By Ivy Loney, DBH, LMSW —
Think about the ways your body talks to you. If you eat a ton of sugar or ice cream you might get a stomach ache, which is your body’s way of telling you it didn’t like what you put in it. Depression can be viewed in much of the same way. You feel down or depressed because you are stressed about your parent’s separation or your best friend switching schools and you don’t know who you are going to hang out with now. In many ways the depression is a signal—letting you know that something is not quite right. Most of us don’t want to stay with the depressed feelings and we will find a way to cope—to deal with and overcome problems. For instance joining a school program so we can meet more friends or reach out to a trusted friend or family member to talk about how we are feeling sad and then problem solve things we can do to make our situation better.
There are many types of depression and for some people there can be genetic causes, or what is sometimes called a chemical imbalance. That means that someone may not be getting enough or too much of certain chemical messengers (neurotransmitters) and medication at times may be necessary. For most people depression is acute, meaning it comes and goes depending on the things that may be going on in our lives. Depression which goes untreated for a long time becomes chronic depression. Research has shown that chronic depression can actually change the structure of the brain. This is why it is important to pay attention to the ways (signals/symptoms) our bodies are trying to talk to us, so that we can take care of ourselves early before it becomes harder to treat.
What does depression feel like? Depression like every emotion and experience is going to be different for each one of us. Most often people who are in a depressed state of mind will notice feelings of sadness or hopelessness, being tired, wanting to be away from others, not being able to fall asleep or stay asleep, some sleep too much or some too little. Sometimes people eat less than usual or more. Some people may feel so down they don’t think they want to live anymore. The important thing to remember is that there is always something that can be done to help. Just like the clouds that cover the sky when there is a storm, the clouds pass and blue sky is just above the clouds. Depression like the clouds may come and go when there are storms in our lives. Pay attention to your body and listen to what it is trying to tell you. Like an annoying little brother, the signals will get louder if you try to ignore them. Talk to an adult you trust, find out what you can do to feel better and take care of yourself.