But, beyond all of that, it’s unfortunate to hear his family is in denial. Even if you did have more contact with him or in his wellness process past HIPPA, it wouldn’t matter if he refuses to do anything to help himself.

      All you can really do is focus on taking care of yourself, Julie. I know you love and miss him. But you have to take care of yourself and make sure you are well, balanced, and healthy. If the situation was abusive, you may want to consider talking to a counselor about everything that is going on as well. Take care of yourself, first and foremost. You cannot help anyone if you are ground to dust in the process.

      • Julie says:

        That was an ahah moment for me Dennis, thank you. Now I know he is not making this up and I can finally understand his “wanting to be alone” statements. He says he has felt this way his entire life and it has only gotten worse as he has gotten older. At one point he felt “safe” in the home we built and I left him with it as I didn’t want him to have to move, but he is no longer feeling safe, even though he is “alone” as he wanted. I am afraid that simply means he is getting more ill.
        Julie

        • Julie says:

          Oh, and yes, I have been in counseling. Abuse is abuse even if he didn’t mean to be abusive, his treatment of me while trying to protect his emotions hurt me badly to the point that I developed a kind of PTSD.

        • Dennis says:

          Glad to hear you’re in counseling.

          And yes, it probably is getting worse. The next time you talk to him, you may want to advise him that, “Most mental illnesses only get worse with age when they are left untreated. Stress management and “safe” places only go so far and are often used alongside regular treatment.” And that is the unfortunate truth. It usually does get worse, especially for people who are doing anything to manage or treat their mental illness.

          But yeah, being alone is often better than trying to “pretend” to be normal and functional. What he’s doing in terms of isolating himself is fairly common.

          • Julie says:

            This may sound stupid, but since my husband prefers to live alone because he is isolating, is there any way that we could come to some kind of agreement to continue being married and see each other now and then and keep in touch? He feels if we don’t live together that there is no reason to still be married and said he will eventually divorce me. The contact we do have at the moment is ususally fraut with emotions cause I don’t want a divorce and I miss him and I try to get him to get help. Am I playing into the mental illness by giving him the space he needs? If we could come up with some type of arrangement, would that still be playing into it because if he is getting worse, perhaps he will put me completely out if his life again. Thank you for your insight.

          • Dennis says:

            I’m not entirely sure I can answer that, Julie. It sounds like there are probably more complex nuances about the situation that I don’t know about. There’s also the fact that I can’t be entirely sure if he’s acting due to mental unwellness or if he is just using the situation to get what he wants without being direct about it. I feel like it would be a better option for you to discuss the situation with a counselor, if you haven’t.

            But, I also don’t think there is a way to do anything if your husband doesn’t want to do it either. If he’s not wanting to have together time and to be with you, you’re just going to set yourself up with constant disappointments and emotional anguish as he makes plans and then finds excuses to not follow through on them.

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