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This is potentially dangerous to write about.
Depression is a serious topic.
And "Why Am I So Depressed?" is a serious question.
And it deserves a serious response.
I know others who've been through it.
And I went to grad school to become a social worker, where my university taught me how to read and understand the official diagnostic manual for mental illnesses.
Still, there's a medical way of looking at depression.
And there's the real-life reality of what depression looks and feels like.
At the Mental Health Update, I address the everyday reality of mental health issues.
Most sites will list out the symptoms of depression and call it a day.
But there are the scientific symptoms of depression, and then there are the relatable experiences that a person with depression might be dealing with.
And there is something to know if you think you are depressed.
My Own Experience With Severe Depression
It all happened so quickly. One week I was sleeping. The next week I wasn't.
This is when I started to realize that something was very wrong. Now I know that this was a telltale symptom of depression.
I tried everything I could. I practiced great self-care. I jogged around my neighborhood. I practiced good sleep hygiene. I even tried to meditate and calm myself down whenever I could.
But it kept getting worse.
Am I depressed? I think I'm depressed.
Racing thoughts permeated my mind, another symptom of depression, and my everyday reality became a walking nightmare.
Soon the thoughts changed to:
Why am I so depressed? What's wrong with me?
I blamed myself. I had intense shame that I was struggling with when, from the outside, I had a perfectly acceptable life. I felt shouldn't have been struggling. I felt I shouldn't be having any difficulty with life at all.
But these are thoughts we tell ourselves when we're depressed. It's so common. When we're depressed, it's common to have self-doubt, to pin the blame on ourselves, to tear ourselves apart in front of a jury of one.
If you've ever had thoughts like these, especially if they last for months like they did in my case, and especially if you're having suicidal thoughts, there's something you should know:
You could be dealing with severe depression, also known by its scientific term, major depression.
Or you could be dealing with something else. Whether it's clinical depression or not, though, it's important to trust your experience, to attune to your body, and to use your body's signals to guide what you do next.
Here are a few warning signs that indicated something was wrong in my own life.
"Why Am I So Depressed?" 3 Relatable Answers
1. You're Dealing With More Than You Realize
One of the main reasons I find that people struggle with depression--or prolonged mental states that eventually lead to depression--is that they don't take stock of everything going on in their lives.
Let me be direct with you for a bit.
Are you giving yourself credit for everything you're dealing with?
What I mean by this is: Are you taking a 360-degree view of all of your tasks and responsibilities in life?
It doesn't matter if Johnnie has more on his plate or Sally has five kids and job. Think about yourself. Think about what's on your plate. If it feels like too much for you, it's too much. Learn to trust yourself. Your reaction to the balancing act that is your life is the reaction that matters.
If you don't fully analyze everything that you're dealing with in life, a strange phenomenon happens: you start to crumble from the inside out. It's a slow, creeping effect. It's as if the weight of the world, because it's being pushed away from your consciousness, forces itself down through the ground and then up through the roots of your being.
The truth has to come through somehow, and this leads me to my next point.
2. You're Not Being Honest With Yourself
Honesty. You probably want it from others, but do you demand it from yourself?
For me, my depression was at its worst when I was living a lie. I put a mask over my face and kept it there.
Sure, there's a lot of societal pressure to put on a brave face. Masks are almost expected in our fast-paced, modern world. But that doesn't mean that it was good for me to tell everyone at work that I was fine and to try to go about my life as usual.
I was sick. I needed help. I never would have done that if I had a "normal," physical illness. And neither should you.
So let me ask you this:
Are you being honest with yourself? Like truly honest? Like if someone you deeply respect came up to you and asked you for your innermost truth, honest? Could you tell your mentor or your loved ones what's really going on?
You're not a bad person if you can't bring yourself to admit to possible depression, but you are most likely prolonging the pain. If you had severe, crippling stomach pains, you would do something about it. If your vision started to go blurry in one eye, you'd get it checked out immediately.
So why does "Why am I feeling so depressed?" not lead to an immediate doctor's visit? The reasons for why not are so numerous that I can't get into them all here, but know this one truth-- you deserve to be happy again.
And that starts with being honest with yourself, with how you're really coping--or not coping--with the world.
And that kind of honesty leads to a final, very important reason.
3. There's No Reason At All
A lot of people don't like this answer, and you may not like it either. But it's an answer--and a good one at that.
You don't have to have a good reason to explain why you're feeling the way you are. There's so much about the brain that even the most well-trained psychiatrists don't understand. If they did, we'd have all this mental health stuff figured out by now.
Sometimes there's just not a good reason.
But there's an opportunity in this reality.
An opportunity?, you might be wondering. In not having a good reason for why I'm feeling so depressed?
And that opportunity is acceptance. It's blind acceptance of the unseen, possibly the most difficult kind of acceptance there is.
When you accept something that you cannot see, it might feel like admitting to weakness. Again, that's just your depressed brain talking. It's not you. You're the person behind it all. This is still your show, your one, good life.
When you accept that there might not be a reason for why you're feeling so depressed, you accept yourself. You accept life. You accept it all.
This is a scary position to be in. The best way I can describe it is that you are being vulnerable with yourself.
You know how when someone shares a deep, dark secret with a group, something strange happens? That they often become more likable and trustworthy?
The same thing happens when you're being vulnerable with yourself. You cut yourself some slack. You become human to yourself again--and not the cut-off-from-reality shadow version that society and your mask want you to be.
When you accept that there's no reason for feeling depressed, you actually get in touch with something much more profound. You connect with the frailty of the very human condition itself.
It's something every person must ultimately accept.
The Ultimate Answer to "Why Am I Depressed?"
I can't say that for you.
And a mental health professional is the one who, ideally, should make the diagnosis.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health:
"Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks."
That's why it's so important to get a professional assessment if you feel you might be dealing with severe depression.
However, what I hoped to show here is that there is an everyday reality to depression that most medical providers won't talk to you about. Most don't even know how.
This everyday reality sits outside the boundaries of diagnostic labels. It sits within the reality of your own experience.
So, learn to trust yourself.
Peer into the spaces between the beats of your own heart.
The answer to "Why am I so depressed?" is in there.
The best answer of all.