“Blues in the Night”
We are a resilient species but when we’re faced with severe setbacks, tragedy or trauma, we can become overwhelmed with pain and sadness. We can react like this after the loss of a family member or friend, or when we feel inadequate, lonely or rejected, or when we run as fast as we can yet feel we are losing ground, or when demands on us seem too much.
Sometimes sad moods appear out of nowhere, yet our melancholy feels palpably real, due to brain chemical deficiencies, hormonal changes, or illness.
Some people are more prone to these morose periods than others, but the truth is, nobody gets away unscathed. In the USA, where “Happiness” is enshrined, there is the added burden of guilt and criticism to be dealt with.
Usually we manage to get through and overcome blue periods through our own fortitude and resilience. Sometimes we’re helped by supportive family and friends whose nurturance can be an “antidote” to the sadness. At other times these moods lighten due an improvement in circumstances, or the passage of time.
Before we label someone as being clinically depressed, however, we should be sure that he /she has classic hallmarks of depression, such as relentless sadness, self-criticism, guilt, sleep problems, suicidal thoughts, and other related symptoms.
“Mere” existential dissatisfaction and searching is not a psychiatric depressive disorder per se, as painful as it may be. I am sure you are familiar with many artists, composers, authors, scientists, performers, political leaders and others who suffered from angst and made major contributions to humanity.
Sustained intense sadness can impinge on our self-worth, our relationships and our functioning. In those times we tend to ruminate, ie, we think, rethink, and overthink. We review and regret our mistakes and misadventures, often self-critically. These feelings can begin to eat at our very beings and souls, and when we contemplate our futures in that despairing state, all we can see is doom and gloom.
A depression envelops us, and feels like it will never end. In this despondency we might think we are frauds and “losers” (an ugly term). We fear failure and humiliation, and dread that our lack of substance and worth will be revealed, that the fragile house of cards we’ve spent a lifetime creating will come crashing down, and we’ll be utterly exposed as “Emperors with no clothes.”
Depressed individuals feel emotionally drained and physically exhausted, and if they see no hope, they might contemplate suicide. A sad irony is that it is in this depleted state when the depressed individual must draw the initiative and energy to reach out for help.
Effective help is readily available, and it comes in many forms. Different psychotherapies, cognitive behavioral therapy, exercise, meditation, yoga, mindfulnessgroups, medication, and even transcranial stimulation, either alone or in combination, are examples of effective means of overcoming depression.
There are psychiatrists, psychologists, and professional counselors in practice, in educational and religious institutions, in medical and mental health clinics, in many workplaces and in public social services. Most of all, there are those who love us.
There should be no shame, and much to gain, by availing oneself of these needed interventions. As painful as depression can be, people in that situation often see the world through a more sensitive lens and even feel enriched thereafter.