That title up there is actually the worst thing to say to anyone who is or was ever mentally ill. If someone has diabetes or have just been stabbed with a sword, you don’t say, “Get over it.”
I want to explain why this is in the context of depression. Because depression is the gateway drug of mental illnesses, and if you can’t understand what clinical depression is, you will never comprehend the more complex psychiatric disorders like bipolar, IDD, Munchausen syndrome, and many others.
“Either from a death of a loved one, or the lost of a job, most people stabilize. They don’t “get over it”. They stabilize. And I said, “most people”.”
The body is a work of art. It is trillions of parts, cells, muscles, vessels and all, moving in tandem, working together, to make you able to even get out of bed in the morning. It is a machine. A well-oiled machine. And because of that, we take it for granted. One of the parts we neglect the most is our brains. Like everything else about our body, it is also a machine.
And if a part in a machine breaks, the machine goes wonky.
Your brain is an amazing piece of work. It has multiple ‘parts’ working together to make you function that you overlook each day. Chemicals like serotonin helps balance your mood. Neurons fires to carry information. Parts of your noggin light up to work every time you open a math textbook or play a video game.
Your memories, experience, and emotions, all make up parts of your brain. They make up firing neurons, information that are stored. They make up your person. And when a part fails, the machine malfunctions.
When you are depressed, parts of you brain turns on. They make you think and remember things, basically, going through the whole “Why did I do that?” routine. Usually, after a while, those same parts goes back to normal. Depression is basically what happens when they don’t return to routine functioning, which leads to a whole slew of issues. When not treated, those parts stays on for a long, long time.
It’s like having a cold. You need chicken soup, a nice bed, and plenty of rest to get better. If not, you’ll worsen. Bronchitis, pneumonia, etc. But you never hear a person say, “Get over it!” with the cold. You hear, “Get some rest.”
“Having the flu for a week? No problem. Yay! No school! Have the flu for a year? Please, put me out of my misery.”
It may seem counter-intuitive, but a depressed brain uses more energy than a non-depressed one does. Your brain normally use about 20% of your bodies’ energy. Which means, when you are depressed, you will feel more tired because your brain needs more energy. That feeling of constant fatigue isn’t just a depressed person being ‘lazy’. They are physically, actually feeling stressed, which is why when you are sad, you tend to eat more.
So we have shown how a messed up connection in the brain can physically affect a person. So what about the dying part?
Well, when you’re depressed for a long period of time, your brain actually physically shrinks in certain parts. While this is a long-term thing, requiring more than 3 years of depression (which I am nearing), the immediate reduction is to the brains’ ability to regulate emotions and memories.
If you’re not sure why they are important, those are the two things you need most to think coherently. And it is very important that those two work well when depressed, because remember from earlier, the parts of the brain that are more active during depression are the parts that make you think more.
Thinking more without coherence is generally the reason why people have fail compilation videos on YouTube.
But it is also the reason why somehow, suicide becomes a viable option. Because coherency has been thrown out the window.
“I spilled a drink!” -> “I’m a terrible person!” -> “I deserve to die!”
That thought process becomes acceptable to our brain. Logical, even. And the next thing you know, you’re contemplating and attempting suicide. All because the ‘clear’ part of your brain is not functioning as well as the ‘thinking’ part. It is 100% impossible to spell ‘clear thinking’ without ‘clear’. Fun topic, am I right?
“The body is just not made to be kept in a heightened state for long periods…”
Depression is often linked to traumatic experiences. Because, of course, it makes sense. Trauma is your brain telling you a certain event or action has done you tremendous amount of harm, forcing your body into a heightened state of anxiety and fear to instinctively defend yourself. It is the body’s flawed defence mechanism.
That same state just so happens to closely resemble the state of depression. And the more times your trigger it, like an accident, the more likely that mental state will stick, causing depression. This is a really layman way of looking at it, but it comes quite close to the actuality.
Most people get over trauma quickly. The body is just not made to be kept in a heightened state for long periods, and overtime, you adjust. Either from a death of a loved one, or the lost of a job, most people stabilize. They don’t “get over it”. They stabilize. And I said, “most people”.
“For a glass half full, depression never returns… For the glass half empty, it is a lifelong battle to prevent the reappearance…”
Most people are not all people. Some has their brain stuck on depression. So while many deal with trauma within a few days (this is called ‘having a bad week’), the ones that lasts months or years are those that are considered clinically depressed.
Having the flu for a week? No problem. Yay! No school! Have the flu for a year? Please, put me out of my misery.
I’m not trying to undermine anyone in a situation with cancer. But depression is like a psychological cancer, albeit an early stage cancer. You can cure it with treatments and therapy, but having it will affect you physically, making you just that much weaker. And you can still die.
Therapy helps reduce the size of your depression, through sessions with psychologists. Medications, sometimes with dangerous side-effects, helps stabilize conditions enough to be treated through therapy without the risk of being a harm to oneself or another. Exercise can help strengthen your body by producing endorphins, if you have the strength to get out of bed.
“That feeling of constant fatigue isn’t just a depressed person being ‘lazy’. They are physically, actually feeling stressed…”
Over time, the tumour that is your depression shrinks and your body returns to normal, or, as normal as you can make your life. But at any time, the cancer could return. It may be in a day. It may be in a lifetime. You could live till you die in your sleep, or you could die the next morning from sleeping pills.
For a glass half full, depression never returns. They live their lives without ever encountering it again, wearing the patch of suicide survivor proudly. For the glass half empty, it is a lifelong battle to prevent the reappearance, with constant treatments every time the little tumour surfaces.
And not everybody survives.
Until the day when we accept these facts about depression, when we can look at a mental illness and say, “Get well soon!” instead of “get over it”, we will not make much headway in treating other psychiatric crisis.
Because it’s not just in my head.
It’s my body.
And it hurts like hell.