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What is Depression Made Of?

Updated on June 4, 2018
denise.w.anderson profile image

Denise has struggled with mental illness most of her life. She also has family members with mental illness. She speaks from experience.

Depression colors everything in our world a subtle shade of grey.
Depression colors everything in our world a subtle shade of grey.


Hello Depression, come on in! It's really good to see you! All the others have abandoned me. You'd think I had the flu!

They didn't want to hear me talk of troubles I am having. They'd rather speak of politics, prose, and the money they are making.

But me, I never have enough of anything, you see. I feel deprived of happiness, no one cares about me.

My life is really worthless now, I'm not good enough to live. Even my Father in Heaven will not his Spirit give.

You're the only one who really cares, so I'll hang on to you. I can hide behind your face. Please stay! I really need you!

Have you ever been depressed?

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How does depression feel?

Depression has many faces. At times, it feels like anger. Nothing is going right, no matter how hard we try. We just can't get on top of things.

At other times, it is more like sadness. We long for what might have been, could have been, or even should have been, if only life were different.

Sometimes depression is a nagging fatigue that won't go away. We rest and rest, but no matter how much we rest, it is not enough. We drag our feet and hang our heads as if it were the end of the world.

Then there are the times when we don't feel anything at all, just an empty nothingness that settles into the bones, a lingering ache that can never be satisfied. We wander around as though we are lost in a great desert where nothing grows or lives.

Depression robs us of the desire to do anything. Former activities lose their appeal. Time ceases to exist. There is no motivation to try or do. Life becomes a mere litany of habitual motion with no meaning or purpose.

Life is a daily battle when you are fighting dragons. It is so hard.... Time goes by slowly.... No one seems to understand. Sometimes, it just isn't worth even trying anymore....

— D. W. Anderson

What causes depression?

Depression does not come from a single source, rather it is a combination of complex factors that come together at a particular moment leaving the brain and body void of the ability to "cheer up" or "pull out of it."

Positive thinking does not solve depression, rather, it taunts the depressed into a further downward spiral, leaving additional feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

Valley of Sorrow: A Layman's Guide to Understanding Mental Illness
Valley of Sorrow: A Layman's Guide to Understanding Mental Illness
Author Alexander B. Morrison looks at mental illness from a Christian perspective, dispelling common myths that keep people from seeking treatment. He talks about risk factors that increase our likelihood of suffering from depression. See the table below:
Risk Factor
Genetic predisposition
People who suffer from depression will likely have children that suffer as well.
Chemical imbalance
Those with glandular imbalances such as low thyroid, fluctuating female hormones, or adrenaline issues, may develop depression.
Distorted thinking patterns
Perfectionism, exaggerated thoughts, doubt, self-criticism, and negative self-talk lead to depression.
Chronic stress
High levels of stress for long periods of time are detrimental to the brain and body and often result in depression.
Those who have experienced abuse often have low feelings of self-worth, making them more susceptible.
Substance use
Mind altering chemicals compromise important functions of the brain, increasing the incidence of distorted thoughts that lead to depression.
Traumatic events alter our world view of ourselves and others, leaving us at high risk for depression.
Physical and mental disabilities make life more difficult, and depression is a common side effect.
In order to deal with our depression, we have to first acknowledge that we have it.
In order to deal with our depression, we have to first acknowledge that we have it.

Where can we get help?

The first step in dealing with depression is to determine that we have it. Since many illnesses have symptoms that mimic depression, it is wise to see our general health practitioner for a thorough physical evaluation, including blood work and screenings appropriate for our age level and risk factors.

Once we know that our physical health is not an issue, then a referral for mental health treatment is in order. Depression symptoms that hang on for weeks on end are dangerous, both to us personally and those that we love. More lives are lost because someone didn't think that these things were worth checking out.

If we think that someone we love is suffering from depression, it is up to us to make sure that they get help. This may require making some phone calls, arranging their schedule for medical evaluation, and supporting them while they cannot make wise decisions for themselves. Time is of the essence.

