Beyond down in the dumps

depression“That’s the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it’s impossible to ever see the end. The fog is like a cage without a key.

— Elizabeth Wurtzel, author of Prozac Nation

 

This is not just a depressing topic, but a painful one for me to write about because it’s something I’ve known a bit too up close and personally, with immediate family members affected and in turn affecting me. Luckily my own depressive episodes take the form of the occasionally brief bouts typical of most people: just feeling sad for a while, with exercise or distraction serving as quick effective fixes. But I’ve seen what havoc depression can wreak in a life.

Depression may be no picnic for beleaguered family members and friends, but is a living hell for the sufferer. Millions of us have depression in some form. The exact number is hard to count because so many cases are undiagnosed and untreated. In part, because it’s a disease complicated by its attached stigma. “Just pull out of it” or “Snap out of it,” people tell the depressed, failing to understand why they can’t just give themselves a little shake and a pep talk and feel all better.

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Many more women have clinical depression than men, possibly because of hormonal or psychosocial reasons. In women it may manifest as guilt, melancholy and feelings of worthlessness, while in men it can look like fatigue, insomnia, apathy and irritability, even anger. There are no racial differences, but more urban dwellers have it than rural.

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