An important distinction of this serious mental illness lies in just how pervasive and permanent the feelings of uselessness and hopelessness, as well as a terrible feeling that there is no end to them. A person suffering from depression of the clinical variety will see no point in life and disinterest in doing any of the things they enjoyed when the dark specter of depression wasn’t entrenched in their lives. Suicidal ideation can then set in, and a vicious cycle of unnerving thoughts will drag a person deeper and deeper into the mire.
The other important distinction between situational and clinical depression lies in the likelihood that clinical depression is also the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, something that a person has no control over. Clinically depressed (CD) people may just have brains that are wired differently so that the proverbial bottom can just drop out when there are no external factors that might seem to be causing the despondent feelings. Moreover, everything in life gets painted black so that there is nothing redeeming about it. Even if the person had a happy childhood or other enjoyable periods in their lives, those times can be skewed negatively in their minds or even thought to be nothing more than illusions. And let’s face it, there are many, many facts about the world which are extremely depressing anyway; wars, poverty, the news, and people just be being callous and mean. When a CD person starts looking for dismal evidence, there is no shortage of it. That factor can be prevalent in both situational and clinical depression.
Unfortunately, there are messages which come from just about everywhere that recommend staying away from people who aren’t always “up" or “optimistic." That may be true for people who choose to be that way without being CD, but when they do have it, and friends and family distance themselves, it only makes it worse. By no means is it easy to deal with a friend or loved one that is depressed all the time, but it is not his or her fault. No one, literally in their right mind, would choose to look at life from such a gloomy perspective anymore than they’d choose to have cancer. Insist that they get help and cultivate your own patience, tolerance, and love to a degree you never thought imaginable.
I’m not just rattling off signs and symptoms of this dire condition from afar. I, like many of my brothers and sisters in arms, suffered from CD after returning from combat, witnessing first-hand the shallow depths of humanity our species can lower themselves to. And war is always hardest on the innocent noncombatants caught up in the crossfire of mistrust and rage. Life can seem very cheap indeed and in order to do the things we were asked to do, the depths of our own hearts can look very dark also. Way too many soldiers could see no other recourse than to take their own lives, and they do. If that isn’t deeply depressing in itself, I don’t know what is. Overcoming the stigma and asking for help takes guts no matter who you are. You certainly don't have to experience war to feel it. Although it certainly doesn’t seem like it, you are not alone! Many have made it through those eternally darks skies to witness a new and brighter day.
Images courtesy of the Author: Dan McGoldrick.