by Joan-Marie Moss
THE HUMAN FACTOR
Sondra Dodds at Family Service DuPage in Wheaton, IL says that those who are depressed often feel isolated and alone, different and unusual, misunderstood by family and friends, powerless and defeated. Many also feel the need to hide their real feelings, even from those they love. Those who are more willing to share their experiences share many common experiences although each case is dramatically different.
They share a common bond. They live in a no-man’s land that’s sapping the community of its most valuable resource…competent contributing citizens. They don’t choose to live there. And they can’t will to get out of there without help.
An insidious disease, depression is multi-faceted. The onset and the symptoms of depression are not always the same. Frequently depression is an outward manifestation of undetected physical illnesses such as cancer.
For some the disease can be traced to low self esteem; for others to excessive drain on their physical health and energy or chronic illnesses; for others to abnormally high levels of stress-related life experiences; for others realization that life is passing them by and their goals will never be reached.
In all instances the illness points to imbalances: physical, mental and spiritual. A depressive illness is a “whole-body” illness involving your body, mood, thoughts and behavior. It’s not just a passing bout with “the blues”. You cannot “will” or “wish” it away.
Rose had frightening bouts with burning sensation in all parts of her body. It was as if her stomach, head, nerves were all “aflame”. Katherine began to withdraw from friends and acquaintances.
One Elmhurst resident tells of his experiences, “I felt helpless and unable to cope with every day stresses. I saw myself as worthless as a part of the community I worked for. Frequently I entertained thoughts that my family would be better off if I just disappeared or died. I knew I was on a self destruct kick…ignoring my health, setting myself up for failure in my job and getting myself in no- win situations. The harder I tried, the worse things got in my life. I saw myself reacting to even the simplest setbacks with uncontrollable rage.”
Anna, who has been treated both in and out of the hospital for depression said, “Over the years, I’ve seen a big change in the people who are suffering depression. They’re getting much younger now and they are filled with anger.”
Some deal with the constant sensation that they are “not connected with the rest of the world” and “unimportant”. For yet others, the illness may just hover at the point where there’s a gnawing stomach ache and the constant knowledge that “something just isn’t right”. Nearly all report that their level of productivity fell dramatically. Many find that they just “can’t attend to the task at hand”. In the worst case scenario, suicide seems to offer the only way out.
The bad news is depression renders a person unable to cope adequately with life events and, frequently, it goes undiagnosed for months — even years — because the victim generally blames him or herself for uncontrollable problems and their inability to function in a reasonable manner. It’s a vicious downward spiral that sucks its victim into a hopeless pit of despair.