View Full Version : The Tipping Point


APSJ
03-31-10, 07:51 PM
Depression has been a significant presence in my life for the past six months or so, after an absence of about seven years. The last time it was a major issue for me, it was pretty much a constant, varying only in degree. This time, it comes and goes.

Sometimes there are clear triggers for an episode, but more often than not there are unpredictable triggers or none at all. But, it's almost never entirely surprising because I almost always experience fleeting shifts, often lasting less than a minute, in my mood or thinking from what I consider normal for me, to what I associate with my depressed state, which presage a more lasting shift. In the worst cases, they're accompanied by a physical sensation, like a weight in my stomach. This is particularly scary because it usually portends a more lasting, and severe episode, as the strong physical sensation only accompanies my 'major' depression.

On days when I start noticing these signs of an imminent breakdown, it often feels like I'm clinging to the edge of a precipice. I try and push lines of thinking that I can see are heading into a downward spiral out of my mind, and focus on other things to avoid dwelling on them. If I succeed, I manage to hold on to the ledge, and keep the depression at bay for a little longer, but more often than not, when I start getting these signs, it's only a matter of time before I let go.

It's baffling to me that I can wake up in a reasonably good mood, go through my daily routine for several hours without incident, and without apparent differences from the day before, and abruptly start having these shifts in my thinking and mood that foreshadow an imminent collapse. It seems as if inaccessible and unconscious mental processes have been churning beneath the surface, and for reasons I can't begin to imagine, set a process into motion that usually can't be stopped until it runs its course.

While I experience different degrees of depression, and have a range of non-depressed moods, there doesn't seem to be much of a gray area between depressed and not depressed, and the switch into depression itself often feels like it happens with the flip of a switch. There's usually not a gradual decline in mood, just the fleeting drops, that let me know it's coming, and then the lasting one.

Once the shift does occur, it skews every aspect of my perception. The only actions that I can summon the motivation to do are those which will feed into the negative world view, which I slip comfortably and quickly back into with each episode of depression. An example would be to blow off an interview, because I know that there's no chance of my ever getting hired, when half an hour ago, before the depression set in, I was determined to send out another round of job applications. While the thought of a major and lasting episode of depression is terrifying to contemplate, when it happens, it seems almost like a return to my natural state, and in some ways, it's a relief from the energy consuming task of maintaining a positive, or at least not entirely negative view of myself and the world around me.

Does the onset of depression happen in a similar fashion to others? Has anyone for whom it does had better luck than I in figuring out what brings it about, seemingly out of nowhere?

croweater
03-31-10, 08:03 PM
My depressive episodes manifest in a very similar fashion.

I can be going about my day quite happily and then suddenly experience an overwhelming feeling of dread which makes me want to withdraw.

Then I start to ruminate on events and situations and my negative perception of them starts to spiral out of control. As you say, when this happens I actually feel relief that I don't have to keep fighting to stay positive.

Perhaps it is a reaction loop feeding itself......our brains taking time out from having to work so hard to maintain a positive outlook.

peripatetic
03-31-10, 08:11 PM
hi apsj,

i hope this isn't a totally daft question, but how long does a major episode usually last?

as you know i don't have personal experience with this. however, it seems like, more than ever, a couple of close friends have come to find themselves in the throes of clinical depression and i'm quite curious about its course (and ever concerned that i'll say something obtuse and pathetically unhelpful...). i've come to the conclusion (perhaps erroneously, unsure) that posing that question might come off as amounting to 'when are you going to snap out of it?' even i recognize how offensive that would be, but i do wonder if there's a typical timeframe for these significant episodes.

i assume everyone's different, though, and see it somewhat like my friends with migraines. one gets them to a crippling degree for a few days, while another can have a low-grade pinching nausea for, literally, months.

best to you, as always:)

APSJ
03-31-10, 08:41 PM
i hope this isn't a totally daft question, but how long does a major episode usually last?

This time around, the really debilitating 'major' episodes have lasted only a few days at a time, and the less debilitating episodes have varied from a few days to a few weeks.

However, as I recall, during my past experience with depression years ago, the major episodes could last for a few months, and the 'less major', probably technically dysthymic depression, lasted for around a decade (excepting when the major episodes occurred, and very occasional brief periods, a week max, where it subsided somewhat)

i've come to the conclusion (perhaps erroneously, unsure) that posing that question might come off as amounting to 'when are you going to snap out of it?' even i recognize how offensive that would be, but i do wonder if there's a typical timeframe for these significant episodes.

It's very possible it would come off that way, whether it was a reasonable interpretation or not. I've mostly managed to avoid this sort of thinking during my current experience, but in my previous one, there was literally nothing that anyone could say to me that I wouldn't twist into a confirmation of my predetermined notions of how people viewed me. It just seemed so obvious that "I really hope you feel better" or "I'm sorry you're having a hard time" meant "I wish you would stop being so unpleasant to be around because you're making me unhappy"

novagal
04-01-10, 02:03 AM
Wow. I don't know how to describe how I'm feeling right now, except to say that I'm stunned. I have never read a better description of what my own experiences with depression have been like. What I would have given to read something like this ten years ago at one of the darkest points for me, to know that there was actually someone else who truly understood. But at the same time I'd not want anyone to ever have to know what this feels like.

