Because some people are born to difficult life situations, or have different biochemistry than others, it’s not unusual to go through life depressed and not even be aware of it. Recently a patient was referred to me because she took a screening tool for a medical procedure, and it indicated a very high level of depression. Although nothing about this woman’s appearance or functioning suggested depression, when quantified using a validated professional testing tool, the level of depression was truly and extremely high!
How does that happen? First, we get conditioned to telling everyone we’re “fine”, which is just a meaningless pleasantry we exchange. Second, many of us believe feeling depressed indicates a flaw in our personality or emotions, so we don’t tell anyone how we truly feel. Major depression is visible because it involves an acute change from how we usually feel and behave. But those who deal with daily and long standing chronic depression won’t exhibit those changes in appetite, functioning, or appearance.
If you’re one of those people, as I am, depression is a long standing struggle that can get better or worse with stress in your life. It requires us to take extremely good care of our physical and mental health. It requires us to self monitor because we can slip easily from struggle into darker and more dangerous thoughts. If this describes you, you need medication to correct your neurotransmitter imbalance so that most of the time you are experiencing some pleasure and quality to your life. There is danger to your health in not treating this as the medical condition it is. One is that, in response to external stressors, the balance to endure and live with that internal struggle can dip too low. In a full depressive period or in response to increased stress, the feat to keep functioning can feel insurmountable. I’ve come to the conclusion that depression is not unlike other mental illnesses in that it causes you to think and feel things that are not based in reality; you can feel things are too painful to endure, and that it won’t end. That’s truly a mistake in your logic, because the events external to us do always change.
Mental illnesses like depression can be confusing. While you would never argue with your doctor about treating your diabetes and taking medication, we often fight the idea to take medication to treat this disorder. But without treatment, your functioning is harder, your relationships are harder, and your health will suffer from the quiet internal stress you bear; eventually this will lead to other physical illness (gastric illness is most common). Often people are already experiencing these illnesses when they seek treatment for depression. Your medical doctor has to know about all health conditions. They can provide an antidepressant, but a specialist in the field of psychiatry will be able to explain to you why the medication works a certain way and be better informed to provide the right medication to help your specific issues. Your brain is important to your overall health and functioning. It matters! A drug won’t fix everything wrong in your life. You still have to do additional work to keep your brain healthy, and your life well. But don’t add the burden of trying to forego medications if you’ve already been dealing with depression for a long time. Life is challenging enough already, take good care of yourself and get what you need for your health.