Depression can be experienced in many ways, and its severity varies. It can be your worst nightmare — groundhog day for months on end.

When I’m depressed, I forget how wonderful life can be. I resign myself to the fact that this is as good as it gets. It’s only when I’m well that I really appreciate how hellish depression is.

People often make throwaway comments about how they are depressed, without considering what true depression really feels like.

Previously I wrote about my experience with mania. Here’s how I experience depression:

  • Physically. Sometimes my low mood won’t be enough to convince me of my state. The physical effects include weakness and lack of energy. I struggle out of my bed each morning because I have no other choice. It feels like all life has drained out of me. As though I haven’t eaten in weeks, I feel completely wasted.

    My legs and arms feel as if they’ve lost all tone. It’s an effort to pick something up off the floor. All I want to do is sleep. I sigh a big, heavy sigh again and again. My heart rate slows down and my breath is slow, even labored.

    The world loses color. My eyesight fails me. Taking a walk in the forest does little to lift my mood; it looks like winter no matter the season. None of my clothing looks appealing. Food loses its allure too, no matter how good the chef. Everything looks the same as I feel — dull and blurred around the edges.

    My joints and muscles ache. Walking up and down the stairs is a big deal. I’m still a young woman but I feel about 80. It’s so painful, I can’t go for a walk.

  • Mentally. My thoughts slow down, and any thoughts I do have are negative.They just keep on coming one after the other. No matter how hard I try to think positively, the negative thoughts are stronger. They have control over me.

    I worry about things that will never happen — silly things that have nothing to do with me. Sometimes they spiral out of control. I panic and need some time before I can get back to what I was doing. This frightens me ,and I feel like I’m failing. I should be stronger, I should be able to manage my own mind.

    I say the words “I hate” a lot, like a young child: “I hate making dinner” or “I hate the mornings.” And boy, do I hate the mornings. They are black and full of horror.

    Concentrating is difficult. Reading becomes a waste of time; writing is harder still. Trying to make decisions is painful. It’s like thinking through glue. The thoughts just won’t knit together the way they should. Gaps in my train of thought cause me to lose my way too often. It’s easier not to talk at all.

  • Emotionally. Emotional states can vary in depression. I can feel a variety of ways. Excruciating guilt is among the many feelings I endure when depressed. Memories of mistakes made years ago come back to haunt me and keep me from sleeping. Sticking a pin in these memories is an arduous task, but is nevertheless the best thing to do.

    Every morning during a depressive episode, I feel despair so great that I wish myself dead. I dread the mornings when I lie in bed at night. Fortunately, the feeling passes in time. Despair is as bad as it gets. It’s the feeling that leads to thoughts of suicide.

    Often, in despair, the internal voices start to wake up. This is a part of depression for me. The voices are almost always derogatory and frightening. They stop me in my tracks. It’s as if time stands still. I feel helpless when they talk down to me.

    In depression we grieve and pay dues to the events in our lives that have troubled us. Maybe it’s a good thing that we get the chance to express ourselves in this way. When the person with bipolar is manic, they can’t grieve. Depression brings out those suppressed emotions.

  • Spiritually. In mania, I feel a oneness with everything and everyone. On the contrary, depression makes me feel detached and withdrawn. When even a little depressed, I feel isolated from family, friends, and the wider community. I feel very alone. Were it not for my faith in God and my belief that my late father is with me I would not have survived so many episodes of depression.
  • Career/Financially. I simply have no motivation to work when I’m depressed. I desperately want to work. I have a good work ethic as a rule but I simply can’t get myself in order during a depressive episode.

    Unlike in mania, I have no interest in spending money when I’m depressed. I manage to save a little when I’m depressed as there’s no fun in going shopping. Who would have known there was something to be gained in depression?

Depression has many twists and turns. It’s not just as simple as having a low mood. There’s quite a bit more involved. Some episodes are more severe than others, depending on medication changes and the severity of the high mood that came before it. But it’s never easy.

Groundhog photo available from Shutterstock