Here is a post that I never shared on social media from a while back.
There is a lot of misunderstanding about depression, and especially chronic depression.
As I’ve stated in the past, people who have not experienced depression have very little to no actual understanding of what it is.
There are what I consider 3 types of chronic depression. Now then, before people say “Yeah, but what about…”
Depression is a deeply personal experience. While usually episodic, it’s not always so easy to define these episodes, or to see them for what they are.
The three types of depression I can classify would be “The traveler”, “Lost in the woods”, and “The Endless Maze”.
These types of depression all have similarities, as well as significant differences.
The Traveler Depression
In this type of mostly episodic depression, the subject could be considered a traveler. They are moving from one point in their life or their reality to another. Much like a traveler, you can wind up in a traffic jam, or other event that stalls your travel. Sometimes these stalls can take months, even years to resolve, the main point of this type of depression is that there is a starting point, and a destination. The person can identify that they did not have depression, or at least not the current level of depression before, but now do. This type of depression is also blessed by the ability to take a pit stop so to speak. As the depression is episodic, so can it’s relief be. Usually the relief is not long lived, and sometimes can even lead to worsening depression, because it shows a glimmer of hope that is then replaced by the depression again. This form of depression can have just as much damage, or result in suicide as any other. Having to return from a “Pitstop” or break in the depression, back to the depressed state can be horrifying to the subject. The frequency of episodes can vary, in some cases it can almost seem constant. This is perhaps one of the more common types of depression. While all depressions are in some way a chemical imbalance, this form also can be induced by experiences, or situations in ones life.
Lost in the Woods
In this form of depression, the subject is as if they awoke in a dark forest. There is no reference to how they came about being in the forest, and there is no clear direction to move towards an exit. Because of the nature of the dark forest, fear usually accompanies this type of depression. The fear isn’t necessarily fear of harm, or pain, but usually of not being able to find your way out. Every tree branch can hide a monster, every twig snap a predator. This form of depression can seem unending, and limitless, much as being lost in the woods can seem. Occasionally, within the forest, one will find a clearing. This clearing will not necessarily end the subjects depression, it can provide a reprieve for a bit of time. Sometimes people find these clearings and choose to remain in them for as long as they possibly can. The depression is still there, all around them, but provided they remain in the place or location of comfort, they remain safe, yet not entirely free. One of the biggest differences about this depression from the Traveler, is the Traveler has a destination. They had a beginning, and a target to get to. Their depression can be just as powerful, and moving to them, but there is a destination to be reached. For the lost in the woods, one of the worst fears is that no one direction is any better than another. Perhaps some could even be worse, leading deeper into the dark. One can agonize for weeks, even months trying to identify a safe direction to try. Sadly this form of depression causes a large number of suicides, as perhaps the direction chosen didn’t yield the edge, or there were no clearings to be found. One can spend an entire lifetime searching, and sometimes they can find the edge, but even then there is the looming fear that they could once again awake in the woods, and have to endure it all over again. This subject is often more reluctant to take advice, or action against their depression. The turmoil of deciding if this is a good direction or not can become overpowering. As always it is hard to make assessments like my last. Depending on many factors, the individual could become more willing to try any approach or therapy they could, just out of hope that one of them may work. Desperation like that however can often wind up leading to self sabotage, or exacerbated results from failure to achieve ideal results. This form of depression is more likely to come as the result of trauma of one type or another. The subject becomes “Placed” in the woods by the traumatic event.
The Endless Maze
This final classification of depression is perhaps the least understood, and even perhaps the most rare. Hence why I will talk about it more in depth than the others. In this form of depression the subject stands in a maze of dark hallways. There really is no recollection of not being within the maze, and there is no exit from it to be found. Occasionally the subject may find some signs or indications that an exit exists, but in the end it’s always a fallacy intended to cause more pain. There can be momentary (days, perhaps as long as months) experiences that seem like exits, but they in actuality are coping mechanisms designed to keep the subject trapped. In this depression however while seemingly the most desperate there is a unexpected blessing. The subject having no recollection of not being in the maze, doesn’t have the experience to know what life *was* like. To the subject, the depression is a companion along the journey, and while this companion torments, ridicules, and tears the subject to pieces; there is some perverse comfort in it’s presence. The subject lost in the maze knows that the companion is working to tear them down, and may or may not even be able to sustain over long times with this. However, they are also more likely to find alternative ways to contend with the depression. Knowing that there is no escaping it, the desperation to escape usually fades rapidly, the subjects find themselves faced with fewer choices, but oddly enough suicide is not as frequently used as one of them. The depression while painful, and perpetual, also provides a sense of comfort. These subjects are typically the most reclusive, and withdrawn. In the moment, and when forced to do so, they can interact, and appear “normal” for lack of a better word. But will always regress back to their seclusion as soon as possible. Most commonly this subject, will simply seek a medication that “works”, take their script, and “Call it good” This class of sufferer doesn’t want to be told how normal their lives can be. From anxiety over having the become someone they perceive as “fake” to the actual fear of having the most familiar aspect of their lives taken away. Very often this category can feel that without the pain, or the depression, they will feel nothing. They can quickly become attached to someone, or something. Any feeling of emotion or sensation outside of their dark labyrinth can be more intoxicating than the worst narcotic. As a result they can come across overly intense, needy, or overtly close to someone. Usually this is not the intent, but a sad result of their state of being. With having so few sensations outside of the negative, any positive experience becomes so much more appealing.
