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Dealing With Depression

Maybe it’s just because it’s January, or maybe it’s because I’m feeling overwhelmed myself with life right now, but it seems that everywhere I look someone is battling depression. My heart is heavy with empathy for these friends. I’m offering a Cliff Notes version of depression for anyone who might be interested. My expertise comes both from personal experience and my demi-doctorate medical education.


Imagine your world in black and white. Foods lose their taste. The effort of smiling feels like it would take too much energy. Simple daily tasks, like showering or stopping to fill the car up with gas, suddenly seem overwhelmingly complex and exhausting. Rather than face the dreadful day, you long to sleep. Escaping into a story may take some of the edge off, but reality bites when you put down the book. You may cry for no reason at all. It feels like everyone has abandoned you and no friends can relate to your struggles. The world seems like a sad and dreary place.

Despite these feelings most of the time, you can find the energy to laugh and make it through a normal day. However, when you’re alone again the weight of the world feels as though it will crush you. The person in the mirror always looks hauntingly sad.


I learned the list of symptoms below in medical school. The acronym SIG E CAPS helped me memorize the list. Patients who answered “Yes” to these questions were asked if any of these symptoms had persisted for longer than two weeks. (An episode lasting longer than two weeks would be considered abnormal. The two week mark seems a little arbitrary to me, but whatever.) Anyway, if a patient had 5/7 of these symptoms and they each lasted for over two weeks then we would refer them to a psychiatrist or a psychologist for a follow-up. The label of depression was not supposed to be slapped on a patient after just one visit.

Sleep– Have you had a change in your sleep pattern? Have you had an increase in your desire for sleep OR a decrease in your ability to sleep?

(It’s quite common for patients to have a depression/anxiety combo and these patients generally present with insomnia.)

Interest– Have you lost interest in things that you used to be passionate about? Were there hobbies or activities that used to grab your interest but now seem overwhelming?

Guilt– Do you feel guilty about something? Would you say that an objective outsider would consider your guilt to be reasonable or unreasonable?

Energy– Do you feel overwhelmed at the thought of performing everyday tasks? Are you worn out after completing activities that shouldn’t phase you?

Concentration– Is it difficult to focus on a task without being distracted? Do you have difficulty remembering things? Has you attention span changed?

Appetite– Have you noticed an increase OR a decrease in your appetite? Do you turn to food for comfort? Do you find that food has lost all taste?

Psychomotor Retardation– Are your movements slower than they used to be? Do you have difficulty moving quickly? Have you started driving slower to account for a slower reaction time?

Suicidal Ideations– Have you considered ending your life? Do you feel that if your life ended accidentally that it would be a good thing (passive suicide)? How would you commit suicide if you’ve considered it?

Dealing with it-

Realizing that you’re suffering from depression is the first step towards dealing with it. The best thing you can do for yourself, in my opinion, is to see a doctor. I’d recommend seeing a psychologist as well. However, if you don’t have the resources to do that, then the next best thing is to talk to someone. Pray about it. Pastors make great counselors. An older wiser friend can be a good sounding block. It’s such a relief to share this burden with someone else. Don’t keep it to yourself.

For me, I knew I had a real problem when I started thinking about ways to end my life. After I failed Step 1, I felt like my life had been ruined. I felt awash in a stormy ocean. I considered suicide and even allowed myself to be pretty reckless in the car (passive suicidality).

I quickly recognized my own symptoms, because I had just spent six weeks on the Psych ward as a 3rd year medical student. SIG E CAPS had been burned in my brain by the lady who told me she had planned on ending her life at the shooting range with a rental gun. Her sister had called the police, I think, and she was admitted against her will.

So I took myself to a psychologist. The cognitive therapy (i.e. talk therapy) really made a difference in my treatment. I needed to work through my issues by talking about them. Listening to her assessments helped me change specific behaviors so that I could cope with my burden. She also referred me to the physician at the student clinic so that I could be treated medically.

I started taking Lexapro after my first few sessions. It didn’t work at first. In fact I stopped taking it and everyone got really upset with me. It took a solid two weeks of taking the pills before little bits of life started to come back in blazing technicolor. I found a little bit more energy. I felt the glow of the sunshine. The windows came for an hour at a time at first. Then they grew. Half a day of peace before the storm hit again. We decided that I shouldn’t make any life-altering decisions with my world feeling so stormy. So for three months I sat at home and waited for the day when I wouldn’t mind taking a shower and curling my hair. I had lots of time for introspection.

There wasn’t a magical day where I felt cured of depression. Even after I felt confidant enough to stop taking the meds, and to move on with my life, I still feared the day where I would be swallowed up again. Part of dealing with depression is the understanding that you cannot let yourself be crippled by that fear. Be strong enough to get help when you need it.


5 Responses

  1. whew! heavy post, but thank you for your honesty and transparency.

  2. great post – thank you so much.

  3. I really appreciate this post. It’s easy to think, “Well, I don’t want to kill myself, so I must not be depressed,” but then you’re left with, “Then why do I feel so bad?” I think diagnosing it and naming it what it is gives hope that it can be cured; that life CAN be better; that it really doesn’t have to be this way.

  4. After having my first boy, I went through a period of “something.” I still don’t know to what extend my issues were, but I got myself into therapy around the time he was 6 months old.

    It made all the difference for me. That and getting more sleep was the perfect combo platter for my ordeal.

    It can be a lonely world, for sure. It’s so hard to recognize when people are that sad. A gal I knew in high school, just killed herself before the holidays. She was married and had a 2 yr old daughter. No one around her knew it was that bad. Such a terrible, terrible loss.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. Thanks for this. I found your blog through your comment at the pipers. So many women struggle with either major or minor depression and often, there is such a stigma around it that it goes undiagnosed or ignored.

    I’m glad you posted the info.

    I recently posted on how to help a friend who is struggling with depression, if you’re interested in checking it out.

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