This part:

On days when I start noticing these signs of an imminent breakdown, it often feels like I'm clinging to the edge of a precipice. I try and push lines of thinking that I can see are heading into a downward spiral out of my mind, and focus on other things to avoid dwelling on them. If I succeed, I manage to hold on to the ledge, and keep the depression at bay for a little longer, but more often than not, when I start getting these signs, it's only a matter of time before I let go.

Also your description of the physical sensation are spot on with my experience. Actually every paragraph reads like I could have written it. So to answer your first question about the onset of depression, yes. It's always happened just like that for me.

As for your second question, I can't say that I've figured out with any certainty what's brought it on, though it's been awhile since I've had any major episodes of depression. I suffered with it from the age of twenty or so, off and on, (way more on then off) with the last major episode lasting for about seven years.

At least in my own experience I know that bottled up hurt and anger - turned to rage - were huge factors in the deep depressions I went through, though I would never have put that all together. The episodes never really seemed to correlate to anything that I'd have thought would bring them about. I also didn't know the nature of the deep undercurrent of things going on within me, and many times I wasn't aware of them even being there though I know now that they were a constant. It's like the depression was on it's own random and patternless schedule, popping up when it found weak spots in the rubbery positive outlook I tried so hard to wear all the time.

I spent 5+ years in weekly therapy doing dreamwork (Gestalt), which had a profound effect on my emotional and mental health. I'm certainly not suggesting that this is the answer and that everybody should run out and do it. Quite honestly I thought it was ridiculous when I started with it, but at that time I was desparate and would have tried anything at all.

There was so much rage that surfaced for me during that time, rage I never believed I was capable of, it was all consuming for periods of months at a time. I was pretty horrified at the things that came out of my mouth and out of my pen (I filled over 100 journals during that time) I'd always been such a 'good girl', and never knew it was okay to just be me. Well, I think that somewhere deep inside I knew it, and was fighting this 'good girl' notion and the shaming I felt the world had somehow put on my shoulders. I had no boundaries, and I grew up in a home where it was not acceptable to be angry or express anger. I talked like I had boundaries, and thought I had them, but discovered I wasn't truly in touch with my own feelings about things. I felt smashed into the ground alot. That's the only way I know to describe it. That, and invisible, like a vapor.

Long story short (oops, to late for that :o), therapy helped me to work through many of the most difficult things and find connection and acceptance of myself for the most part. In the bigger picture it felt as though there was a shift in the way my brain processes and manages emotions if that's possible, I'm not sure how else to put it.

I don't know that a major depressive episode won't happen again, and that thought terrifies me if I dwell on it for more than a few minutes. All I can say is that to date, it's been a few solid years of reprieve. I definitely have my moods, this is the longest running period of my adult life without a major depressivion.

Though I should say that the last time I felt myself slipping into the precipice was when I quit smoking a couple of years ago. I'm thinking this was clearly a chemically induced situation, or lack thereof. I was doing great for the first two months, and then about the third month I began to have those familiar feelings of falling, and what was so strange was that I had a bit of that sense that I was "returning to my natural state" as was said in the OP. Going into the fourth month as I was clinging desparately to the edge so as to not fall into the chasm it occurred to me - "if I smoke a cigarette this will go away, it's that simple". I had no cravings to smoke, and hadn't since the first two weeks. I remember thinking I'd rather live a fewer number of years than to extend my life and just exist. So I lit up a cigarette and it did go away.

X-treme reasoning in the face of an impending major depression. I don't think that kind of reasoning will ever go away.

I don't know that this is of any help, but wanted to at least share my own experience.

Delboy31
04-01-10, 02:46 AM
Couldn't have described it better myself. The ups and downs with no grey areas are such a part of my life. One moment happy enough, or at least not depressed, and then the littlest thing can bring the blackest cloud over my world...and then maybe a phone call from a friend...and the sun is starting to come out.

I never know what it is that will send me to edge of a near break-down, but it is usually stress at work or family and when it's both, well things are pretty grim...yet all the while there are moments of fun and laughter. Gotta say I'm not sure I'll ever be more monotone in my reactions to people, incidents or life in general, but I'm hopeful.

Scooter77
04-01-10, 04:22 AM
Depression has been a significant presence in my life for the past six months or so, after an absence of about seven years. The last time it was a major issue for me, it was pretty much a constant, varying only in degree. This time, it comes and goes.

Sometimes there are clear triggers for an episode, but more often than not there are unpredictable triggers or none at all. But, it's almost never entirely surprising because I almost always experience fleeting shifts, often lasting less than a minute, in my mood or thinking from what I consider normal for me, to what I associate with my depressed state, which presage a more lasting shift. In the worst cases, they're accompanied by a physical sensation, like a weight in my stomach. This is particularly scary because it usually portends a more lasting, and severe episode, as the strong physical sensation only accompanies my 'major' depression.

