Am I depressed, or is this normal?
November 7th, 2006 by

No matter what path one follows in life, everyone experiences bad days, weeks, or months. Feeling down in the dumps is a common occurrence. But when does a routine sadness cross the line into a depressive disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, if a person experiences one or more of the following symptoms, it may be time to visit a medical professional for a depression screening:

* Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
* Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
* Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
* Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
* Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
* Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
* Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
* Restlessness, irritability
* Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain

Several months after my husband’s death, the weary, wandering soul of depression sank into my bones. At first, the symptoms were easy to ignore; I had just lost the love of my life, of course I was going to feel sad, angry, and hurt. But little by little, the sadness overcame me until I was no longer functioning in my professional, social, or family lives. Certain that I was being a burden to those around me, I quit visiting family and returning friends’ phone calls. I became unstable at work and lashed out whenever an unexpected challenge was handed my way. Seeking an escape from the increasing desperation that I felt, I began tucking a beer or two into my grocery cart during my weekly trips; the local store carried my favorite brew from a small town in Pennsylvania, and only one or two wouldn’t hurt. But one or two per week quickly devolved into one or two per night, and then the large-size, 22-oz. bottles came into the play. My heart, mind, body and soul all knew that alcohol would not solve my problems. However, I was still on the waiting list to see a primary care physician as a new patient and was also wary of taking any psychopharmaceutical medication. For the meantime, the pleasant numbing of good beer buzz was my escape from the sadness that was crushing me.

After several months’ wait, I finally got to see the doctor, who promptly made it a point to prescribe an SSRI (anti-depressant), as well as an anti-anxiety medication. Despite my initial reticence, the medications ultimately helped me cope with many of the circumstances in my life that contributed to my diagnosis of depression. My treatment is ongoing, but making the first step and seeking help is a decision that I have never regretted. I urge you to please take an honest evaluation of your own circumstances–and to seek help if necessary. Depression is something that far too many of us feel we must simply “cope” with–when we could be receiving treatment.

One Response to “Am I depressed, or is this normal?”

  1. Tristen Munson Says:

    One’s first step in wisdom is to question everything – and one’s last is to come to terms with everything.

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