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How It Feels When Clinical Depression Strikes

How It Feels When Clinical Depression Strikes

depression


By Mark Swartz
Monster Contributing Writer




Here’s a controversial opening…raise your hand if you’re mentally ill.
 
Please don’t think me insensitive. My own hand is up and waving away. I’ve been living with a diagnosed Mood Disorder for over 22 years. Almost every day since, I take pills to moderate my Dysthimia – a long-term form of Clinical Depression. This after years of talk therapy too.
 
Mental illness. A term still dripping with stigma. People confuse it with being insane.
 
But you can be quite sane overall while suffering from Mood Disorders. And highly productive too when treated. I’ll tell you about when I was a worker as my Dysthimia first hit. Initially it was brutal. Yet it ended  with many rays of hope.
 
Eye-Widening Statistics On How Often Mental Illness Strikes
 
If mental illness means being crazy, here’s a scary thought. In a given year, nearly 25% of all Canadians report symptoms of mentall illness. Shockingly just two out of five sufferers seek treatment. The rest tend to endure in silence. Bringing their symptoms to work. Or in extreme cases, the anguished tragically take their own lives.
 
How “Clinical Depression” Differs From Regular Sadness
 
Sadness is a natural mood. If a loved one passes away you mourn. When you lose a job you liked, it takes time to grieve the loss.
 
During these periods of appropriate sadness, you may feel depressed. Sluggish. Tearful. Then, after a fairly short while, your mood starts returning to normal.
 
Clinical Depression is different. It’s a medically diagnosed Mood Disorder. It can strike even when your job’s going great and life is happy.
 
You can’t talk yourself out of being clinically Depressed. Chemical changes in your brain are taking place. Sadness and feelings of worthlessness can last for months or years – for no apparent reason.
 
Fortunately, talking with a trained professional, such as at your free and confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP), can play a crucial role in restoring your mental health.
 
What I First Noticed Symptoms Of My Own Clinical Depression
 
In my case Clinical Depression hit about two years after my first of two children was born. My behaviour shifts totally surprised me. After all, here I was the happiest dad in the world. Playing with my beautiful daughter brightened my every day.
 
Unfortunately I was under a lot of pressures. Things at work were going sour. I reported to a terrible boss, someone so insecure he treated his staff like garbage. A classic bully. Each Monday morning I wondered if I’d get fired. On top of this my marriage was just beginning to break down. Plus my father became seriously ill (both physically and mentally: turns out mental illness often runs in families).
 
Previously I could deal with all sorts of stress. Not this time. Almost overnight I lost interest in things that gave me the most pleasure. First I put away the books I’d been reading, the ones I loved to relax with after tucking my daughter in. Next I stopped calling friends I’d been speaking to weekly for decades.
 
How My Dysthimia Felt As It Got Worse
 
At this point I had no clue that I might be ill. It was just the effects of stress, right? Except alarming things were happening to me. I would bolt up wide awake at 3:00 a.m. nightly.  My mind raced like a rocket. Over and over I’d replay the same troubling thoughts. No way I could stop. Later I learned that this symptom is called rumination.
 
Fatigue took its toll. Previously an optimistic guy, my mood began to veer toward darkness. This made zero sense to me. All at once I had thoughts of being worthless – of having no right to be alive, of being a needless burden to my loved ones. Worst of all, the immense joy I’d felt each moment with my daughter became dulled.
 
At Work, My Clinical Depression Hurt Me
 
I tried to hide my symptoms on the job. It was no use. Back then I had my own office. Several afternoons a week I’d lock my door and sleep for an entire hour, my head plopped on the desk. Hoping no one would knock.
 
Soon I was missing deadlines. Making lots of small errors. It was hard to concentrate for long periods. A rising tide of (unprovoked) worthlessness made showing up for work a hardship. Then an ugly new symptom appeared: I started drinking at night to make the darkness go away.
 
It only made things worse.
 
After a month of this my boss called me in for a dreaded talk. He stared at me with cold, menacing eyes: “Swartz, you’d better tell me what’s going on. Everyone has noticed you’re performance is plunging into the toilet.” Sensitively worded.
 
I told him about everything except for my symptoms. He’d think I was cracking up if I revealed their effects on me. Surprisingly he showed a modicum of sympathy. “You have a month to clean up your act,” said my boss.
 
What I Did To Not Get Fired
 
How humiliating! I felt worse about myself than before. If I lost my job, all hell would break loose at home. Things were racing out of control. Getting fired would bring my house of cards tumbling down. That night, for the first time in my life, I had early thoughts of suicide. This was drastically out of the norm for me.
 
Next morning I dragged myself to work. At 9:00 a.m. sharp I called my doctor’s office (our company didn’t have an EAP).
 
I’m in crisis, I blurted. Please get me in today. The receptionist heard the pain in my voice. She slotted me in compasionately as that day’s last patient.
 
My doctor, a general practitioner, recognized my symptoms right away. He got me into to see his psychiatrist colleague that very week. Normally this can take months.
 
How This Ended Up Saving My Life
 
The psychiatrist diagnosed me on the spot. “A classic case of Clinical Depression, Mr. Swartz.” I scolded him, yelling that he was full of it. He calmly handed me the medical text. “Please read out the symptoms to me,” he said. To my horror, I was a perfect match. Yet it was unthinkable that I was mentally ill.
 
Right at that moment we began our initial course of treatment. Talk therapy several times weekly. Anti-depressant medications daily. And so it was that I was able to save my job. More importantly, so it was that after six weeks of being treated, my thoughts of suicide abated.
 
Admitting I was in trouble, and reaching out for help, is what saved my life. Clinicial Depression is a physical illness that affects the brain. Tough as you may be it can’t be wished away. My story has a happy ending: my daughter is now 23, my son 19.
 
How will your story turn out?

"The content contained in this article is intended to be for informational purposes only.  You should seek the advice of your family doctor or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding medical, mental or personal issues.”

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