There are two kinds of depression: clinical and situational. Situational depression occurs when something painful happens to us like losing a loved one or breaking up with a lover. The main feature of situational depression is that it comes and goes according to what is going on in our life. It gets better over time. For the most part it is a spiritual crisis.
To treat situational depression, you turn to someone for comfort. You turn to God. You are hopeful that time will heal your pain. You are grateful for what is good in your life. While the passing of time does help us heal, it is optimism that really expedites the end of situational depression
If your depression does not get better after a year, then it is time to consider calling your depression clinical. This is a chemical imbalance that needs medication.
I have suffered from depression since I was eight years old. I can see the pain on my face in old
photographs of myself taken while I was growing up. Over the years, I used mood-altering
experiences such as eating, getting drunk, and falling in love, to ease the pain. Eventually, these
experiences stopped working and the depression overwhelmed me. I became suicidal.
When I got into therapy and joined a support group, I felt better. As I worked through childhood
issues, I began to love myself, and found the joy of spirituality, the pain eased and I thought I would
never be depressed again.
Then, in 1990, I was struck down with a debilitating depression. It came out of nowhere. I didn’t
understand it at first, but every day when I woke up in the morning I cried because I didn’t want to
face the day. I didn’t know what was happening to me.
I went back to therapy and tried to do more grief work. I continued my re-parenting. I also pushed
myself to go to my support group and to show up at work. The depression grew worse, and
eventually the pain was so bad that I wanted to die. I was tired all the time because I couldn’t sleep.
My appetite went away, and I lost a lot of weight. Eventually, my body was under so much stress
that I broke out in hives. I was covered with huge welts. The hives worsened and my eyes and lips
became hideously swollen. Then the histamine under my skin turned bloody. Steroids helped a little,
but nothing took away the problem.
Eventually, I collapsed from all of the stress and my doctor sent me to see a psychopharmacologist—a psychiatrist who approaches emotional disorders with medication to correct abnormal or faulty body chemistry. I remember getting a minor traffic ticket while driving to his office. I started crying and couldn’t stop. When I arrived at the therapist’s office I was a mess.
I was prepared to talk about my problems with this new therapist. However, he didn’t want to hear
the story of my life; he just wanted to ask me some questions. I answered them and he looked at me
with great tenderness in his eyes. He said, “Susan, I believe your problem is chemical. I don’t think
talk therapy is going to help you this time.”
The doctor then gave me an article about clinical depression. I resisted the idea of being clinically
depressed, although my family had a history of this problem. I absolutely did not want to take
medication because both my mother and sister had become addicted to narcotics prescribed by a
doctor. (Later I learned that they had become addicted to painkillers in an attempt to mask their
Because I was afraid of medication, I suffered for a few more weeks. Then, one day I couldn’t stand
it anymore. With tears in my eyes, I called the doctor and agreed to give the medication a try.
If the medication had not worked so quickly, I would have suspected that my condition had
improved on its own without intervention. However, within days of taking the medication, I was
sleeping through the night. The hives disappeared and I came alive again. I was not high, I just felt
good because my body was not in so much pain. And I was ready to go back to growing and
Today, I understand depression in all its many forms, and I realize that different kinds of depression
require different treatments. I also understand that depression is the enemy of recovery and must be
worked through in one way or another.
When I am depressed because of a particular situation, like my daughter’s death, I tough it out and
let time work its magic. But when I cannot function for months and seem to getting worse, I to the
the doctor and ask for help. I also read The Noonday Demon and stopped being ashamed.
I tell you this so that you know you have options. When life gets you down face and ask for help. Don’t neglect yourself or isolate. If you are courageous you can move forward for a brighter tomorrow.
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