More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
What Depression Means to Me
Friday, November 10th, 2006
by Deborah Gray

I recently had my first visit with my new psychiatrist. One of the questions he asked me during the consultation was, ?What does depression mean to you?? I took this to mean, ?How does it manifest itself for you??

The question was hard for me to answer, and not just because my three year old son was wreaking havoc in the room. I was surprised that I had trouble answering, and upon reflection, realized that it was akin to answering someone?s question about what attracted you to your spouse. When the relationship is new, you think about it all the time, so you have those answers uppermost in your mind. When I was first diagnosed with depression, it was all new to me, so I examined my feelings about it constantly. After 15 years I just took it for granted that there was nothing new there for me to discover. I write about it all the time, but I rarely think about how I define it.

After realizing that I wasn?t quite as familiar with my feelings and thoughts about depression as I had assumed, I started turning it over in my mind again. I found that I had learned some things about depression in the years since I was diagnosed.

● Depression brings with it, or perhaps is, the complete absence of hope. Until you are devoid of hope, you really can?t appreciate how much we need it. We all lose hope in certain situations. We may feel sure we?re not going to win a game of tennis or get a promotion, but even behind an expectation of defeat, we still always retain a small measure of hope. That?s why we keep trying. But depression steals hope from every aspect of your life, from your chances of making it through a yellow light before it turns red to your chances of making it through your life, period. This absence of hope is what makes everyone tell someone with depression that they?re negative about everything. If you have no hope left, of course you?re going to be negative.

● Depression is a mental ventriloquist. It puts thoughts in your head that aren?t yours, thoughts like, ?Everyone hates me,? or ?I?m such a loser,? or, worst of all, the idea that suicide is the only way out of the pain. Once you know you have depression and learn to recognize these thoughts as the depression talking and not your own thoughts, you can dismiss them. But until you get to that point, these thoughts of course seem to be your own.

● Having had both Multiple Sclerosis and depression, I can tell you that in a way depression is even more enervating than MS. If I?m depressed, even thinking about doing housework, for example, is tiring, and I don?t get much done. If I?m not depressed, just tired from my MS, I keep on going, getting stuff done until my body finally refuses to move.

● Depression takes away your determination, your resolve, your mental cheerleader. That voice that tells you to keep trying; that you can do it. This is somewhat related to the lack of hope, but isn?t exactly the same thing.

● Depression slows down your thought processes. You feel like you?ve taken stupid pills. You have more trouble learning things, you don?t make connections between things, you don?t have leaps of intuition or any of those higher brain functions that we take for granted.

● Depression blunts your ability to communicate effectively, or at all. Speech can be slowed and difficult. Expressing yourself in writing can be easier, since you?re not on the spot, but it?s also an effort.

Those are some of the things I?ve learned in the past fifteen years about depression ? according to my particular experience with it.
 

Halo

Member
Just came across this article and wanted to say that I found it quite interesting and thanks David for posting it. :)
 

foghlaim

Member
Once you know you have depression and learn to recognize these thoughts as the depression talking and not your own thoughts, you can dismiss them. But until you get to that point, these thoughts of course seem to be your own.
I read this article before and now, again... and i still have trouble with those parts that i have underlined above..

I have heard these phrases before both in relation to depression and other illness's. I can't fathom for the life of me why these phrases are used..
depression doesn't talk.. it just IS. cancer doesn't talk.. It just is.
i'm not saying i don't have thoughts i rather not have.. I do. But to say that depression talks,, well to me is not right. I'd rather see "these thoughts are part of the way depression can affect ppl"
I see my thoughts as my own whether they are distorted by depression or something else.. they are still mine. for inst... if i say i'm suicidal... it may be i'm depressed.. but depression is not telling me to kill myself, I am !!
and if i say all is well and life is fine.. this is still me talking, my thoughts!!

I (& i'm sure a lot of ppl) have "conversations" with themselves in their minds from time to time.. and depending on where I am, these conversations can be good ones or not so good ones. But all the same these conversations or thoughts are still my own.
 

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
if i say i'm suicidal... it may be i'm depressed.. but depression is not telling me to kill myself, I am !!

But in a very real and very critically important sense it is NOT you but rather the reality distortions that are doing the talking, that are telling you to kill yourself. That's what the statements mean.

Another example: For someone suffering from schizophrenia, if the voices (i.e., schizophrenic thoughts) tell him to harm his family, that is not the person talking... that is the illness talking.
 

ThatLady

Member
When the chemicals that activate the various functions in your brain are out of whack, that can cause thoughts that you wouldn't have were it not for the chemical imbalance.That's how I take what the article is saying. Without the depression, you wouldn't have thoughts like suicide. Those thoughts are caused by the depression; therefore, they are the result of the disease. The phrase "the disease talking" is just a metaphor to express that connection, as I see it.
 

foghlaim

Member
I understood the meaning of the two sentences as they were in the article.
My point is,
Using the phrase the depression talking and not your own thoughts,
to me is like giving the illness an identity, as in the illness is another person altogether, when if fact there's one person with an illness.
because if depression talks..and those thoughts are not my own, then what\who is talking when life is "normal". In my mind..all those thoughts distorted or not, (as a result of being ill or "well") are still my own and not easily dismissed.

I actually had two examples in my original post, looks like I lost some of it. They were making the same point, as ye both have outlined. That these thoughts are a result of \ caused by being ill.

metaphors are okay if an article also includes an explanation or example, so that ppl reading know exactly what is meant. Otherwise they can be misleading.
I guess I didn't write my first post clearly and maybe still not clearly here even . It just annoys me to see phrases like those. i'm just rambling here, i understand the article, and i think it's a good one, just seeing those sentences tho started my thoughts on a roll. i will learn one of these days to state clearly what my point is.. :)
 

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
The article was written by Deborah Gray, a woman who suffers from depression and who learned first hand that many of her thoughts were distorted during her depressive states, even though they seemed rational and real at the time. The phrase "depression talking" is her short hand way of describing that process, a reminder that it's the illness not her rational mind that hatches and latches on to those thoughts.

