What is Clinically Depressed? Understanding Symptoms of Clinical Depression and Steps to Take

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Understanding Depression

Get over it! Snap out of it! What’s your problem? These phrases of “encouragement” are far from helpful in helping someone who is suffering from depression to “get over it.”

I am continually amazed when people have this attitude, this ignorance about what depression really is. Maybe that’s because I know what it feels like to not be able to “get over it.” Understanding the difference between some temporary depressive state and clinical depression is important. "Normal" folks might feel sad or "depressed" for a few days or even a few weeks, but it does pass as life circumstances improve. Those who are clincially depressed, however, struggle with feelings of sadness--and often hopelessness--even when their lives are going along just fine on the outside.

I remember as a child feeling different from the other kids; I felt distant and alone at times. I remember sitting in my fifth grade classroom writing poetry in notebooks while my friends played games in the back of the room. I've always felt melancholy, no matter how great my life was going. It took my happy, optimistic mom a long time to realize that I couldn't just "snap out of it" because it was my genetic makeup. Even now she has trouble wrapping her brain around the fact that people can't make themselves more positive by just thinking that way. But she did tell me recently that we should just "do the best with what we have to work with." (Love you, Mom!) For some of us, it's a daily struggle to attempt to make positive steps to feel better or sometimes to just get through the day. Baby steps, baby steps. That's what I tell myself.

Try as I might, I am never able to “snap out of it.” I'm not saying that I'm clinically depressed (at least not diagnosed), but I have had a strong bent toward melancholy since I was a young girl. And maybe my “problem” is a brain deficiency that I was born with. So please don’t tell me just to “get over it.” Would you tell a schizophrenic to stop having hallucinations or someone who is bipolar to just quit having those darn mood swings? Would you tell a diabetic to stop having incidences of low blood sugar or someone with heart issues to stop having them?

Happiness is NOT always a choice.

I'm not denying that individuals who are depressed can do things to make themselves feel better. Some of the advice that I hear: think positive thoughts; surround yourself with friends or family; get plenty of sleep; eat right; exercise. My response? Yes, these are all great tips, but for the depressed person, telling them to choose to be happy is like telling them to decide to grow another four inches taller.Thinking positive thoughts for the depressed person takes practice--and time. And exercise? While exercise is credited with producing endorphins that make a person feel better, the deeply depressed person sometimes can’t even get out of bed, much less go for a workout at the gym, or even take a walk around the block.

For those who don't understand clinical depression, think of it as an illness or condition, like any other--because it is. Do we tell people with high blood pressure to get over it and "choose" to have good blood pressure? NO, we don’t. Because it is a medical condition, just like depression. Both can and should be treated, but that does not mean they can be cured. Both can be treated in similar ways—with medication, exercise, but people suffering from either need time to find what works to treat their symptoms and help them to feel better. It may take many tries to find a medication that works to make the chemically-challenged brain feel better. It may take repeat attempts for the continually depressed person to find ways to feel better, to make gradual changes to be able to better cope with the daily sadness that persists inside.

People have good intentions, and it is good to try to take small steps in making oneself feel better. I know that. But, still, we must keep in mind that many people are clinically depressed. It is not a weakness or something easily changed. Depression is a natural occurrence in life, as many events are unplanned and traumatic in this life. For those who are “normal,” when the situation betters itself, the depression passes. For the truly depressed person, that feeling of sadness persists and must be continually dealt with.

Taking "Baby Steps" to Help Depression

So what is one to do who feels continually sad, down, and "depressed." Here are some things that I can recommend through personal experience, things that I have tried or am still attempting. While not all of these may work for any given individual, they are suggestions that might. My recommendation is to do the best you can with what you have, and, hopefully, you will have people around you who understand that, while you are trying, it isn't easy.

