“I have trouble concentrating and remembering things. I am tired from doing nothing. I can’t sleep, eat or easily do things as simple as getting out of bed or brushing my teeth or taking a bath.” Maxwell shaking his head in despair, paused and then, “There’s this constant feeling of…” he sought for the appropriate word, “…emptiness. Nothing interests me. Nothing. No one.”
“There’s the persistent headache.” He gave his temple a light massage.
“Can you tell me when your symptoms started?” I questioned.
He had a quick thought about it, “I don’t know. Possibly after graduation.”
“That’s roughly eighteen months.” I calculated.
“Do you have a history of drug or alcohol abuse?” I asked, although I didn’t have to.
He replied, understanding every session was recorded, “No.”
“Does any mental illness run in your family?” Another question I already had an answer to.
“No.” answered Maxwell.
Finally, the part I didn’t want to go to, “having any suicidal thoughts?” I had my eyes shut for a moment, uncertain I wanted to know.
I sought for honesty in his eyes and then came my sigh of relief.
Tough could not begin to qualify what it meant to be Maxwell’s psychotherapist. No, he wasn’t difficult. It was just a contest of personal relationship and professionalism. Having been friends with Maxwell from kindergarten to College, I was confident I could write a novel about him. If light and life was a person, it was Max. Everywhere he was, attention followed – and girls. It wasn’t merely about his looks. It was neither about his wallet nor great mind. It was more than the way he walked or talked. It was his aura. It was Max. With a wide circle of friends, decent family and fighting spirit, it was almost unbelievable he was diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
Major depressive disorder!
How do I explain?
MAJOR DEPRESSIVE DISORDER
Depression, also called clinical depression or major depressive disorder is a mood disorder majorly characterized by an endless feeling of sadness, isolation and loss of interest that affects how a person feels, thinks and handles day-to-day activities such as eating, sleeping and working. The condition significantly influences a person’s life and can lead to emotional, psychological and physical problems.
Of course, feeling down or low at times is a normal part of life. Sad and upsetting events happen to everyone, which is why depression should not be confused with sadness, loneliness or grief caused by a frustrating life experience, such as the loss of a loved one, physical abuse or financial issues.
It is not known the exact causes of depression. However, several possible causes of depression range from biological to circumstantial.
Some common causes include:
1. Drug use
2. History of depression in the family
4. Hormones (postpartum, menstrual cycles)
5. Brain structure and chemistry
6. Medical conditions (Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, cancer)
Different people have different symptoms. Sadness is only a small part of depression. It is possible that some people with depression may not feel sad at all. To be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present on a regular basis for at least two weeks.
Some symptoms include:
1. Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
2. Sleep disturbances
3. Feeling guilt or helplessness
5. Reduced or lack of sexual desire
6. Inability to concentrate
7. Withdrawal from social engagements
8. Loss of interest in daily activities
11. Unexplainable crying spells
12. Unexplainable physical aches and cramps
13. Reckless behavior
14. Eating disorders
15. Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts or suicide
Antidepressants work well to treat depression. Although they have side effects, many of which wear off over time.
How to help a loved one who is depressed
1. Help him or her see a mentalhealth professional
2. Be supportive, patient and understanding
3. Help him or her adhere to treatment plans
4. Invite them to simple outings like going for a work
5. Pay attention to their comments about suicide
6. Offer encouragement
Depression is not an easy journey. It’s difficult to find the right and helpful words to say to someone who is feeling depressed. Someone who is depressed may be carrying feeling of guilt or shame. He or she can’t just decide to be happy.
Therefore, do not say:
1. You don’t look depressed
2. It’s your fault
3. It can’t be that bad
4. You are freaking out over nothing
5. I don’t understand
6. Cheer up
7. Find a new job
8. Let it go
9. Snap out of it
10. Everyone has problems
11. Be thankful
12. Aren’t you being a bit dramatic?
Instead, do say:
1. Tell me more about it
2. You don’t need to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable
3. Can I keep you company today?
4. I am here for you
5. It is not your fault
6. I love you
7. I am sorry you are hurting
8. How can I be of help?
9. I care
10. Do you want some space?
11. You are not a burden
12. You won’t always feel this way
13. Nothing (just listen)
Depression can affect people irrespective of age, race, religion and socioeconomic class. It may occur once in a lifetime and people can typically have multiple episodes.
Recovery is a journey. And you are not alone in the struggle. Although science is yet to find a cure for mental disorders like depression, with appropriate treatment and psychotherapy, you should be able to overcome and live a happy, fulfilling life.
“Courtney.” He called my name.
With a reassuring smile, “Maxwell. You are going to be okay.” I promised.
My book “Solivagant: The Journal of A Wanderer” (a concise poetry collection) is still live on Amazon.
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