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My old friend…Depression

What exactly is depression? What are the signs or symptoms I or someone I know may have depression?

Losing interest in things you used to enjoy – For me this became evident in my video gaming. I have always loved gaming – on the computer, XBox, Playstation, Wii/WiiU, Switch, etc. – anything that had “games”, but I particularly love MMORPG’s. Looking back, my depression seemed to rear its ugly head I was playing for hours on end, long into the middle of the night, day after day. At first this dramatic increase in playing was my way of avoiding everything that was wrong. It was 2009 and my business was downscaling, my husband was emotionally cheating on me with one of our employees, both my father and my oldest brother had died, but I just kept on keeping on. Then after a particularly brutal verbal moment when my husband tried to hurt me by saying our son didn’t love me, I completely shut down. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t focus on any one thing. There was nothing but incredible pain and bleakness. There was nothing I wanted to do. I thought about my various games and I just could not bring myself to even look at them. This eventually spread to other things I had previously enjoyed until all I was doing was sitting, feeling numb, looking at the tv or staring out the window.

Avoid being around people or are irritated by everyone you are around – When you lose interest in doing the things you used to love you will also lose interest in seeing or being around people. Friends are typically the first to fall off your list, then followed by family. Until you get to the point of even being out in public around strangers is all but impossible. You find excuses to stay at home. You need to do this or that, do not have the time, aren’t feeling well, something has come up, you may even lie that a pet or distant family member died to give you extra breathing room to be alone. But don’t worry, eventually everyone, but the absolute most devoted, will give up and leave you alone.

Feeling intensely sad, down on yourself, or hopeless – The term sad or “intensely sad” is very misleading to me. One of the things my mother always asked me was, “What do you have to be sad about?” It is really hard to put into words. It is not that you are “sad” per se (but you kind of are), or it is not like you are just crying all the time (but actually that does happen), it is more like an emptiness. At its absolute worst the emptiness is so all consuming that you cannot even think about anything. I mean nothing at all. You cannot think about or focus on where you are, if it is hot or cold outside, where you want to go (if in fact you want to go anywhere), if you are hungry, the dog needs to go out, or the rock in your shoe. It is like being in a bubble of nothingness and the nothingness equates ultimately feeling hopeless. The only thing that may enter your mind that you do end up focusing on is, “How is this ever going to go away?”

Sleeping too much or not enough every day – Feeling tired all the time and wanting to sleep or nap any chance you get is kind of a big sign. It may also be a sign of certain medical issues, but it definitely is a sign with depression. It was the first sign that others noticed before I did. I am not a morning person by any means and never have been. Even the 8 years I spent in the army I was up at 5am every morning but did not like it and never got used to it. But not liking to get up and out of bed every day is different than not wanting to get out of bed. The desire or even need to take a nap during the day because you just have no energy is kind of a clue. Especially if it happens every single day, even multiple times a day. Insomnia is at the other end of the spectrum and can be as bad or worse. Lack of enough sleep over time wears you down physically and especially mentally. Lack of R.E.M. sleep (rapid eye movement during deep sleep) can eventually cause you to hallucinate when you are awake and doubt what is real. This was happening to me before I finally realized I had sleep apnea. It is scary to constantly think did I actually do this or say that, or did I dream it or did I hallucinate it?

Finding it hard to focus, remember things, or make decisions nearly every day – This one is another sign others around you can pick up on sometimes before you do. If you normally are on the ball and rarely if ever forget things or have little to no trouble making decisions when these things start happening, it can be fairly obvious to others before it is to you. Early on you may not realize what is wrong to cause you to forget things or have difficulty making decisions and probably just blow them off. If depression is allowed to worsen it will become more evident to you as well and the forgetfulness and indecision will feed the depression.

Feeling anxious, nervous, or worried – I had an anxiety attack early on during the discovery period that I had depression. It was not a pretty sight. It felt like I was having a heart attack and I almost blacked out. I was not doing anything in particular, in fact I think I was playing a game on my computer at the time, and it was nothing stressful. I was not worried or nervous and did not think I was stressed. Apparently, I was wrong, and it was a huge sign something worse was going on but of course I ignored it.

Gaining or losing weight – You might be the type that goes up and down 5-10 pounds. No big deal. But if you gain 30 pounds in a month and suddenly none of your clothes fit or you lose 50 pounds in three months without trying and you have not gotten a gastric by-pass, something is up. Not only can this type of weight fluctuations be a sign of depression it can also be a sign of a serious medical issue. GO TO THE DOCTOR – NOW! Gaining 30 pounds in a month actually happened to me 30 years ago after a sudden death in the family, even though I never changed my diet and every medical doctor I spoke with said this is physically impossible. I was like, “Try telling that to the sweatpants I am now wearing that is the only thing I can get into.” It can happen, trust me.

Drinking more alcohol or caffeine – I drank a lot of alcohol while in the army. It was just kind of what you did in your down time, especially if you are overseas and away from friends and family. I never remained a heavy drinker out of the army. Even if I had, no one in my family probably would have noticed. One of my brothers was and probably still is an alcoholic and the rest of my family is not close at all. I never really understood those who drink alone since I do not care for the taste of the majority of liquors. I drank beer in the army cause it was the cheapest and easiest to get, but always hated the taste. Hard liquor is only palatable to me if it is dressed up in a colorful concoction with a stupid name. So, for me it was not worth the effort. If you do find yourself drinking alone or drinking more than usual in social settings, you might want to take stock of what is going on in your life. Depression maybe??

Taking more of a prescription or over-the-counter medication than is directed – I touched on this earlier. I began self-medicating with Prozac so I could maintain the good feeling of nothing and the “sigh” from my brain letting everything go. Obviously, this is not ideal, and no one should ever do this. If you are thinking of doing this, don’t. Check in with someone, check in with yourself. Why do you want to do this?

I remember the first time I was asked by a psychologist if I was thinking of suicide and if I had a plan. I said yes to both questions. My plan was to overdose on morphine and/or Oxycodone pills that my mother had left over from both her hip surgeries. This is probably still my go-to plan but every day I tell myself, “Not today, wait and see how tomorrow is.” I am still concerned one day I might be able to convince myself otherwise…