  • Talk to your doctor. Consider trying an anti-depressant. Unfortunately, I haven't found anything that has worked, but I haven't tried many. I prefer to go without the medications, anyway, so I'm trying other smaller steps to make myself feel better.
  • Consider counseling. At least find a confidante. I have several close friends in my life that I can confide in about feelings or simply vent to about daily pressures and frustrations.
  • Try to exercise, even if it's only for ten minutes. My doctor tells me that even ten minutes can help a person. I've been trying to use my dog to make myself feel guilty enough to get up and take him for a walk. He loves taking walks, and it makes me feel happy for him and better about myself for getting some exercise.
  • Try to eat right. I love food, so I have no problem with this one. My biggest problem in this area is eating too much when my mood is really down. Some people have the opposite problem--no appetite when they're depressed. Just keep trying. If I overdo it (eating) one day, I know that there is still tomorrow to make a fresh start.
  • Get enough rest. This really does seem to make a difference. I'm trying to set a regular bedtime, a difficult task since I've always been a night owl.
  • Find a pastime you're passionate about. I've piddled around with a lot of different things, but lately I have re-discovered my passion for writing and often throw myself into it for hours. Even if you're not a writer, you might find it therapeutic to start keeping track of how you feel in a journal. If you can't make yourself do that, keep dabbling in something until you find something you can lose yourself in.
  • Try, try, try to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. I repeat "try" three times because I personally know how hard it is to do when our brains are not wired that way. Tell yourself something positive, even it it's as simple as, "I will feel better, I will feel better, I will feel better."

Above all, I try not to beat myself up. When I don't meet my goals, when I don't respond to life's disappointments as I think I should, when I respond negatively to stress, I tell myself that tomorrow is another day. I remind myself that I have a lot of positive personal qualities and some really good things in my life, and that we all have conditions or burdens we must live with. I also remind myself to take baby steps, as Bill Murray did in the movie, "What About Bob?" Baby steps, baby steps. One day at a time. My mantra for living.

Movie: What About Bob? "Baby Steps"

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Comments 45 comments

Cutters profile image

Cutters 5 years ago from South Carolina

This is great! I have this condition and on meds and sometimes if you read my poems I have my good days and my bad. Thanks for the advice. Sharing is caring.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

I just read your "random poems," Cutters, and can relate somewhat. I just left a comment on those particular poems. I, too, have good and bad days, and sometimes I struggle. Baby steps, baby steps--that's what we have to try!


Cutters profile image

Cutters 5 years ago from South Carolina

I will try and thank you for checking those out!


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

My sister has dealt with clinical depression since her teens. About seven years ago she tried yet another medication - and this one worked! She has literally gotten her life back. There are so many more options than there were 30 years ago. Don't give up until you find what works for you. If you had diabetes, you'd take the medicine. How is this different? Best of luck!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

You bet, Cutters!

Kathleen, that's great! You are so right about keeping on trying....Thanks for the comments!


Dday50627 profile image

Dday50627 5 years ago from Iowa

Victoria, I read your words and they are like echo's inside my soul. The phrases and the "Yes, I do understand's" that we get from loved ones are to the heart, sad ways that allow them to step away but not feel like they simply walked. There are so many things that could be said or not said that might give people like you and I a chance to breathe without the wonderment of what will be said to us next.

Unless you have the clinical depression, the bipolar, tourettes, there is no way to truly understand it. Hell, I am one of them and even I do not always understand it. You have writtien an "Up close and personal" hub that covers so much and speaks with such volume. It is both for those that are effected inside and those that love us and care for our hearts.

Sadly, but in truth... Meds are not always an option for some of us. Just take a pill??? Hmmm? Well truthfully, to some of us, those pills are like acid and so we strive daily to maintain and live as normal a life as we can. Again in following your words,it is so very easy for others to give advice or tell us how to "fix" it. Most that do give that advice would find it difficult and frightening to live in our world for a day, let alone a life time.

Thank you for your write here and know that it is wonderfully written and truthfully said. Don't ever stop... Always, Darrel


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

This is very well written, Victoria, and should be extremely helpful for those who suffer from depression and/or want to understand it.

You mentioned: "Tell yourself something positive, even it it's as simple as, 'I will feel better, I will feel better, I will feel better.'"

That is good advice. Self-talk, a form of self-hypnosis, can be very effective. I would make one small suggestion. Use these words instead: "I am feeling better, I am feeling better, I am feeling better."


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Thanks for sharing your personal experience with depression and reminding those who do not suffer from it that clinical depression is much different from feeling temporary sadness related to specific events.

I also like the fact that you included some helpful recommendations in this hub but made a point of saying they are not helpful for everyone.

My Mom suffers from bipolar and at some periods of her life has been suicidal and gone years where she could not function other than to eat, sleep and retreat to her bed. She is 81 now and still needs ongoing adjustments of medications and occasional hospitalizations for her mental health issues. The hardest thing about watching someone that you deeply love suffer from the debilitating effects of depression is accepting the fact that your love for them is not enough to raise the heavy burden of their depression.

The next hardest thing about being emotionally bonded with a family member who is severely depressed is learning how to live your own life with joy. I eventually reached the conclusion that I could choose happiness for myself and am grateful that Mom has loved me enough to want me to choose happiness for myself.

