It happened several years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. My depression was too much for me and I tried to end it by taking my own life. The physical sensations, mental activity, emotions, and spiritual desolation were the deepest I had ever experienced. I thought it was the deepest anyone could go and the only way out was suicide.
I was wrong. I have since been much deeper in every way – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. I am currently in the deepest depression of my life. It has been going on for five months now, yet I don’t feel overwhelmed at all. The level of depression that once almost killed me now seems like a walk in the park. So does this one. Since it doesn’t overwhelm me or control my reactions to it, I wonder: Am I even depressed at all?
I just got home from a trip to Philadelphia PA and Austin TX where I did keynote talks and workshops. I was talking about the concepts in my new book “Bipolar In Order: Looking at Depression, Mania, Hallucination, and Delusion From the Other Side” and used my current state as an example of the difference between bipolar disorder and bipolar in order. Some of the feedback is why I am writing this post.
My Philadelphia audience was mostly doctors and heads of hospitals, clinics, government mental health agencies, and non-profit leaders. In Austin, my audience was mostly people with mental conditions, but also several therapists and other support persons. Between the two I got feedback from across the spectrum. Although most of it was very positive, one particular line of questioning makes me wonder: Am I Still Depressed If I Don’t Act Like It?
At the end of my Philadelphia keynote a doctor came up to me and said I am not depressed because if I was I would not be acting the way I was. I explained in more detail that my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual experiences are greater than the time I attempted suicide, but I have learned that I have a choice in how to react to them.
He struggled with it for a while, but in the end decided that I was in fact depressed by the standard criteria but perhaps there are some problems with the way the criteria for depression combines symptoms with reactions to them. My point exactly. I thanked him for confirming my diagnosis and asked that he consider the possibility that we can be both depressed and act normal.
My Austin group was much more in tune. I got them to look at their experiences and they could see it in their own lives. They could remember a time when a level of depression overwhelmed them, yet later experienced a similar state where they handled it well. While not all could see it in their deepest depressions, everyone could find an example of how their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual pain affected their choices of action differently over time.
Can you share a time when depression had you in bed crying, yet later the same feelings didn’t affect you as much? Would you consider yourself depressed during the crying episode, but not in the other one?
Is depression the feelings we have or our reactions to them? Am I Still Depressed If I Don’t Act Like It?