THE UNDERSTANDERS

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Depression is NOT an emotion or mood.

It might be described as a mood disorder and definitely moods/emotions are part of what is exhibited with depression but I think the description is deceptive.  Sure depressed people FEEL sad, anxious, helpless, and/or worthless; but depression is a physical disease.

Sadness (also called heavy-heartedness) is emotional pain associated with, or characterized by feelings of disadvantage, loss, despair, helplessness, disappointment and sorrow. An individual experiencing sadness may become quiet or lethargic, and withdraw themselves from others. Crying is often an indication of sadness.

Sadness is one of the “six basic emotions” described by Paul Ekman, along with happiness, anger, surprise, fear and disgust ~wikipedia

Sadness is an emotion that can maybe be turned into happiness through meditation, kind words, or a more optimistic attitude.  Sadness might be turned into happiness by listening to happy music or by spending time with friends who support and love you.  Sadness is the “normal” way a person handles loss. Depression isn’t sadness though.  They might look the same to a bystander but they are very, very different.

Depression has the stigma of being a mood disorder and it is attached to words like crazy, sad, lazy, attention-seeking, moody, weak, and still a longer list of adjectives that are all wrong.  I said earlier that depression isn’t an emotion because I consider emotions to be part of “normal” psychology.  Depression isn’t part of the “normal” psychological makeup.  Depression is a chemical imbalance of the mood related chemicals in the brain, so you might be tempted to call it an emotional disease but it isn’t that either.

When normal cells grow out of control and become invasive we call it cancer.  The body isn’t doing what it was designed to do.  When we experience fight-or-flight the hypothalamus signals the adrenal glands to give us a proper dose of adrenaline.  The stress chemicals are a normal reaction meant to keep us alive, but did you know that over time adrenaline junkies have a shrunken hippocampus which affects their memory?  My point is… there are things that happen in our bodies that are completely out of our control.

Depression happens when chemicals like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine get too low.  It is believed that people who suffer from major depression have a higher level of an enzyme called Monoamine Oxidase A which breaks down chemicals like serotonin.  Does this sound like something one can control with a good attitude?

You know what doesn’t help someone with depression?  Being dismissive or minimizing their depression into a controllable emotion.  I see it ALL the time.  No I don’t want to DIE but I can’t control the brain chemicals that are making me think it is the BEST answer.  I can’t control the brain chemicals that make me feel worthless and hopeless.  Just as fight-or-flight shuts down our logical brain; depression is like having a crazy co-pilot flying while the pilot is asleep.

You know how you can help someone with depression?  Be present and understanding.  We may not be able to put into words what we need but we know you are there.  If a friend had a few too many drinks would you take care of them?  Would you take care of them even though they might not remember your help?  Would you watch them and keep them safe because you love them and you know they aren’t capable of keeping themselves safe?

Yea well…

Depression isn’t the same as being drunk but we are in danger and we need your help.  Watch us, love us, be there for us.  We may not be able to see or feel your love when we are in the middle of our depression but we sure as hell DO appreciate that you were there for us when we felt isolated and alone.

My name is Hasty and I suffer from depression. Mostly, I am happy and I love looking at the world and seeing the joy and opportunity around me but sometimes the chemicals in my brain aren’t nice.  We don’t call people who have cancer lazy, weak, or attention-seeking so why would we call people who are depressed those things?

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THE UNDERSTANDERS

He sees you gasp
Struggling to breathe
She sees you claw
Fighting to survive
They see you cry
The invisible torment
Painted inside your eyes
If you are lucky
You find them

They are the
Understanders

They see you gasp
And they pat your back
They see you claw
And they hold your hands
They see you cry
And they help you paint
A more colorful picture

They are the
Understanders

21 thoughts on “THE UNDERSTANDERS

  1. Oh Hasty, this is so spot on! You really are a remarkable woman. I can’t tell you how much you reaching out has meant to me. You get it. You live it. You know it. I am usually pretty good at staying level headed and generally happy but boy when the depression comes out, watch out. Maybe because I let it build up and perhaps push it away and pretend it is not there instead of owning it and letting it be. It’s okay to be sad and to stay with your sad feelings. We are often so afraid to do that and resort to anger and lashing out towards others because it is a safer emotion and deflects the issue away from us.

    I feel much calmer today and not so hopeless. I usually know that I will be okay, it’s just learning to ride it out. I was so wrong in thinking that nobody cared. xo

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  2. Pingback: THE UNDERSTANDERS | Eclectic Elcie

  3. There’s always a physiological component to depression. And it’s more than serotonin, dopamine… sometimes depression is caused by specific food allergies. Whatever the cause, to reduce it to a controllable emotion helps nothing—you know that from experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This just brought me to tears. I have MDD and I write about it, but I’ve never been able to explain it like you just did. Today is one of my bad days and I have very few understanders in my life. My husband tries, but he’s a fixer so it’s hard for him. I’ve lost 99.9% of all the friends I’ve ever had because my depression was “just too much for [them] to handle,” and I feel desperately alone. It’s exhausting to fight for your life by yourself. I look forward to reading more of your words.

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  5. Reblogged this on Sidereal Catalyst and commented:
    I burst into tears when I read this. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried explaining or describing depression, but I’ve never come close to the clarity in The Understanders. Much thanks to Miss Hastywords for her beautiful and brilliant words.

    Like

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