Thanks for sharing your experience. And welcome to Hub Pages. I am glad that you are finding writing therapeutic.


melbel profile image

melbel 5 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

Fantastic hub that speaks volumes for me. I've always been told to "snap out of it" growing up and it's something I haven't been able to pull myself out of. I suffer from PTSD in particular, and have been told that it's my choice to suffer from depression. I can see how it is and how it isn't.

On top of this, I am an INFP (personality type) so I'm very introverted. Living in a family of extroverts, they feel my introversion is a bad thing and that it's someone's "fault". It's definitely difficult to walk the line of sharing things with them and dealing with familiar publicity and holding it all in.

Therapy, ftw! :P


melbel profile image

melbel 5 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

Fantastic hub that speaks volumes for me. I've always been told to "snap out of it" growing up and it's something I haven't been able to pull myself out of. I suffer from PTSD in particular, and have been told that it's my choice to suffer from depression. I can see how it is and how it isn't.

On top of this, I am an INFP (personality type) so I'm very introverted. Living in a family of extroverts, they feel my introversion is a bad thing and that it's someone's "fault". It's definitely difficult to walk the line of sharing things with them and dealing with familiar publicity and holding it all in.

Therapy, ftw! :P


Brenda Durham 5 years ago

Victoria, this is a beautiful hub. Voted Up and useful and beautiful.

You've just described someone near and dear to me who's going through this. I wish and pray for good things to come for both of you and all people who suffer from clinical depression. I know just a little about it personally; went through episodes of it, but was always able to bounce back. Well, not actually bounce back, more like slowly pull back up.

Blessings.


Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Happyboomernurse: It is hard to choose happiness for yourself when a loved one is suffering. How beautifully written.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, Darrel. While my issues are not as severe as others, I do know what it's like to feel down every day. And people often don't understand. You're right in that meds don't always work. We each have to find a way to deal with our own daily lives. If this article can help anyone, than I'm glad I wrote it. Heck, it was therapeutic to me just to write it! Thanks so much.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

drbj--Good advice re: the wording. I may have to revise with that: "I am feeling better, I am feeling better."

Happyboomernurse--I'm glad you could see the helpful aspect of the hub for those suffering from depression (and related disorders) as well as those who need to understand and offer support. That must be difficult with your mom, but I am glad that you were able to embrace your own happiness and that your mother was also able to support YOU in that as you have supported her. I really, really appreciate your comments.

melbel--I don't think that depression is a choice for most people. Perhaps it's a choice not to even try to feel better, to take some kind of steps. It's difficult to say, because I can't walk in someone else's shoes. It's interesting about your INFP; I think I'm also that, or maybe an INJP. My personality type is very close to yours, then. I think it's great to be an introvert. We're reflective, intuitive, and are generally creative. It's great to be us, I think! Extroverts are great in their way; introverts are great in theirs. You should not feel that something is wrong with you in that way. By the way, what is "therapy ftw!"


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Brenda--"pulling slowly back up." I like that phrase. That is often true of the way I feel, but I don't stay very high for very long. I am able to plug on through most of the time, so I'm grateful for that. I thank you so much for your comments!

Kathleen--it is hard to be happy when others are suffering, but it's good when people can, I believe. Thanks for reading and commenting!


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Victoria...so well-written and beautifully presented. This is a vital message for so many and especially close to my heart. Thank you. Up & awesome


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

My father did not know he was suffering from clinical depression until he read an article by a doctor. For ten years he was on medication. One day he was suggested to practice meditation, of course by his doctor. After meditating for couple of years he suddenly discovered his head did not burst when he did not take drugs.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

This hub is wonderful!!

As a nurse who has looked after people with depression and also having suffered from it myself, this article speaks volumes!!

The only people I know of who state 'it's not an illness' or 'snap out of it' are people who have never had to suffer the debilitating affects of this condition. We hear time and time again, "What's the problem, everyone feels down from time to time"? But those temporary low feelings - we all have - are entirely different to the feelings and outlook of true depression.

Temporary lows are like disruptive waves in thinking and emotion. When it's depression it's like a silent, black, engulfing storm - cold and deep. Your whole being is affected.

This hub was excellent and it will help so many others both to be understood and to understand. Voted up + awesome.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

fpherj48--You're welcome...and I love your comments!

Vinaya--I always appreciate your comments!

