View Full Version : Describing Depression

10-05-10, 07:42 PM
I read a fantastic book on depression a few months ago (The Noonday Demon) which, at one point, noted that first hand descriptions of depression tend toward melodramatic metaphors and analogies. It's true, and I think partly because conveying the experience of depression to those not afflicted with it must take this form, or risk being overtly offensive (as, for example, comparing another's reaction to a personal tragedy to one's everyday experience with depression would be).

I think it's also partly because, in my experience, comparing experiences of depression with others who do have it really doesn't lend itself to any other language, and when others are able to describe their own experience in a way that matches your own, it can provide, if not real relief, at least a sense that one isn't alone. And, maybe it's not melodramatic if it's an accurate description?

It's almost always *felt* important to me to understand what I'm experiencing when depressed, and come up with words that capture it, even if they were never memorialized or communicated to others.

So, here is my latest melodramatic description of my own experience:

I've been essentially free of depression for about six months. A little over six months ago, I became depressed for the first time in about seven years. During those seven years I decided that depression was something I had beaten definitively. I no longer think that is the case, and suspect that truly beating it, in a way that would allow me to relax all my ingrained alarm systems for identifying signs, and trying to head them off, is not possible for me.

So, I missed a dose of my antidepressant two nights ago. Whether for this reason or not, yesterday I found myself fighting familiar thought patterns I hadn't noted since the last bout six months or so ago. It was mild, as these things go, and the periods when I was sort of straddling the line between depressed and not brought to mind a new analogy, that I hadn't thought of before.

My present situation, with regard to depression, is like being on a body of water, murky, largely opaque, but with known dangers beneath the surface. The closest I've actually been to this situation is canoeing on a river as a kid, where there were a lot of snapping turtles. I remember having little sense of fear most of the time, and largely forgetting the potential hazard, until something would get close enough to the surface that I could make out its outline, or even just a dark, poorly differentiated area of movement.

For a while then, I'd be a little more careful to keep hands and feet out of the water, but still not particularly worried, as, after all, the turtles can't come out of the water, and aren't all that terrifying to begin with.

That's how I think of my depression's current, and all the mental phenomenon that accompany it, are beneath the surface I'm traveling on, but mostly, I have no sign of them, except, now and then, dark shapes beneath the surface, maybe an outline, a hint of a thought that I know could send me into a downward spiral were it to reach me, but nothing that solidifies and takes hold. The other day, however, they got a bit closer to the surface, even breached it here and there...but still confined to the water, more frightening than anything else, as I know what those thoughts could do to me if they could reach me.

This analogy seems very fitting to me, as far as my current would start to break down quickly if things took a bad turn though, as unlike the turtles, the things beneath the surface in my mind can emerge from the water completely, and pull me under.

10-05-10, 08:00 PM
An excellent post.

Not much more I can say, just think this one deserves more than a simple "Thanks"