Many times I’ve wondered about how to explain the experience of depression to non-sufferers. It’s actually pretty hard to relate to until you’ve had it. We all of us sail in the uncertain sea of serotonin; but some of us sail in shallow waters.
Today I came across an excellent description by (what else?) a programmer. It sums up my experiences — including taking antidepressants — very well. I’ve reproduced it over the fold.
Depression is a sucky thing to deal with because it doesn’t have much to do with how you’re doing in life. I feel ungrateful every time I get sad, because in general my life really isn’t too hard. I can say to myself, “Look, you’ve proven that you don’t produce enough seratonin, you don’t have to feel guilty for the tricks your brain is playing on you,” but I still feel like a spoiled child.
My discovery is that everyone I meet is broken in some way. As I’ve gotten to know my friends and business associates and girlfriends, I’ve discovered they all have some kind of problem with their emotions. And they all compensate for it in different ways, so it’s hidden from other people most of the time.
A lot of people really resent even the implication that they could be “crazy.” They see taking drugs for it as the ultimate capitulation; that you’ve given in to your craziness and now you’ll be crazy forever. They think it’s a shortcut; you could just “snap out of it, soldier” and be better, but you’re too weak.
Depression isn’t like that, though. You don’t “snap out of it.” There’s a chemical missing in your brain, and your whole life is like those dreams where every action you try to take is hindered by a huge pile of invisible wet blankets.
I think antidepressants probably are over-prescribed in this country, but I also think they are under-prescribed. Which is to say, I think some people who aren’t really chemically depressed use anti-depressants as a replacement for therapy, which is what they need. But a lot of us weren’t abused as kids, we just have a chemical imbalance.
And I think a lot of people who have the chemical imbalance are afraid to go to the doctor because we’re taught to cover up our weaknesses and compensate for them, and we’re incredibly good at it. I founded Omni and ran it for eight years while suffering from a pretty bad obsessive/compulsive disorder and depression.
I used to be afraid of being caught in traffic, of being at a new restaurant, of going to the airport, of social situations, of going on any trip longer than an hour. I essentially became completely agoraphobic.
Two days after I got on selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitors for the first time, I felt like the chains that had bound me for 30 years had dropped away. And that totally dropped away two days after starting on drugs. I felt like I’d been crippled all my life and suddenly I could walk. People ask me, “Are you going to be on drugs all your life,” and I say, “I sure hope so!”