As it always happens, I sat down to blog about something else entirely, and this is what came out....
I've been diagnosed with clinical depression no less than 3 times in my life. Two of those times were post-partum depression and the other was a garden variety kind that took over my life at the beginning of 11th grade. I also suspect that there was a moment there, after my last miscarriage that might have warranted a note in my medical file, but since I wouldn't get off the couch I guess we'll never really know.
I'm lucky that I have such a supportive family, since my personality is naturally prone to some intense and lengthy lows at any given point, and though I've not been officially depressed for the last 4 years or so, I'd be lying if I denied the fact that melancholy was always in my line of sight, peering in my windows on dark nights waiting so patiently for me to take a step in the wrong direction. I'm sure my issues are genetic and biological (though I'd like to believe it is a function of misunderstood brilliance) but I've refused to take medication (since I've spent the last 8 years somewhere on the pregnancy and breastfeeding spectrum and back in high school I was worried that anti-depressants would interfere with my future appointment to the Air force Academy). In a conversation I had recently, my friend asked me how I knew that my depression was any different that the normal feelings everyone experiences. I didn't have an answer for her at the time, but I do now,
Depression is not just about feeling sad or upset or the inability to feel happy at the appropriate times. It is more the inability to feel at all. You know you should feel sad, but the process of emoting requires more energy than you can muster, so you're not sad, you're just..... nothing. You understand that you're not experiencing things in the appropriate manner, but again, giving a shit is just beyond your grasp and exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide is about the biggest accomplishment you'll achieve in those days, weeks and months (and even that would be set aside if it were possible.) there are many appropriate adjectives to go along with it, hopeless, despondent, detached, but there is no way to understand unless you've traveled to that place. Even now, as I am not depressed, I have a difficult time pin-pointing the emotions because they are so context dependant. When I've been depressed, I don't care, I don't care that I don't care and I have no desire to care. There is nothing anyone can do for me until I care enough to let them, and sometimes that takes a while. As a mom I do worry that one day the bomb will drop again and I'll become unavailable to my kids in a way no parent should, but luckily I've gotten very good at attending to all the warning signs and fending them off with exercise and projects and through other means (the details of which would bore you to tears).
So there is my answer, the reason I know that depression is not on the normal spectrum of emotions is because normally I do exist within the same spectrum and there is a marked distinction between everyday ins and outs and full on depression. I'm not sure who has it worse, the depressed or their loved ones since it can be so frustrating and infuriating to someone who wants to make it better but has never seen it from the inside out.
I've accepted the fact that I will permanently reside right here on the edge between normalcy and the abyss, and though I can't make it better for anyone else going through the same things, maybe knowing that you're not alone is help in itself.