SUICIDE WARNING -- Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 800-SUICIDE (800-784-2433) or 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) or the deaf hotline at 800-799-4889.

Why does depression come back?

Once we know that we have depression and are able to accept what it does to us, we are in a position to learn how to manage it. Like a chronic illness, depression hangs around, coming and going when we least expect it. Our ability to understand the triggers, how they affect us, and what we can do to change our feelings, determines the quality of life we will have.

Understanding the triggers

Triggers are events or circumstances that bring our depression to the forefront of our minds. Like light switches that allow electricity to flow to a light fixture, triggers turn on certain thought patterns and emotions. Once we recognize what these triggers are, we can plan our life in such a way that we keep them to a minimum.

How they affect us

Triggers put us in compromising situations with ourselves. We may think that we are doing well, and then we stumble upon a trigger, and boom, we are back in the throes of depression. For example, rejection is a common trigger. When some people experience rejection, their feelings of self-worth plummet immediately.

What we can do to change our thoughts, feelings and actions

Once we know what these triggers are, we can put in place a plan of action that enables us to regain our feelings of self-worth. Using the example of rejection, having an affirmation such as the one below gives us something to tell ourselves that helps to ward off depression.

Giving ourselves an affirmation that helps us bounce back keeps depression at bay.
Giving ourselves an affirmation that helps us bounce back keeps depression at bay.

When does healing take place?

Healing from depression is a long process. Medication takes weeks to make a difference. Therapy is ongoing, and may require us to do things that are difficult or feel uncomfortable. We may have to work through years of emotional baggage that we have been carrying around.

We gradually feel the depression begin to lift when we notice little things that make us smile. Perhaps we are able to make eye contact with a friend again, or we see the sun shine through a break in the clouds. We feel snippets of happiness and grab onto them like a child reaching for a favorite cookie.

We may even feel that we are finally beginning to live, that the past is just a fading memory, a surreal place that we only went to visit, knowing that we didn't want to stay. We begin to live life with a greater sense of worth, gratitude, and purpose.

Now is the time to prepare. There will be other bouts with depression. As we fortify ourselves, we build a world that will help us to deal successfully with depression. We can:

  • Develop a support system of people who care that can be called at a moment's notice
  • Learn the tools for changing our thoughts, feelings, and actions
  • Discover the distorted thinking patterns we are using and how to refute them
  • Journal about what we are doing and how we are feeling
  • Build feelings of self-worth through the use of affirmations

There will always be new triggers that we don't anticipate. Stress, life changes, and loss bring new issues to the forefront that are like storms beating down our feelings of self-worth. The preparations we make will help us to keep ourselves on an even keel.

Even if we do relapse, it is not the end of the world. We have fought our way out before, and we can do it again. As we renew our efforts, we will remember the things we have learned and be able to use them for our benefit. We will also find that we recognize depression in others and are able to help them.


Is this really happiness and joy that I am feeling?! It's been so long, it seems like years, my head with glad thoughts is reeling! Just yesterday the clouds were there hiding the bright sun. But now they're gone, the light comes in. I can actually have some fun!

I can run and skip, jump and play, and smell all of the roses. I watch a child, so innocent, and marvel at cute feet and toesies. I feel a sense of newness, of freshness in my life. Gone is the pain and sadness I felt, the frustration and the strife.

The Lord is now a part of me, like he's never been before. I know him well, he's at my side, He's opened up the door. I gave my burden unto him, it had become so heavy. I could no longer carry the load; my body and soul were weary.

All I must do is walk with him, and work along by his side. He points to others that I can help through his Spirit, that in me abides. As long as I continue to love and serve as he, My burden he will carry, and walk alongside of me.

*The poems Depression and Healing are by Denise W. Anderson.

© 2015 Denise W Anderson


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    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      5 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are welcome, Sarah. You are right. My depression initially manifested itself that way as well. It was not until my children were older that I understood this, and was able to deal with it. A perfectionist mindset tends to be the culprit. We see ourselves as flawed and the busy lifestyle masks our imperfections and blinds us to our real feelings. I am glad that you were able to recognize this and get the help you needed.

