Negative thoughts can have so much power. It’s not like they show up like a bruise or some kind of swelling or something that you can tangibly notice. They are tucked away in your mind, quietly and exponentially replicating and infiltrating your daily thoughts. Without any notice at all, depression has control over your brain, and you are actually viewing the world through those negative thoughts. Like a dark, depressing virtual reality program that you did not ask for or even realize that you are participating in. Without any real warning, we can be living an altered reality.
There is a physiological reason for depression, it is caused by an imbalance of serotonin in your brain. Your brain is an amazing and powerful organ. An organ that is the center of your nervous system, but also controls your entire body. The brain can do so many incredible things, and yet science has barely scratched the surface about how it works.
The one thing the brain is not very good at is self-diagnosis. When there is something going on in your body that you need to know about, your brain will let you know. “Ouch! That hurts.” Your brain just told you that your foot hurts. It will even tell you when your head hurts when you have a headache. But when your serotonin levels are not balanced in your brain, and the synapses are not firing correctly, you don’t get a message. So you don’t know it is malfunctioning.
When your brain is not functioning properly, all kinds of things can go wrong. For example, if you had a problem in the part of your brain that processes vision, your brain might tell you that the sky is green. You might argue with others to the end of the world who claim it is blue because your brain says it is green. Similarly, when depression takes over, your brain gives you the wrong answers about everything: “You are fat.” (You are actually 5 pounds underweight.) “She hates you.” (She’s your best friend.) ‘You are a failure.” (You are actually the top student in your class.) “No one loves you.” (You are surrounded by friends and family who love and adore you.)
You would think that you would be able to notice that something is not right, but your brain, your body’s control center, is the one giving you these messages. It is simply not equipped to tell you when it is not working properly. And these messages are more frequent and more powerful the longer we allow them to thrive in us. If it seems hopeless, ironically, that is coming from your brain, too. But it is not hopeless. There is always help for you.
There are things you can do to tell the difference between your reality and a depression-altered reality. For one, you are not wired to be miserable, you are wired to experience a whole range of emotions. Just like when you get sick in our bodies, at some point, you will question why you are so miserable emotionally. When you feel that bad emotionally, you will likely also have physical symptoms: changes in sleep and appetite, aches and pains you can’t figure out, and maybe more. Even your heart rate is slower. Many people will actually go to the doctor because they just feel so awful and can’t figure out why. There won’t be any blood test to tell you what is wrong, but a good doctor might have you take a depression rating scale and refer you to a psychiatrist. Once you have figured out what depression looks like for you, then you will definitely want to get some help if you are feeling this bad emotionally and physically, because your depression is pretty serious by this point.
There are earlier signs that you can watch for, but you have to pay closer attention to catch them. One is to look around at others and compare their reactions to gauge your mood. If you are at a birthday party, for example, and everyone else is smiling and laughing but you are feeling numb or cynical or just low in comparison, you might be depressed.
If you notice that you are more irritable, tired all the time, and everything just feels overwhelming, then you might be depressed. Feeling overwhelmed, especially with no big stress, is a red flag for depression. Friends and family members can help you be vigilant for warning signs, too. They might see from the outside what you cannot from the inside. Depression hits all of us differently, but if you have been depressed, and then you have been well again, then you can notice the more subtle warning signs and get help before it gets worse.
Depression is an altered reality that no one asks for. Like chronic physical illnesses, it can be debilitating and difficult for others to understand. But it is also potentially lethal, and should never be ignored or taken lightly. You deserve to have a full range of emotions, with appropriate emotional responses to appropriate life events. Get help today, and learn how to maintain control over your reality. You are worth being healthy in both mind and body and enjoying a quality of life that is as awesome as you are.