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|RECOGNIZING DIFFERING LEVELS OF DEPRESSION|
|Written by FlyingSolo|
|07 September 2011|
A fine can of worms, this thing called Depression. It's clear that we can have feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy, but to what degree are we hopeless and inadequate? Is a depressed person feeling 10% or 100% hopeless?
Have you ever had a day when you had the 'blues?' Did you curl up in a chair and read a book until they went away? That's a mild form of depression.
Have you ever lost interest in life and just curled up in bed and let the day go by? That's a more serious form of depression.
So, how in the world would you know if you're seeing or feeling depression?
Let me use a balloon as an example of how to view depression.
THE FULL BALLOON:
We all know that a full balloon is firm, bouncy, and airy. If we press our finger into the balloon it's strong and resistant.
A person without signs of depression would look the same. Bouncy. Airy. Strong and resistant.
I've inserted a poem that I wrote, to symbolize this type of feeling.
I woke up this MORNING so happy and gay,
glad to see another day.
As I opened my window to talk to the sun,
I found clouds in the sky having fun.
It was such a joy as I shaved
What a beautiful way to start the day.
Why aren’t we more like creation and heavens above
Being open with our love
THE LEAKY BALLOON:
However, if a little air leaks from the balloon it's easy to push our finger into the balloon and make a dent in it. We view the balloon as weak, with little resilience. But, it does bounce back when you remove your finger.
A person with mild depression would look this way, a little weary, distracted, and vulnerable, like the air was leaking out of them. Now, when I have the "leaky balloon" feeling, it feels like this to me.
Today I’m not feeling so bold,
As I dream of a new life and cling to the old.
It’s like floating down the shaft of a well,
Not even knowing that I fell.
Everything that I see,
Seems to be looking back at me.
Knowing that my heart is free,
And, wondering how long before I’ll flee.
To a new life, real and grand,
a little closer to the land.
In the still of the night,
I watch for the light,
As across my mind a new dream dashes,
And the beacon’s light steadily flashes.
So, like a dying man I see everything for the last time.
because I know that yesterday and tomorrow are never going to rhyme.
THE FLAT BALLOON:
Then there's the balloon without any air at all. It has no strength, no resiliency, and no way to recover.
And here we find the 'clinically' depressed person. Caused by physical disorders, even within the brain's makeup itself, the clinically depressed require help. Why? Because as a flat balloon without air can't get off the ground, neither can the 'clinically depressed', without help from medical professionals, family, and friends.
The following poem, which I wrote during the divorce process is the best way I can depict this flat, clinically depressed feeling.
A bed and a bath,
Ain’t that a laugh.
From middle class U.S.A
To the YMCA.
I know most wouldn’t understand,
But it suits this man.
For though I’m cold and empty,
Inside the knots are free
As I rid myself of sorrows in past years,
My only friend is the music in my ears.
Soothing my fear and pain,
Wondering if I’ll be free again.
Not knowing where to go
or what to do
Now let's talk about how these people feel in their varying stages of depression. It's so much like the weather, let's look at it from that point of view.
Our person that looked firm, bouncy, and airy on the outside, is shining on the inside too. Very positive, a person in this state of mind is thinking "How Can I Help You?" Perhaps this poem can demonstrate the feeling.
WHEN BREEZES PLAY
have you taken the time to watch the wind,
on a cool cloudy day when everyone’s in?
when there’s no one to talk about our see,
she dances with the trees.
running through fields of grain,
she combs a waving mane.
then, riding through the city behind a cloud,
she teases the windows ‘til they rattle out loud
she knows that a cool cloudy day,
is her only time to play.
for tomorrow, when the sun is on the trees
she’ll have to be a gentle summer breeze.
Our person that felt weary, distracted, and vulnerable is self-centered and protective on the inside. When you ask this person to volunteer and help with one of your projects, you'll hear things like: I'd help you, but...
This type of person is hurting, focused inward on their personal concerns. They'll say "Don't worry about me, I'll get over it."
And they will, eventually. This example is a mild depression, lasting a while perhaps, but allowing the person to 'bounce back' like our description of the soft balloon. This following poem is the way I depicted this feeling that I could "bounce back."
