granted, it’s a bit more of a mouthful than war, what is it good for?  and i’m about to rock your collective world by changing the answer to that question.  war is good for absolutely nothin, but i’m not convinced that that’s the case when it comes to depression.

yes, you read that right.  i believe that depression has a purpose. it has taken me 32 years of experience with the disease to come to that conclusion.  i’ll wait here while you do the math.  i’m thirty-eight today, so yes, i was six years old the first time that i experienced depression.  parts of me can remember the horrible feelings of wanting life to end.  i’ve also pieced together certain things as an adult looking back at pictures of myself during that time and knowing now the symptoms, seeing them manifest in my second grade self.  depression in someone that young is usually situational, and i’m no exception.

i want to make sure that it’s clear right here and now that i’m not a psychologist or psychiatrist, so i can only talk about what i’ve learned through my own research and experience.  the research, lots, the experience, vast.  lets say that if depression was a building, i’ve been on just about every floor, spent time in all the storage closets, know the pattern of the tile, the color of the walls, and there are no windows.

depression is an emotional, genetic, mental, and physical disease.  and, it’s not to be trifled with.  it is dangerous.  i lost my dad to depression and two uncles who i never got to meet.  depression has been very close to winning with it’s little battle with my brain, too.

you can have situational depression which is brought about by something that your psyche deems unacceptable in your life.  you can have a genetic pre-disposition to depression where certain hormones in your brain just don’t do what they should. you can have a depression brought on my mental exhaustion when your brain just gets too tired trying to figure something out that it can’t quite accept.  and, this one is essential to grasp, depression is physical.  just like diabetes is physical, just like cancer is physical.  what i mean is that when depression has you in its talons, your body, not just your brain, doesn’t function to its optimum.  when i am depressed, my body aches.  all of it.  my hair hurts-i can feel each follicle and the place where the hair breaks through the surface of my scalp.  my muscles alternate between humming with electricity and feeling completely used up.  my bones get really heavy and my joints feel made from concrete and old, dried up rubber bands.  and, then, there is the sensitivity to stimulus.  everything is too bright.  everything is too loud.  and everyone is just too fucking talkative.

emotionally, i will feel an ebb and flow between a numbness that stretches my skin to just wanting to cry and cry and cry and cry, and then wanting to watch the world burn. i’ve had low-grade depression which allowed me to function but, just like a low-grade fever, altered my perspective of life.  i’ve had depression so dark, like being in the bottom of a deep well, that there was no light available from the top of  the hole.  i’ve had fleeting depressions (these live on sunday afternoons).  i’ve had depressions that are nothing more than swallowed rage.

depression may manifest differently to you.

all in all, depression is the least fun i’ve ever had.

because depression is so prevalent in my life, i used to think that it was going to win in the end.  i had a very adversarial relationship with the disease.  my vocabulary in my mind was: i’m going to beat this, i have to kill it, i need to rip it from my brain, i want to strangle it.  in all my encounters with depression and even to this day, i’ve never accepted that it was me.

several years ago, i read this book.  although it doesn’t deal specifically with depression, one of the greatest things it offered me was a different vocabulary.  it gave me a different framework for things.  one of Susun Weed‘s greatest contributions to the world is her defining the three traditions of healing.  the book really explains them.  around this time, there were a lot of different things going on at once.  i was finally able to declare myself an atheist, after a lifetime of not having a word for what i knew.  i was studying to be a green witch (yep, a witch who doesn’t believe in spirits.).  i was exploring the fact that i was an animal, pure and simple.  it was a couple years later that i fell upon marks daily apple and started the paleo stuff.  all of these things congealed in me and i realized something very important about my depression.

it existed for a reason. for many reasons, actually.

it existed for an emotional reason.  the decades of abuse, of pain that i’d never found a safe place to express festered and gave depression a comfy nest.

it existed for a genetic reason.  i was very much my father’s child and in this, there was no exception.

it existed for a mental reason.  i’ve been a thinker since the age of six.  i think i always have been, but around that time, my body became a danger zone and my brain was where i went to figure things out.  depression loves a thinker.  picture a pokemon (i know…i know….stay with me).  some of them get stronger through their relationship with their trainer and others get stronger through experience in battle.  (i’ve just consulted the resident expert.)  depression is just like that.  it feeds on me thinking about it, trying to figure it out….it feeds on me attacking it.  the more i do mental exercises to defeat it, the more it grows and transforms into something more powerful.

it exists for a physical reason.  anything felt in the body is a signal.  i don’t trust my brain, even less my mind.  i mean i can do some really cool things with it, but i wouldn’t let it out in public without tying on one of these.  my body, however, (and yours, too, by the way) IS.  NEVER.  WRONG.  once depression hits my body, that’s when i no longer feel powerless.

*tune in friday for more.

**if you want a little homework assignment (especially if you love someone with depression but can’t quite understand why they don’t “just get over it”, please watch this.  if you are depressed right now, DON’T.  just sayin’.  it’s not a mood lifter.)