Let's talk Depression: An initial discussion

He was difficult to be around.

He carries an air so heavy around him it feels like a dark, stormy cloud wrapping us in its cold strangulation.

Every word out of his mouth carried such negativity they hit the listener like a ton of bricks and cause minor lacerations on the heart.

Every moment in his presence felt like a surrender to the sharp pierce of a hundred needles to which I had no shield. Our communication became bloody sword fights; we saw less of each other as we tried to busy ourselves with activities that kept us away from each other.

For a while that seemed like the remedy. I took off to London for several weeks while he stayed on in San Francisco.  

Depression - Who

Depression happens to the best of us. Depression chooses not its prey, it comes upon the unsuspecting.

Depression doesn’t strike suddenly - it enters slowly and steadily.

Depression appears as a gentleman but is really, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It devices a plan - first, a pat on the shoulder, then a grip on the neck and eventually, a full choke that snuffs any trace of life out of you.

Depression often wears a mask, because it is afraid to own up to its existence. What sort of masks? Masks of laughter, extreme extroverted-ness, excessive athleticism.

Yes, depression can hide behind what appears to be signs of life, vitality and creative expressions.

Sadness is not to be mixed up with depression. Sadness is temporary, controllable and distractible (you could always find something else to distract you from the present moment of sadness). Depression is often long term, outside of one’s control and persistent (not easily distracted or diverted).

Depression - What

Far too often we blame ourselves for our lack of emotional self control when we’re down and blue. Why do I always feel sad? Why can’t I be happy on demand?

Well, could it be that how we feel is not a matter of our choosing but a result of many attributing factors including our living and operating environment, the food we eat, the people we see and interact with, and more importantly, the hormones and chemicals in our bodies?

You see, little attention has been given to the huge effect that hormones and chemicals play in dictating how we act and behave. Depression isn’t always up to our self control; depression could be a chemical response; more specifically, a lack of dopamine in the body.

But first, let’s take a close look at dopamine, cocaine and love addiction and derive their similarities with depression.

When someone smokes cocaine, dopamine is released into the brain in copious amounts. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain associated with emotions, reward, motivation and repeated behaviors. Feelings of exhilaration follows. He feels utterly awake and alert; more importantly, he feels highly energized and confident. Those feelings are so tangible, so real, so raw and so amazing that when the feeling wears off, he craves that same intense feeling and has to get more cocaine. He does this over and over, and a cocaine addiction develops.

In the same way cocaine addicts crave for the drug, lovers crave for love. Didn’t expect that, did you? That falling in love is no different from smoking crack cocaine? Scientific studies have shown that when we fall in love, our body releases dopamine which makes us experience intense emotions, heightened need for bonding and increased pleasure of being with and around our loved one.

Now depression, on the other hand, is frequently linked to a dysfunction of the dopamine system in the body, causing low motivation, a sense of helplessness and losing interests in the things that used to interest a person.

Depression - When

According to an article in the Guardian, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 2015 that at any one time, more than 300 million people have depression, a shocking 4% of the world’s population.

The link between suicide, the second leading cause of death for young people aged 15-29, and depression is clear, and around the world two people kill themselves every minute.

An article by BigThink states that despite advances in medicine, technology, and science, we’re experiencing the highest rates of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and chronic loneliness in history.

The article looks into the importance of tribe, specifically that which is formed in the military and necessitated by war. What struck me is that tribal relationships fostered by platoons add a necessary ingredient to human existence. There’s little coincidence that national rates of depression and suicide drop during wartime, and that the farther away from battle a society is, the more quickly those rates increase.

What this means is that depression rates drop during wartime, and increases during peacetime.

And what this really means is that in times of adversity, we focus our efforts on facing the crisis at hand and less time to indulge in our emotional yo-yo.

Emotions are time suckers. They pull you into a deep, black hole if you allow them to. The key to battle emotions? Get busy with a meaningful pursuit.

And then, just as suddenly as he descended into the dark abyss of depression, he emerged out of it with light in his eyes, gentleness in his tone, positivity in his words, a skip in his step.

They were small changes, but they were sufficient to bring joy and hope back into our marriage.

I asked him what changed. He’s been practicing the law of visualization. He was depressed because he wasn’t making music. By identifying the offending factor, i.e. lack of music in his life, he began visualizing steps he could take towards making music a reality in his life. He found a studio to rent, bought guitars, pedal boards, mixers, amplifiers, used furnitures, rugs, lights, and set up his space. He looked for musician and singers to collaborate with.

Abraham Maslow identified the pyramid of human needs correctly when he said that once the basic needs of a person is fulfilled, i.e. the needs for survival, food, home and community, is a need for self actualization. My husband was experiencing a deep lack in the area of self actualization, or in other terms, a sense of purpose. The beauty and superiority of men over animals is that we are created with a need to fulfill our purpose in life and exercise intelligence to identify what they are and how to get there.

However little I understand of this, and however ill-qualified I am to write on this topic, I do know this from experience - that:

  • Hurt people hurt people.

  • We inflict others with wounds from our lives.

  • We hurt others because we presume they are the cause of our hurt.

  • Recognize that we need to take responsibility for how we feel and respond to that hurtful feeling in a positive manner, and not to cause more pain (to ourselves and to others) than it already is.

  • For the party to whom that hurt is projected onto, it often feels like it’s much easier to walk away, and it takes so much more understanding, humility and strength to stay.

In other words, when someone hurts, the best thing you can do is stay.

Angeline TanComment