Thanks, Seeker7. I want this article to help those who suffer and those who are around those are suffer. You are absolutely correct--no one realizes the pain and hopelessness of true depression unless they are in it. I appreciate your comments so much.


sweetoneangel profile image

sweetoneangel 5 years ago from New Jersey

Very great hub, and very useful. The Doctors think that my daughter might have clinical depression, and suggested that I might be as well. Glad I found your hub.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

I'm glad you found this hub, too, sweetoneangel, if it helps you and your daughter. Anything that helps is good; just don't give up. :-)


Cutters profile image

Cutters 5 years ago from South Carolina

I am trying not to give in I wrote a hub about my addiction to my meds. It is not a good one. But I am going to turn things around and fix my life so I can work on being happy. I am going to try from now on to write happy hubs with a few weird creepy hubs!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Iknow it's hard, Cutters. Try to fight it as best you can. Happy, weird, and creepy hubs. All welcome here! :-)


qlcoach profile image

qlcoach 5 years ago from Cave Junction, Oregon

Excellent work here! Yes, clinical depression is all about a chemical imbalances in the brain. The best form of treatment includes a combination of medications and therapy. Since I'm a retired social worker, I can relate to your struggles. I've also learned a process of healing and treatment that helped me, my wife who suffered from BiPolar Disorder, and many of my dual-diagnosed and addicted clients. We can learn to vent the pain and the suffering. This frees the mind to use positive thoughts, actions, and beliefs to fly and soar above all that is negative. Sending you golden Light...Gary.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

qlcoach--how does one "vent the pain and the suffering"? Do you have a hub about that? I'll have to look. Thank you for theh compliment and for sending me "golden Light." I can use it!


Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

I wrote a poem about depression. Your hub is 100% true and I hope that people that do not understand depression read this as well as people that think they may need to seek help.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 5 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, Just Ask Susan. Yes, both need to understand. It's a really misunderstood condition. I'd like to read your poem!


justateacher profile image

justateacher 4 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

My favorite way to deal with my depression is writing and listening to good music...and you are right..if you haven't experienced depression first hand it is hard to know how horrible it can be...great hub! Thanks for Sharing!


kschimmel profile image

kschimmel 4 years ago from North Carolina, USA

I was one who didn't believe depression was a real illness--until I got slammed in the face with it during my last 2 pregnancies. I used medication for a year or two, but had to go off because of some side effects (impulsiveness, running up credit cards, NOT my usual self.) I found lasting relief through EMDR therapy, a non-drug treatment.

I grab every opportunity to share my experience in case it helps somebody else. Everyone with depression thinks they are alone, but they are not. I'm glad you also share your experience--I'm sure it has helped some people.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

justateacher--Sometimes writing is the only thing I can do when I'm depressed. It DOES help sometimes. Thanks for reading and commenting!


vrbmft profile image

vrbmft 4 years ago from Yucaipa, California

Hi Victoria Lynn

Great hub with lots of insights for those who can't help themselves tell others to move on!

I think depression is very very real. I think the distinction between clinical depression (being a chemical imbalance) and so-called normal depression is a bit of a misnomer and for someone who is depressed a set up because no one wants to fall into that other category.

And as far as the chemical imbalance goes, everything we do, think, and feel, brings about a new balance or an imbalance in our brain. Homeostasis with regard to brain activity and neurotransmitters is a little iffy in my book.

What I think no one will argue with is that depression is an absolute must as a physiological (not psychological) response to LOSS. And we are all well trained to minimize and deny our losses.

The amygdala, which processes emotional experiences, including loss, is on line and working well at seven months in the womb. Losses are part and parcel of every day life and at times insidious because there are so many experiences that become expected and par for the course that we stop identifying them as losses, but they are, nevertheless, a loss.

The first three to six years of life are so critical with respect to loss, that I don't imagine any of us reach age six without an abundance of losses, but everything else around us looks good, and certainly no one is identifying the losses for us, it's just life, and maybe it is, but still one loss after another. When the losses are not grieved, they stay unconsciously "stuck" in the amygdala, waiting to fire off at any current experience that even remotely reminds the brain of the initial loss or losses.

For me, depression is about ungrieved grief or ungrieved loss.

Anywho Thanks for a great hub and for supporting so many folks who struggle to grieve without support.

