Walk It Off They Said…
I’ve not done the official research about Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in such a way that I could publish in any peer reviewed journal, and yet I know what I’m talking about. I’ve had MDD. I know MDD intimately, and so do the numerous people with depression that I’ve counseled and met with over my time at an acute mental health hospital, individual clients, and through years of encounters with people who were like me. Victims of major depressive disorder.
“Walk It Off,” “Get Some Exercise,” “Get Some Fresh Air.” I’ve heard it said, and patients have told me that they’ve heard the above said multiple times. Let me tell you that depression is unreasonable. Depression doesn’t fade by getting air, lifting weights, or taking a walk. Depression is unreasonable, and I mean to say that the depressed can’t understand the benefit of air as it passes through their nostrils. They can’t experience the calm after a good stint on an elliptical. That’s not to say that the cure doesn’t take ardent personal work. It does. Exercise may be a small part of a person’s work. But that work means little until they’re able to gain emotional awareness, or regain an understanding of what emotion means. The depressed need practice associating emotion with an event such as a wedding or funeral, an activity such as a walk or a workout, or by receiving a gift such as a new sweater or a nice watch. That’s what I’m going to tell you today. The cure for depression takes long practice of emotional awareness, and emotional attachment to places, events, activities, things, or people.
I know major depressive disorder. I gave a description of my past experience of MDD with a patient not long ago. She looked up at me, surprised. Her previous affects had been flat or sad. The patient stated, “No one has been able to help me describe what’s happening to me, until now.” She wept. Her head found my shoulder for just a moment. Others have been like her. One man said, “I’m in a world I can’t comprehend, no one comprehends.”
Why can’t people with MDD comprehend their world? The doctors of the world have not seemed to discover yet that our problem isn’t only that we have the “sads.” We’re desperately sad indeed, but more than that. We’re completely numb from the biggest emotional event of our lives, and we’re completely over-stimulated. Many have said that we struggle to feel at all. Truth be told, we feel…we feel big time. So much so that we’re afraid to feel, and are so tired of feeling that we become completey spent. Why?
Emotional sensory overload. We experience many emotions at the same time, and we can’t possibily understand them. Most who saw me only saw the sads. They didn’t see the anger, the happy, the glad, the fear, the anxiety…I used positive emotions there, surprised? Many are surprised to know how much we actually feel. We with MDD can’t discern the emotion’s significance. The mix of emotions fills us with a visceral fear, a visceral anger, a desperate visceral sadness that cant be described. However, if we showed you what how we truly experienced life, the foundations, the walls of your home would be shaken. That is how we experience depression…the cauldron of emotion.
I can maybe liken depression as emotional stew created by the worst chef in the world. This worst chef prepares emotional stew at super-power speeds. He or she throws all the emotions into the stew. Sometimes multiple emotions are tossed into the stew at the same time. The chef combines emotional ingredients before we can discern what emotional “spices” of life had been thrown into the stew. We perceive that the emotions are in the stew, we simply can’t discern what they add to the stew. The stew’s flavor is so intense, and the flavors so overwhelming, and indiscernable, that what’s left is a murky, awful mess likened to a gutteral wail, i.e. major depression…it’s not the “sads.”
We have emotional autism…I know emotional autism isn’t an official diagnostic, but we experience emotional sensory overload. Maybe another analogy might help? We’re like electric transformers that no longer transform. All we have is the initial energy, or emotion(s). A person that doesn’t suffer from MDD transforms the initial energy/emotion into a productive and workable expression. The normal he or she does his/her best (well…even the best of the best doesn’t always do his/her best) to use the emotion well, whether it’s happiness, pride, or anger. The person with MDD also experiences the initial stimuli…we just have no idea what it is, except that it’s powerful, and almost unknowable. We experience all the emotions, sometimes at the same time. But our transformer broke…it didn’t break down, just broke. Therefore the electric pulses keep coming, they’re just not transformable into something appropriate. What you see is weariness, fatigue, anger…the “sads.” What we know is guttural, and like a cauldron of weighty pain, so much so that we can’t find our way out of bed.
We perceive relationships…I’ve been desperately depressed numerous times through my life. I know ways I can mitigate depression now, but the bitterness of my worst days stays near. To be sure, I loved my family and friends when depressed. I often wanted to touch them…but I didn’t have the heart. I didn’t have a way to manage the euphoria I knew when I touched my family. I couldn’t make sense of any of it.
In the end, much of the research is correct. We’re indescribably, desperately down. We just don’t have heart. We’re down to the point where some of us wonder whether or not we’re even human. I can tell from photos of me. My face looks right, but my eyes are dark…means I was too down, too desperately broken, too perceive the moment(s). I created a cover life full of pictures and wit, much like Robin Williams had. Pretend normal. I created a space for myself, but I knew it wasn’t real. I knew what to do, I just couldn’t figure out how to feel any of it. Eventually my transformer quit altogether. My cries for help included suicidal ideas, and suicidal events. I wrote “events” because I forced others to view, and participate in my action, to my discretion. Events are manipulations in themselves. You’re cajoled to experience something particularly. We don’t often perceive manipulations negatively. When a bride and groom walk out of the church or auditorium for the first time, you’re expected to throw rice bags (save the birds y’know), or flower petals. A person or people can be manipulated into participation for both positive and negative reason. One could see my particular manipulation as positive. I didn’t truly want to die, I just went as far as I dared so that I’d be found.
My job as a relationship specialist? Teach others to be better chefs. My wife had to learn to be a chef. You can work with me to create a more delicious stew.
By the other analogy, my wife and my daughter had to learn to be better electricians, and they were, and are continuously learning. That’s a your life choice opportunity. You can help fix your loved one’s transformer…you might even be an integral part of helping me fix my transformer. Life is relationships…a good life is real connections. No person is an island, even if they claim to be “self-made.”