Depression – the blues – has been variously described by people who’ve experienced it. All sorts of metaphors and expressions are used by people to convey how their depression felt to them. People have talked about being ‘in a tunnel’, ‘down a deep hole’, ‘in the abyss’, ‘the black dog’, ‘lost in the woods of depression’, ‘on the edge of a precipice’, ‘under a black cloud’, ‘feeling black and blue’, ‘deep in a dark forest’, ‘in a whirlpool’, ‘blue days’ and even a pun on this with ‘blue daze’.
Whether you’re ‘lost in the woods of depression’, ‘feeling black and blue’ or have a case of the ‘black dog’, chances are you’re experiencing a set of signs and symptoms which lower your sense of social functioning in the world. Even in cases of mild depression, people have reported not being able to function as well socially or in the workplace. They regard themselves as performing well below what they expect of themselves and what others expect of them. This is not surprising given what we know about depression.
There’s a lot of talk about depression these days. Sometimes, the word is used frivolously to refer to a bad day or two. But there’s a world of difference between maybe just feeling blue for a day or two – and really having the blues.
Did you know?
Depression is best described as
– experiencing at least 4 of the following symptoms for 10 days or more:
If you’re having a bad day or two or even more, stop and think about your mood state. It might be related to something that’s happened to you or around you – and if it continues for 10 days or more, you might well be experiencing being lost in the woods of depression. But if the feeling passes within a few days, then you’ve been a little blue, but you haven’t had a case of the blues.
Some people who’ve experienced depression, will talk about the seeming benefits of having been lost in the woods of depression for a while. They may have gained insights into themselves and their lives that might not have been so obvious before. One woman, Simone, 36 says,
‘If it hadn’t been for my depression, I wouldn’t have made so many discoveries about myself. I’d always been a strong person, with a capital S, and I wasn’t given to showing too much emotion – it was all about control and getting on with things. Then when I fell into a heap and felt so lost and low, I began to really get in touch with all kinds of feelings I guess I’d been suppressing for years. It’s made me a much more balanced person. But I have to say that getting over the blues was a huge relief as well. But I now know that I can feel so low and still survive and lose the blues but not lose all that learning I gained.’
This learning that Simone refers to is painfully gained, but it’s usually the sort of learning that stays with a person for the rest of their lives.
May Sarton famously wrote:
‘Sometimes one has simply to endure a period of depression for what it may hold of illumination if one can live through it, attentive to what it exposes or demands.’
Aspects of our lives might be exposed and demands made of us through our depression, but the possibility of empowering us with greater understanding of ourselves is a rich promise. Most people who find themselves lost in the woods of depression emerge on the other side and lose their blues, but retain the lessons learnt along the way.