On days when I start noticing these signs of an imminent breakdown, it often feels like I'm clinging to the edge of a precipice. I try and push lines of thinking that I can see are heading into a downward spiral out of my mind, and focus on other things to avoid dwelling on them. If I succeed, I manage to hold on to the ledge, and keep the depression at bay for a little longer, but more often than not, when I start getting these signs, it's only a matter of time before I let go.

It's baffling to me that I can wake up in a reasonably good mood, go through my daily routine for several hours without incident, and without apparent differences from the day before, and abruptly start having these shifts in my thinking and mood that foreshadow an imminent collapse. It seems as if inaccessible and unconscious mental processes have been churning beneath the surface, and for reasons I can't begin to imagine, set a process into motion that usually can't be stopped until it runs its course.

While I experience different degrees of depression, and have a range of non-depressed moods, there doesn't seem to be much of a gray area between depressed and not depressed, and the switch into depression itself often feels like it happens with the flip of a switch. There's usually not a gradual decline in mood, just the fleeting drops, that let me know it's coming, and then the lasting one.

Once the shift does occur, it skews every aspect of my perception. The only actions that I can summon the motivation to do are those which will feed into the negative world view, which I slip comfortably and quickly back into with each episode of depression. An example would be to blow off an interview, because I know that there's no chance of my ever getting hired, when half an hour ago, before the depression set in, I was determined to send out another round of job applications. While the thought of a major and lasting episode of depression is terrifying to contemplate, when it happens, it seems almost like a return to my natural state, and in some ways, it's a relief from the energy consuming task of maintaining a positive, or at least not entirely negative view of myself and the world around me.

Does the onset of depression happen in a similar fashion to others? Has anyone for whom it does had better luck than I in figuring out what brings it about, seemingly out of nowhere?
That's a really good description of depression

APSJ
04-01-10, 11:41 PM
At least in my own experience I know that bottled up hurt and anger - turned to rage - were huge factors in the deep depressions I went through, though I would never have put that all together. The episodes never really seemed to correlate to anything that I'd have thought would bring them about. I also didn't know the nature of the deep undercurrent of things going on within me, and many times I wasn't aware of them even being there though I know now that they were a constant. It's like the depression was on it's own random and patternless schedule, popping up when it found weak spots in the rubbery positive outlook I tried so hard to wear all the time.


I like how you describe this, and it certainly matches my experience.

While I still don't entirely know what the source of my depression was the first time around, I suspect it had a lot to do with my frustration with my inability to make my actions conform to my plans and goals in school. This time around I know that the ultimate source is the fact that I'm finished with school, and all my licensing requirements, etc. and haven't been able to find a job. The truth is, there are a lot of people dealing with this now, I'm bound to find a job of some sort eventually, and I'm lucky in that I have people willing and able to support me for the time being, but it seems like I'm only able to believe this about half the time.

But, why it is that I shift from believing it to not believing it is still baffling. It does seem like the depressed perspective on my situation is always right below the surface, and perhaps it's not so much triggered by external events, but by my unintentionally leaving an opening in my emotional armor, or just running out of energy.

meridian
04-02-10, 12:25 AM
For me I always described the sensation as "the rug being pulled out from under me." No particular reason. Made life a very unsettled experience. I didn't trust myself as a result.

Thankfully Strattera has provided me solid support.

Now the worst that happens is a couple of hours of feeling down – and that's pretty rare now. At first it freaked me out because I thought I'd fall all the way back down that hole like before, but (fingers crossed) so far so good -- especially the past 3 months.

Musiscience
04-02-10, 08:37 PM
That is a very good description of depression. I don't know when I will have sucess to get out of it, it seems like it always come back, with a «weight in my stomach» sensation as you say. I don't know how you could take it for this long, I am only 22 and can't see myself turning 23 at the moment, everyday I think of «leaving», like taking that boat at the end lord of the rings (I know, ridiculous example) and finaly have some rest.

You guys are very brave and strong, how did you get over the major episodes, this one seems like it will never end :(.

APSJ
04-04-10, 11:05 PM
how did you get over the major episodes, this one seems like it will never end :(

They always came in cycles for me. The major episodes did always end, if only to the relative relief of more "low level" depression. As bad as things got for me, something I tried to remember was that the scope of what I'd experienced in life so far was very limited, it wasn't all there was, and that as interminable as the present situation seemed, it wouldn't last forever.

meridian
04-04-10, 11:44 PM
That is a very good description of depression. I don't know when I will have sucess to get out of it, it seems like it always come back, with a «weight in my stomach» sensation as you say. I don't know how you could take it for this long, I am only 22 and can't see myself turning 23 at the moment, everyday I think of «leaving», like taking that boat at the end lord of the rings (I know, ridiculous example) and finaly have some rest.

You guys are very brave and strong, how did you get over the major episodes, this one seems like it will never end :(.

I don't know that we are all that brave or strong. I know I'm not. I can tell you that I felt much as you do at your age, but over time I learned that my down moods are cyclic and often leave as quickly as they came.

Are you seeing a psychiatrist? or psychologist? or therapist? Are you on medication?

All of these things have helped me, and while I am hardly over it, I am so much better than I was even a few months ago.

I am worried for you and hope you can find a good doctor and get treated for your condition as soon as possible. Life actually can be a lot of fun! Honest.