Depression as a Physical Illness and Coping Mechanism

These days I’ve been thinking Depression might be a physical illness. We are told it’s a “mind-thing” meaning that you can change your mind and then not be depressed anymore. However, those who really understand depression from personal experience note that they have felt it in the body. You get to a point where it’s impossible to even get out of bed and you become emotionally detached. This means you don’t feel much of anything. It’s like being dead while still breathing — is the best way I can describe it based on my experience and from what my husband has also explained to me when he had clinical depression several years ago.

Depression is not laziness, it’s not an emotion, it’s not sadness, it’s not having a bad day. If anything related to the emotions at all, it’s the body holding on to all the repressed emotions because the individual cannot deal with them right now. The individual cannot face the culprit, so the body takes over as a means to protect the individual from their feelings. It’s a means of coping with intolerable repressed memories and emotions. We all do it, but we survive from our memories and feelings in different ways. Much of the time, any physical illness or addiction (alcohol, drugs, tobacco, eating disorders, cutting, workaholicism, and needing to be busy all the time) might be a means of coping with repressed unhealed past trauma from either this lifetime or a previous one or both.

Depression can also be triggered by diet and drugs, but even still it protects us from our repressed memories and emotions. Those who have a genetic predisposition to depression as a coping mechanism to early unhealed repressed trauma have a good chance of experiencing it either as a child or an adult or both. And the same goes with genetic predispositions to any other physical malady.

When I had clinical depression back in the day, I felt it in my body. It was difficult to move. I could not see color as vividly as I used to. My sense of taste was also compromised. My lower five senses became dim and dulled. On one occasion of many depressive episodes, I had been in bed for a couple weeks and lost around 10 pounds.

If more people were educated on how depression is really manifested and experienced, we would see it as the debilitating physical illness it is and like with cancer, more people would feel compassion toward its victims. More people would support those suffering from it and this would probably prevent A LOT of suicides.

There is no switch on a wall that the depressed can just flip and presto the depression is gone. You can’t think your way out of it with positive affirmations, gratefulness and platitudes. Can’t do that with any illness. And even IF the brain did contract an illness, the brain is a physical part of the body. So, even brain illness is still physical. Do we judge people who have strokes or brain aneurysms? Of course we don’t because it’s physical. And so might be depression.

Since depression, as I see it anyway, is frozen emotion, particularily rage, the best thing any depressed person can do is be encouraged to feel or at least talk about or write about their feelings, their story and their life.  Anything to honor the buried emotions inside. Because once those emotions are freed and expressed, the chance of the depression lifting become possible. The chance of any malady lifting can become possible. This process of releasing emotion, however, can only work if they have a solid support system and feel safe enough to feel them.

Since we’re all connected and all hard-wired to feel each other’s pain, it’s natural that some of us might have a hard problem with a depressed person. What is going on to the depressed person in some cases could be transferred to us and if we cannot handle it, we’re going to have a very hard time accepting it, being patient with it, and having compassion for depressed people. We might even be angry at them. It can also trigger those of us who don’t understand it. We’re trying to figure it out and we just can’t understand it. We see someone in bed for 14-16 hours a day not taking showers and not enjoying life or taking on responsibility —- and what we don’t understand, we make mean anything — and a lot of the time, we make it about us. We blame and judge the victim because we’re working so hard and they aren’t doing anything but “making excuses” ……..and this? This makes their plight become even more intolerable.

If you don’t know what to do around a depressed person, it’s best to do and say nothing. It’s a lot better than doing and saying the wrong things that can only make it worse. Or at least admit that you aren’t strong enough to handle it and apologize.

For those of you who understand depression because you’ve been there, the best thing you can do is in some way show that you care, that you are there, that you want to listen, that you love, support and most importantly validate them even if through non-verbal communication. Not that this will help, but it sure shouldn’t make it worse. Even if they need to talk about suicide, let them. Sometimes they just need to be heard and validated for their feelings. Give them that freedom to be honest. It can make a world of difference. If they are judged for suicide ideation, this might make those thoughts more compounded and they may feel unheard, alone, anxious, confused, and misunderstood as a result which might make them want to kill themselves even more. Many who kill themselves do because they feel alone and detached from everyone. If we can find even a tiny bit of what they are experiencing inside of us (by really deeply looking within to find what they are going through relatable in some say) and try to see the world from their eyes, we can love them in the same way we do with those who are quadriplegics.

Finally, not all depression is created equally. Some people can function in the world and still be depressed.

It’s really very simple. When someone’s down, we don’t kick them. We love. The most selfless thing we can give to another person is their right to be just where they are in the moment without trying to ‘fix’ them.  That’s how unconditional love works.

When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people. Abraham Joshua Heschel

Kindness is the light that dissolves all walls between souls, families, and nations. Paramahansa Yogananda

What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness? Jean Jacques Rousseau

Be pitiful, for every man is fighting a hard battle. Ian Maclaren

For it is in giving that we receive. Francis of Assisi’

Kindness, I’ve discovered, is everything in life. Isaac Bashevis Singer

It really shocks me when I encounter people who think kindness doesn’t matter. Because I think it’s pretty much the only thing that matters. Josh Radnor

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind. ~ Henry James

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle. ― Plato


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