I do personally think it's a good way of characterizing the cognitive distortions that occur with conditions like depression.
 

ThatLady

Member
I think her way of stating the problem with distorted thought is a lot like my way of dealing with guilt over perceived wrongs of the past.

To me, what you may have done in the past was, in essence, not done by the "you" you are today. It was done by someone else. That someone hadn't learned what you have learned. That person did not have your experience, and had not yet developed your coping mechanisms. That person was still struggling.

While you may still be struggling, you're not the same person you were. You've evolved. When depression is treated and healed, your thoughts are not the same thoughts they were. They, too, have been treated and healed and are not the thoughts of the "real you" that has finally found a voice in your own head. Those old thoughts were not the thoughts of this "real you". They were the thoughts of a person suffering from a disease - a disease from which a healed person no longer suffers - a healed person with healed thoughts.
 
Sometimes I know my some of my thoughts are distorted, but then I question whether ALL my thoughts are distorted and it sets up some kind of serious doubt in my mind whether any part of me is sane at all. :( Like I can stand in front of my closet and not be able to pick out something to wear because I think everything I decide is the wrong decision. And I worry myself sick about deciding things for my daughter. I don't know. I feel just inadequate as a person at all. I'm just depression and anxiety and nothing else besides that. At times anyway.

And there are people who reinforce that you can't do anything right because of depression and anxiety. "You don't use your brain, Janet." Well, I am trying to. What does that mean anyway? I'm stupid? :( :( I don't know. It's all so confusing.
 

Halo

Member
When you described standing in front of your closet and not being able to pick out something to wear, I can remember having those same thoughts of what if I choose the wrong thing? Same with when I went to a restaurant and trying to choose something from a menu....what if I choose the wrong item....well what worked for me to get past these small things that I was worrying about was to say to myself (and yes outloud sometimes) was, "Is this decision really going to make an impact or difference in my life if I look back on it in 30 days. Most times it was the small stuff like picking clothes and something from a menu that I was worrying about that really I was worry about unnecessarily when I needed to be worrying about much more important things.

I hope this makes sense because I guess what I am trying to say is that I started to try and look at the bigger picture and figure out whether the decision I was making was really going to make a difference in my life, mind you it doesn't always work but most times it does and it has been pretty helpful.
 
And there are people who reinforce that you can't do anything right because of depression and anxiety. "You don't use your brain, Janet." Well, I am trying to. What does that mean anyway? I'm stupid? :( :( I don't know. It's all so confusing.
it means it's just a petty remark made to you by an insensitive person. it's a very hurtful thing to say. try not to listen to it - i know it's easier said than done, but know that all of us here know you are a smart, caring, wonderful woman. nothing in the world can change that about you. it's just a fact. :hug:
 

ThatLady

Member
When people say something like: "Don't you use your brain, <insert name of abuse victim here>?", I'm always tempted to put words into the victim's mouth. I'd like to tell them to answer: "Yep. I just don't use yours, so keep it to yourself!"

I still stand in front of my clothing pondering what to wear and wondering what would be right for the specific occasion. That's normal woman-stuff. We want to look our best, and to be suitable for the event we're attending, whether it be the grocery store or a formal ball. It's not something to worry about, really, as long as you keep a handle on your anxiety and don't let it incapacitate you. In the long run, as Nancy said, what difference is it going to make a month from now? None.

I don't know a decent mother in all the world who wouldn't be concerned about making the right decisions for her child. That's just love working. Again, getting a handle on the anxiety is key. The anti-anxiety meds will help you with that.

You're much more than your anxiety and depression, Janet, and you're anything but inadequate. You have much to offer and you're working hard to free that potential. Give yourself credit for that! :hug:
 
Using the phrase the depression talking and not your own thoughts,
to me is like giving the illness an identity, as in the illness is another person altogether, when if fact there's one person with an illness.
I guess I didn't write my first post clearly and maybe still not clearly here even . It just annoys me to see phrases like those.
fog, i think maybe what you were trying to say is that if one says "the depression is talking", suddenly the person suffering from depression is no longer who they are, but rather, they are the disease. you lose your identity because you're not you anymore, you're just the depression.

i think had anyone said to me directly, to any statement i made when i was suffering from depression, "that is the depression talking", i would feel invalidated in my feelings. like i wasn't me anymore. that those feelings didn't really count. maybe that's what's rubbing you the wrong way with this expression?
 
fog, i think maybe what you were trying to say is that if one says "the depression is talking", suddenly the person suffering from depression is no longer who they are, but rather, they are the disease. you lose your identity because you're not you anymore, you're just the depression.

I think that is what I was trying to express or relate to. The feeling of losing yourself in the depression, or the feeling that people around you don't take you seriously because of it or anxiety or whatever you are struggling with. That every thought is from the disorder, not you. If that makes any sense.
 

Halo

Member
In my opinion when I look at that statement of "that is the depression talking" I completely understand it. I think that I might have even been told it or said it myself. I don't see it as being that my feelings don't count or that they are not validated but that the illness that I have is distorting my thoughts and feelings and therefore taking over and not letting me see or feel the reality that I know logically exists. When I am not "as" depressed then I can see and feel the reality and my thinking is more logical. It is not to say that I lose myself or become my illness as I am always me no matter whether I am depressed, severely depressed, happy, anxious whatever but depending on the severity of my mood it can and will dictate my thoughts and how distorted they are.

I hope that I have made some sense :)
 

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