Mild trigger warning here; I talk about depression and what it’s like to experience it (at least for me).
A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about what depression takes from you in terms of learning.
I decided to write an addendum to that post after learning about @SomberScribbler, who beautifully illustrates what it’s like to be depressed, sort of like Allie Brosh did on Hyperbole-and-a-half, but distinct from it too.
I’m sure there’s a drug commercial for an SSRI that’s done this, but here’s my version of trying to illustrate what it’s like walking around when you’re really depressed:
That’s a picture of my desk. On the left is how the camera (and my eye perceives it when normal. I’ve darkened it on the right to demonstrate the depressive view of the world. Though it’s not literally that dark, everything really is muted. The coffee cup stands out in both pictures; I could focus on coffee when I was at my most depressed, it’s something I drink nearly every day. Things around me were dulled. I wasn’t sharp. Note, there are no people; connection is something depression really robs you of; it makes you think no one will understand or get it. There was a great twitter stream regarding mentors and their role and finding them, etc. depression can stop you at the first stage; asking someone a question, reaching out for help with something; it’s a lot harder when you’re depressed and your world is muted. And if you’re going to have a career in science, having your brain cut off from the world, from wanting to take the effort to explore, makes it difficult.
The reason you hear that people suffering from depression are extremely strong/tough is this:
Despite that dark world, despite disconnection, despite a flattened world, we persist and many days manage to get things done despite it all.
It’s like light able to escape a black hole; it happens, but it’s not always obvious. And we’re far from being the most effective. Even simple decisions can be impossible at times.
Now, I’ve been doing better for quite awhile now, but am still struggling in some ways. If I don’t get my human connection or exercise, or do other self-care/nurturing things, I can still really suffer. I’d say my world looks a bit like this:
Some obvious blue sky visible, but clouds can still obscure my view/light from the world. I have to keep moving forward. I have to keep trying new things and continuing to build momentum from being as depressed as I was. And I’ve made very real progress the last few years. In a way, I’m more compassionate, empathetic and stronger for it. I take no one’s mental state for granted or lightly. So I guess that that is an upside of having gone through the hell that it was. Still, life is hard enough without it, so I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else, either. It wouldn’t be my chosen method of building mental toughness (an important trait to develop, to be sure).
So if you’re depressed and it’s interfering with your life, get help; talk to someone, friend, family, mental-health professional. Type depression into Google; many places have the signs/symptoms listed and it is very treatable in most cases; and I think that catching it early is probably very beneficial).