Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Clinical Depression

The holidays are a warm and happy time for many people. However, the same time of year is lonely and depressing for others. There are many reasons for depression, from the obvious grief and loss of loved ones and relationships, but for some people who suffer from chronic clinical depression... bipolar disorder... dysthymic disorder... the reasons aren't so obvious.

I don't understand depression. I'm a glass half full kind of guy. I once had a friend who struggled with depression who told me, "Jeff, you're a nice guy. You just don't know. Depression is a place you might visit, but you won't ever live there. I've lived there." He was intimating that the experience of clinical depression is beyond description. He could have spent all day trying to help me understand what it was like, but I still wouldn't understand.

In the past few years, I've been studying therapy and how to help people who are hurting, who are suffering. I've been taught about depression, the chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to cycles of mania and depression, about the dysfunctional patterns in families, in relationships that lead people to despair.

Every now and again, though I know that I can't hope to completely understand, I come across something that gives me a glimpse into the unknown hurt that some people experience:

David Foster Wallace, a novelist, who suffered from clinical depression wrote in Infinite Jest that depression is "lonely on a level that cannot be conveyed ... Everything is part of the problem, and there is no solution. It is a hell for one."

What a terrible place to live.

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