1 It’s sneaky.
Depression is a very sneaky disease. Sufferers may notice a little daytime sleepiness, a bad mood that doesn’t lift after a good night’s sleep, or an aversion to being around people who ordinarily lift them up. Before they know it, they are sleeping fourteen hours a day, isolating themselves, and see no end to the low mood that has them in its grip. Sneaky.
2 How all-encompassing it is.
Over and over society sees examples of people “who have it all” yet end their lives because of endogenous depression—depression without an obvious external trigger. Obviously wealth, fame, material goods, and near-universal love from everyone they know is not enough to keep them alive with the rest of us when in the grip of depression. Something happens to a depressed person that convinces them that life is not worth living anymore because depression is an all-encompassing disease, rendering the sufferer nearly helpless to help themselves.
3 Depression is not sadness.
Sadness comes when someone loses a loved one, a job, a home, or something else they cherish to mischance and acts of God. They cry deep rivers of tears when sad. When depressed, people often don’t feel sad. They feel nothing, no emotion at all. Sadness eventually runs its course when there are no more tears to cry and a person can see hope. But depression often robs one of tears and of hope.
4 Over fifty percent of post-partum depression episodes are actually bipolar episodes.
I read that statistic shortly after I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a year after my last child was born. Fifty percent! Any other syndrome with such rates of worsening into a lifelong disorder would be getting funding, a ribbon, and a cure. But diseases of the mind are still under the radar for ob/gyns treating the postpartum woman.
5 Depression runs in happy families, too.
Just because no one in the immediate family is ever clinically depressed doesn’t mean that the roots of depression aren’t genetic. My mother told me recently of three women in my great-grandparents generation who committed suicide during the early twentieth century.
6 Everyone around a depressed person is affected by it.
Depression sometimes deep-sixes friendships, family relationships, and romantic involvements equally. Friends may want to help but don’t know how. Family life may suffer while a depressed person is desperately trying to continue to function. And romantic partners may give up in frustration or feel betrayed when the depressed person cannot be the same fun-loving, happy person they got involved with or even married.
7 Faith does not always alleviate depression.
Clinical depression is not always a matter of sin in someone’s life, robbing them of joy. David was a man after God’s own heart and was often very depressed if we are to believe the Psalms. Jeremiah heard from God in an audible voice but was called the “weeping prophet”. And Jesus was pained in heart in the Garden of Gethsemane according to the Bible.
8 Depression in a parent can affect even young children.
Young children are often thought “too young” to understand depression. But they do understand family dynamics and can see the fallout from difficult relationships. My two older children remember me before my bipolar diagnosis and can see the difference in the after. My youngest child has never known me to be any other way. Unless they are educated in the effects depression can have on them and the family, they may go their whole lives thinking such difficult relationships are the normal way of life and search out the familiar in a romantic partner or friendship circle.
9 Depression is treatable.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers, counselors, psychiatrists—all are trained and available to help the depressed person feel better. Volunteer groups such as National Alliance for Mental Illness and Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance offer educational programs about depression and support for depressed people.
10 You are not alone.
Fifteen percent of American adults will experience depression in their lifetime. Depressed people may feel very alone in their disease, but statistics show the truth—so many people share their struggle. A depression may be unique in how it presents itself, but it’s a very familiar phenomenon to many people in the world—maybe even in your world. Reach out. Find help.