What is it like to live with depression?

What is it like to live with depression? This question can be asked and answered in two ways. One is from the perspective of the person who is depressed, and the other is from the perspective of the person who loves the individual suffering from depression. In this blog about what it is like to live with depression, I’ll try to address both. I’ll begin by talking about what it is like to suffer from depression.

Before we go too far into this  discussion however, I believe it is very important to differentiate the experience of depression from that of sadness. These two feelings often look the same from the outside, and it doesn’t help that the words themselves are often (incorrectly) used interchangeably, but they are distinctly different things. Sadness is a feeling we have when an event or experience occurs that brings a sense of loss of some type. This may be the loss of a loved one, an opportunity, or something that one has hoped would come to pass but didn’t. Certainly, sadness can sometimes be so severe that it is completely debilitating. This is often the case when experiencing the sadness that stems from bereavement. Despite this debilitation however, sadness ultimately has a shelf life and at some point in time we move through it. Yes, it might take as long as a year (or sometimes even more), but ultimately, if we re-engage in active living, sadness of this type will fade. When we have life experiences such as bereavement, or divorce, feelings of sadness (as unpleasant as it is) are a normal part of human functioning.

Depression by contrast, is a different thing altogether. Depression can be described in its most simple sense as feelings of futility and/or pointlessness – despite clear evidence that things are not futile or pointless at all. These feelings can be directed inwardly towards the individual themselves, or outward at life in general. For those who are not depressed, life generally is full of options and possibilities. Those who are not depressed can look forward into any given day and see it’s opportunities as a series of doorways through which we can walk. Oh sure, some of those are firmly closed (I’ll never be an astronaut for example), but others are open. (Even if all we see is a relatively boring day trip to lakeside for something to do, it is still there as a possibility).  Despite the fact that we may choose not to go through any of these doorways, and laze about the house for the afternoon, they are there nonetheless.

As we slide into depression however, more and more of those doors (and their related possibilities) become locked to us. Over time, the doors disappear altogether and what we are left with is a long blank wall in front of us. There is no point (or so we feel), trying to climb over it, and there is certainly no hope of bashing our way through it. Because of this, for the person suffering from depression, the world ultimately becomes little more than an impossible barrier from which there is no escape.

In my counselling practice in Bishops Stortford, I regularly hear stories from those suffering from depression about how their partners or other family members just don’t get it. They can’t understand that its not just a matter of pulling their socks up and getting on with it. Its not a matter of them being lazy or of being difficult just for the sake of being difficult. Those who have never suffered from depression don’t understand that its not a matter of “I don’t want to”, it’s a matter of “I firmly believe I can’t”.

This is why longer-term depression creates so much havoc in marriages, especially when it kind of comes and then goes. The “non-depressed” individual simply cannot see why it doesn’t lift, or what it is that makes it return – usually at what they see as the most inopportune moments. They cannot understand why things remain so bleak for their partner month after month despite all of the opportunities for happiness life continues to create. After a while, the care and compassion they once offered begins to wane as “compassion fatigue” sets in. For the depressed, this is simply yet another sign of the hopelessness of everything.

If this example of living with depression sounds familiar, and you live within the general Bishops Stortford area, I may be able to help. Having worked with individuals and couples suffering from depression for over 25 years, I may be able to offer the emotional and practical support required to change things for the better. Please do feel free to contact me on 01279 834467 for a fully confidential, no obligation discussion of your needs and the possibility of setting up an initial private session.