25 January 2011

Whaddya mean by depression?

by Nia and Pastor Jayne

Nia:  When I refer to depression, I mean a low mood you can't shake. Whether it's event-based or a brain chemistry thing, I don't care. I distinguish it from clinical depression, the official symptoms of which are a mile long and can include anxiety, poor concentration, eating everything in sight, eating nothing at all, etc. As the public becomes more aware of these symptoms, thanks to public health campaigns and advertising, the popular concept of "depression," which once just referred only to mood (with maybe a dash of underachievement thrown in) seems to be evolving to include this larger array of complaints. This bugs me, as I have reached the age where I can recognize large-scale change in entire social institutions, but have not yet acquired the grace to handle it. So if you mean clinical depression, please say so.

Pastor Jayne: I distinguish more severe "depression" from the shorter-lasting "blues" mainly in terms of its impact on one's ability to function in the activities of daily living. I've sung the blues plenty (from childhood forward) but was sidelined by depression when I was 38. In hindsight, I believe the primary causes were a drastic change in the amount of sunlight feeding my brain chemistry (a move from Hawai'i to Portland, Oregon - so in that sense it was "clinical"), and losing both of my parents to cancer at relatively young ages and close together (in that sense it was the kind of depression incident to a complicated grieving process). For me, my "blessed depth" manifested in the inability to sleep, eat, concentrate, multi-task (I used to be the queen of that!) and basically enjoy the things that used to bring enjoyment (especially relationships). I wanted to isolate myself from people (not "normal" for this happy Hawaiian), and even had suicidal thoughts. I was very thankful that during this time you and I reconnected in a significant way, Nia. I would have never made it through without your humor, compassion, insight....and (oh yes) that hot pink nail polish you sent me in the dead of winter.

Image: detail of photo of Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker," 1881. {{PD-art}}. Remix by M. Rhea.