I know that classical psychology says that the last of these types cannot exist, but with a lifetime of experience in monitoring and observing, I can state that it absolutely does. It is important that one remembers that these types are generalized to some degree. Nuance is particularly important when observing or attempting to help subjects of the various depression types. One cannot say that because every case they observe is a Traveler, that all cases are Travelers. Imagine if an alien landed on the Earth, in the Kalahari dessert. The alien could walk for weeks and never be prepared to see or know what a Blue Whale is. Of the aforementioned categories, the first is most likely to seek help subtly, the second most likely to cry out for help, and the last, most likely to be reclusive and isolated.
“Drugs are good”. A truer statement has never been said. To one degree or another Drugs are what keep some people going. This isn’t to excuse or negate the effect that abuse of a narcotic can have on an individuals life. But more meant to remind us that at times, an escape, even temporary can make the difference in all of the world. Having battled with my own issues with depression I have actually been able to identify that if I am incapacitated or intoxicated, I will recognize this and prevent myself from “doing something that I could later regret”. This is by no means a sound advice to anyone suffering from depression, and every “Professional” I have shared this with has given me frightening sidewise glances. What works for one individual could be absolutely the worst possible option for another. The link between narcotics and depression can be clear, or can be cloudy depending on the individual. One cannot say that every drug taker is depressed, and it likewise cannot be said that every depressed person is a drug taker. Because of previous observations, professionals can argue that there is a direct link between depression and substance abuse. But to say that it is obligatory does an intense disservice to the subject, and the observers credibility to that subject. Psychotropic medications can be another form of drug that can be abused, but likewise can be essential to the daily lives of the Depression sufferer. Often people suffering from depression will suffer a placebo effect, or short lived positive result from psych meds. This doesn’t mean that the meds don’t work, but ones desire to recover from the depression can force an artificial response to any intervention.
Remember, there is no magic answer to depression. Everyone’s experience and ownership of their demons are different. People will often struggle to identify where they are in these three categories because depression can mask your perspective. It is not up to the observer to tell the subject which type they have. It is also not up to the observer to decipher what the subject wants. Some times people want to share their state of mind, others, are searching for support. Too often people resort to “Canned” responses, which can quite honestly cause more damage than good. To you the observer “I am praying for you”, or “Oh, I’m so sorry, Hugs!” may be an honest, heart felt comment. The subject may even detect this and interpret it in that way, but others will only see it as a canned response, and disingenuous. This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t respond, or send support if it’s being sought, but they must also take a moment to think of something more meaningful to say. Contrary to some other material I have seen in the past, affirmations and well wishes can be beneficial, more so to the first two types than the later. For some people hearing affirmations can provide hope, but they can also cause more despair to someone who is too deep in their depressed state. Being told, “You’ve got this, it’s noting” while sounding honest and helpful, and perhaps to some it would be. To others those could be proverbial nails in the coffin. If someone is experiencing hopelessness, depression, and feels like it’s all there is, having their state lessened or reduced can be one of the most damaging things someone can say. Even if they have the best intentions and meaning, well wishers can cause more damage than good. In the end it’s best to remember, this simple rule, offer help, not hope. Because the hopeless, can take hope as a poison pill.
As I said before, there is no magic answer to depression and how it effects people. Some people will reap great benefit from hope over help. Others will see hope as a failure on their behalf. By default people seem to like to attempt inspiration by shame. Take the person yelling “My kid sister can lift more than you!”. Some people may honestly be inspired by this, the sense of shame overwhelming their personal mental blocks or barriers. Others will just get annoyed, internally (or sometimes externally) wondering why the person couldn’t come up with something more original. Even others could take this personally, and just become more pessimistic and depressed. Again, psychology is difficult to navigate at times. Well wishes can cause harm, and intentional insults can cause good. It is important however to remember that this is not an experience that you can “Understand”, someone could perhaps “relate”, but in the end depression, and emotional pain are personal experiences. You can try to help, but most of all, be respectful to how the individual feels, and what they need.