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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