Updated: Sep 4
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Life is Perfect
Everything was going really well for Chandra. She had just been promoted at her job, and her boss had given a speech to the entire company about how Chandra was an inspiration and a dedicated worker who everyone else should admire. At home, her beloved husband had just bought her beautiful roses for Valentine’s Day, coupled with a card that told her how proud of her he was; and how much he loved her. Chandra’s daughter had just made Varsity for her soccer team, and to celebrate, she was going out with friends to get pizza and see a movie. So, Chandra was going to be alone for the night, and she decided to watch a movie since her husband would be working late.
Maybe It’s Not So Perfect
When she sat down to put in the movie, suddenly, a familiar and ugly overwhelming feeling of dread and despair overtook her. It was a difficult feeling to conceptualize or even explain to herself. A heaviness pulled her down, and it was as though she suddenly couldn’t breathe. What was wrong? Did she forget to do something? She quickly ran to the front door to make sure it was locked. She called her daughter’s cell phone to make sure that she was out where she said she would be. She was fine, the door was locked, her husband was working late. Why was she feeling as though a dark, demonic presence had overtaken her body and mind?
Anhedonia and Feelings of Nothingness
Something had to be wrong, but the problem was, nothing was. Everything was going wonderful in Chandra’s life, but these moments of complete and total despair had become more and more frequent. She dreaded going to bed at night because she suffered from night terrors so frightening, that her husband had to hold her gently until she realized she was back in reality, awake. Things that had at one time excited her, no longer did. To be honest, she didn’t even care about the promotion. She didn’t care about anything. Food tasted like nothing, putting on makeup was a struggle, dark, terrifying thoughts that made no sense whatsoever filled her mind. There were moments of reprieve, but it was when she was alone where she felt the most terror. What was going on? What in the world did Chandra have to feel sad about?
Depression Doesn’t Have to Have an Obvious Cause
Chandra was suffering from severe depression, and she had absolutely no reason to feel depressed, whatsoever. Things were actually going really well for her in her life. There was nothing wrong, whatsoever. But the dark thoughts kept creeping in and the pain kept getting worse and worse, and the dreams kept her from getting more than four hours of sleep a night. She had told nobody about these awful feelings. She was ashamed. She felt guilty.
Depression Can Be Completely Unrelated to One’s Thought Process
What Chandra didn’t understand, or realize, is that depression doesn’t always come from a culmination of stress or negative life events. Depression can come on when things are going really well, and sometimes even when things are going better than they ever have before. Depression is genetic, it doesn’t have to have a cause to occur. And also, depression doesn’t always mean that you feel “down” or “sad”. Sometimes it just feels like you feel absolutely nothing at all, which is why Chandra no longer got excited about things that used to make her excited.
For example, counselor Dean Parker says that “some describe being in a fog, or that they have no emotions, that nothing gives them pleasure, and that nothing gives them joy.” The worst part about depression that many clients complain about is the anhedonia, or “the inability to feel pleasure.”
Depression can be caused by a genetic reason, such as having one family member who suffered at some point in his or her life. Depression can be caused simply by a chemical imbalance, and we just don’t know or understand exactly how or why this happens to some people and not to others. There is evidence coming out that depression is caused “by not only specific brain chemicals, but nerve-cell connections, nerve cell growth, and the functioning of nerve circuits that can have a major impact on depression.” The point is, we are still learning why someone who should be happy, someone like Chandra, is struggling with depression. And there’s many, many factors that go into play, and none of them have anything to do with what Chandra does or doesn’t do. She is just as helpless in the situation as anyone, until she gets the help she needs to figure out how to treat the depression.
Get the Help You Need and Stop Feeling Guilty
Eventually, Chandra’s husband recognized that Chandra was struggling with severe depression and that her night terrors were not just a culmination of built up stress. There was a lot more going on, and he loved his wife enough to know that she needed help. She explained to him that she knew that she should be happy, but it was though her brain was preventing any type of “happy chemicals” from being released and giving her much needed pleasure and joy from everyday life experiences. Her counselor explained that depression can come from anywhere, and that it doesn’t always have to happen because we are what everyone else would consider “happy.” Sometimes, we get depressed when things are going well. And that’s ok. There are so many treatments available to help people like Chandra and others who suffer from severe, unexplained depression.