WINDS OF THE MIND
Like a thunderstorm moving across the prairie,
Dark clouds roll though my mind.
Thoughts explode like thunder
Dashing down in torrents of rain.
I am soaked with thoughts,
too numerous to be sorted.
Visions of life and death pass by,
Pain and suffering that make me cry.
And Fond memories,
Both sweet and sad.
There's been laughter, crying
and some moments,
Both confusing and painful.
But, they say this storm will pass,
Alas, when our loved ones pass.
Our person in this stage of depression feels threatened. The reaction to this is to withdraw and protect oneself for days or even weeks. It's a very dark and scary place here.
o Your doors would be closed.
o You could be covered by a blanket.
o The room would be dark.
The withdrawal is so severe that even family members cannot extend enough feelings of comfort or safety to lead the person from withdrawal back into reality. Clinical depression is what this stage is called, and the only way to get the person out of withdrawal and back to reality is with the help of a qualified physician. When I was in this condition, here's how it felt.
Inside my shell it feels like hell,
and my soul is dying.
As I contemplate life, death,
laughing and crying.
From day to day they all vary,
and are mostly temporary
But I wrestle with life, wondering why
People would rather live than die.
Is death like being drunk?
Slowly failing, Lightly sailing
Kneeling to the ground with a thump!
death doesn’t seem that bad to me.
I think that’s where I want to be.
So tonight I’ll watch my life failing,
As I go lightly sailing
MANIC-DEPRESSIVE / BI-POLAR DISORDER
Then, there's the person who has very little control of their moods. So they may go through this whole pattern of depression with regularity. That's the Manic-Depressive person, diagnosed with a disease called Bi-Polar Disorder. Afflicted with malfunctioning brain cell development and/or chemical reactions in the brain, the Bi-Polar person finds no resting place in the descriptions above. Instead, this person moves through extreme high's and low's regularly. They may move from Sunny to Stormy to Cloudy, never staying in one place for long. For this person, happiness is fleeting, and only passes by from time to time. The person never knows when it's coming, and never knows when it's leaving. Perhaps this poem that I wrote 40 years ago will shed a little light on the feeling.
As I think of life and reflect back,
I wonder if I’ll ever get on track.
Some days I’m up, some down,
And then I’m going ’round and ‘round
I’m tired of worry and headaches from fret,
But wherever I’m going I’m not there yet
I’ve always wanted to be just me,
but it’s been hard you see
Through a past so heavy and hard to bear,
And all the pain I felt there
So, I live with the yesterdays of sorrow,
As I search for tomorrow.
Not Knowing what I should do or who to be,
While I’m busy today just trying to be me.
So, in conclusion we can say that depression does not fit one definition. Although I've given you some examples of what it means to me, depression does not look or feel the same to all people. Depression is normal when it is resilient and short lived, like the cloudy stage. However, Depression can also become serious and rob the sunshine and hope from people. Instead of being with people, the depressed person withdraws and views people from behind a screen. Those with clinical depression or Bi-Polar Disorder will view the world hidden behind a curtain or even from beneath a rock.
How can we help those dealing with depression? Well, for those people who are going through the normal ups and downs of life, it would help most if you would quit asking what's wrong and simply provide a little cocoon of comfort and support until the depression goes away. Have a cup of tea with them. Take their kids away for a while. Help chauffer the kids too. Go to the park, sit on a bench, and get outdoors for a while. Exercise is very good, so get them up and take a walk too.
But, if you see signs of a 'flat balloon' like clothes laying on the floor of each room and the laundry isn't done, there's a serious problem. If the person is dressed is their robe and slippers when you visit in the middle of the day, there's a serious problem. If you see ANY signs that the person is AVOIDING contact with the world, or normal daily duties then it's time to get a physician involved. There are psychologists and psychiatrists that counsel people, and teach them to recognize symptoms of depression, and actions to take to minimize its effect. There are also medications available today that can protect a person from these dives into deep depression, and help them create more resiliency in their moods.
I wish we were all the same, then we would have only one definition for Depression.
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