Many significant realities do not start big and immediately arrest our attention. Things often start out subtly until they reach a critical mass that we can no longer ignore. This is especially true in the development of depression. Situational depression, triggered by a specific event, may be readily identified by tears and sleeplessness, but chronic depression does not have such a discreet beginning and such noticeable symptoms.
Chronic depression, in its early stages, can feel like a pervasive and elusive tiredness. It is a slowing down of motivation and energy to get started or finish things that we want or need to do. It is an uneasiness and slight dissatisfaction with life that may begin to manifest in overall disillusionment and a creeping cynicism.
The early stages of depression are a lot like an overcast day when there is a threat of storm or rain but nothing threatening actually materializes. Irritability subtly begins to color our responses to those around us. We are not in an all-out bad mood but just out of sorts and more and more in a leave-me-alone mood. As depression progresses, this mood becomes a preference for isolation and results in a deepening of loneliness. Self care and grooming may begin to slip, and the line between caring and not caring about things we used to enjoy doing gets blurry. At this point, some may begin to self medicate with substances and behaviors that only make things worse. Alcohol aggravates the problem as a depressant to the central nervous system.
As the organic neurological causes of depression take a stronger hold, we can no longer explain away the sadness and even despair. We can hardly believe that even with appropriate intervention we could feel like ourselves again. Depression is one of the most treatable of emotional illnesses, but many decide not to seek treatment. For major depressive disorders, medication can be the miracle that begins recovery. It is a journey that is best taken with a therapist. Recovery begins subtly as a long winter finally gives way to spring.