Vern


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

kschimmel--Thank you, too, for sharing your experiences with depression. I have never heard of EMDR therapy. I might look at that. Sounds interesting. Thanks for the comments.


vrbmft profile image

vrbmft 4 years ago from Yucaipa, California

Hi again Victoria and Kschimmel

EMDR is a procedure, seems sort of hokey at first, that assists the right and left hemispheres of the brain to integrate intense emotional experiences so the experience can be stored in long term conscious memory (hippocampus) and not stuck in the amygdala. We have no conscious access to the emotions stored in the amygdala. It's basically what our brain does on its own during dreaming and the integration of loss into both left and right hemispheres is neurologically what grieving is all about. Try EMDR. There are several simple methods. Google it and I'm sure you will find a detailed description of the actual procedures. Try it, you will like it. Pretty benign, but powerful.

Vern


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Interesting, Vern. For some people, ungrieved loss is probably the source. But, for some of us, a feeling of depression exists whether or not grief exists. True depression is always there beneath the surface, even when the person is temporarily happy, and must be fought away at all times. At least, that is my experience. I appreciate your comments. I think that there are many causes for the different types of depression.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Interesting about EMDR. I'll have to look into that sometime. Thanks for the information, vrbmft!


kelleyward 4 years ago

This is a fantastic hub full of useful information. You're right depression is a disease, like diabetes, and needs to be treated as one. It's not effective to just say, "get over it," when someone is depressed. Depression creates a chemical imbalance in the brain. Voted up and useful, and shared on facebook and bo.it! Take care, Kelley


cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

I gotta tell ya, you have always seemed upbeat and cheerful to me. :) However, I can understand about this - I get SAD in the wintertime. I know it'll happen, so I load up on extra Vitamin D and even some St. John's Wort and that helps to stave it off. Everyone's different and your hub tells me that you're truly an introspective person. That's a wonderful quality. You keep on being wonderful.


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 4 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

This is great Vicki and will help so many others that don't understand what they are feeling. I've been "kinda diagnosed" with depression and do take medication although the initial intent for the meds was to help with panic attacks. I often wonder what I'd feel like off the meds since it has been about 10 years now. It scares me actually to think about it. This hub is heartfelt; makes me and I'm sure others not feel alone. Thank you!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Thanks, Kelley, for the feedback. Glad you can vouch for what I was trying to get across. Thanks for sharing it, too!


faith_love_hope32 profile image

faith_love_hope32 4 years ago

I suffered with deep, dark depression for 15 years. Ages 12 - 26. There were signs at age 10-11 that I was heading there and it was all down hill from age 12. As a teenager I was diagnosed with depression at age 13 when I was hospitalized.

Before that I had been in therapy, therapy helped me to deal with issues at home, etc. because I liked my therapist. I could no longer see her because my mother didn't like the feedback she was getting from the therapist. So after being hospitalized at age 13, I was forced into treatment, this time I didn't want it.

The therapist/pschologist was awful. He barely spoke english and would just write what I said. Never communicated with me, I had no connection with him. A connection with your therapist is important, also the willingness to be there in the first place in order for treatment to be effective.

I saw this guy for about 2 years, he was useless the entire time but I had to go. Antidepressants didn't help me then either because I wasn't ready for all of this. Only depressed people can grasp that. I wanted the help but yet wasn't ready. I didn't want to feel depressed but didn't know how to make it stop. It was as you said baby steps that started around age 21 - 26 that got me past my depression.

A gradual process of finally being ready for help and reaching out for it. Understanding the root of my misery. In my case it was my past and my self hate and severely low self esteem. After massive treatment and changes in my life I gradually learned to love myself and live again. I literally had to teach myself how to smile and laugh again.

Faked smiles in pictures for years and would actually break out into a sweat if anyone tried taking my picture (also have issues with social anxiety that used to be SEVERE). And I no longer have to peel myself out of bed in the morning. Anyone that's been depressed can relate to that, I'm sure. Sorry so long but I'm very passionate about these things, I also believe that it helps others when we share our stories. I really liked your hub. :)


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

CC--Well, I try to be upbeat, but there's something always in there . . . . Vitabmin D and St. John's Wort, huh? I may have to try that. Aw, you're too kind, although I do think I'm too introspective sometimes. And you are wonderful, too!


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

You're welcome, Sharyn. People shouldn't feel alone with depression, but I know it's easy to do. I've been there and am there sometimes. It would be scary to go off the medication if it seems to be working. I don't know how successful that kind of thing is. Thanks for reading. Much appreciated, my friend.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

faithlovehope--Thanks for sharing all of that. It helps others who are depressed to hear other's stories, I think, especially when you give hope that you can live again! I'm sorry for what you went through but am so impressed that you kept trying. Thanks for sharing!


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Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA Author

Cheap Prozac--I'm glad prozac worked for you. Sometimes we have to keep trying to find what works.

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