    • nspiredjourney profile image

      Sarah Smith 

      5 years ago from Houston TX

      Great read. I have dealt with depression in the past and I have an additional sign of depression that is very tricky to detect by others. Most times I am fatigued and obviously down but after the loss of a child I went into super busy mode. I didn't realize it but I wanted to stay busy so I didn't have to deal with a reality at the time. Finally a counselor taught me depression looks different to people and I thought I was doing ok but if I got still I grieved very hard! It is important to learn about depression so I can help myself and others and this article was very insightful. Thanks!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      You are right, Larry! Depression is much more common than we think. It can sneak up on a person unawares unless we know how to identify and deal with it. The more we learn about it, the better prepared we will be when it does come into our lives. Thanks for your comments.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      6 years ago from Oklahoma

      I think whether we admit it or not, we have all experienced depression.

      Wonderful hub!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I am glad you liked the poem, Kate. I wrote it years ago when I was in treatment for depression. It was a very dark time for me. I have learned a lot since then. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Kate Mc Bride profile image

      Kate McBride 

      6 years ago from Donegal Ireland

      Thanks for sharing your insight Denise especially the poem at the start.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, Ariesgirls. It is difficult when things are not working out well at your place of employment. Shifting roles and responsibilities require periods of adjustment, and that is often a time when depression will creep in, especially if there are risk factors in your history. Check out my hub "How to Recognize and Change Distorted Thinking Patterns" for help in identifying problem thoughts that may be giving you trouble. It may also be helpful to strengthen your feelings of self worth (see "Finding Positive Statements and Actions That Build Your Feelings of Self-Worth). It is good that you recognize what is happening and are looking for the assistance needed to deal with it. My best to you!

    • Ariesgirls profile image

      Heidi Johnson 

      6 years ago from Vinton, Ohio

      I found this inspirational and insightful. I'm going through this somewhat and have recognized it. I also have a lot of risk factors, but know at this moment the trigger is mostly my job and the dynamics therein, the shifting of the "roles" each of us play a part of - I'm just unhappy there. Thanks for caring enough to write about it!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, MsDora. I appreciate your feedback. Sometimes, it takes someone who has had depression to help us recognize when we have it ourselves. That is how it was for me. At the time, I didn't feel like getting out of bed or doing anything. A friend suggested that I might be depressed and it made me angry. Next thing you know, I was suicidal and in the mental health unit. Then I knew she was right!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Denise thanks for explaining the many faces of depression. Many people reject the idea that they are depressed because they do not feel sad. You have presented many good suggestions to help us help ourselves. Voted Up!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks for the positive vote, gsidley. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      I think that all of us experience depression at some point in our lives, ChitrangadaSharan. Some are able to come through it unscathed while others struggle with it all of their lives. That is the way it has been for me. Having the tools to deal with it has allowed me to experience healing and help others as well. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      That is so true, Eric, the more we know, the better prepared we can be to help ourselves and others. Life is such a precious thing, and we cannot take it for granted!

    • gsidley profile image

      Dr. Gary L. Sidley 

      6 years ago from Lancashire, England

      Informative, well-written hub, Denise. Voted up.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      6 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great insightful hub about depression!

      It would be wrong to say I have never feel depressed. When I do, I usually have some of those symptoms that you have mentioned above--sadness, lack of desire to do anything, fatigue etc.

      I am glad that you have dealt at length with the healing aspect as well.

      Useful hub from which many would be benefited. Thank you and voted up!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      A very well done piece of work. The more we know the more power we have over this deadly disease. Thank you for writing such a clear and concise article on it.

    • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise W Anderson 

      6 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      Thanks, Bill! Depression is a tough one. Just when we think we have conquered it, something else happens and we are back into battle again!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Great opening question. Greater reflections and useful suggestions. Well done, Denise!


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