Vague Ideas

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How should we understand Depression?

hi everyone,
this probably isn't the place to do this, but i've been reading a couple of other threads with a similar theme, and I could really use your help. I'll keep it brief.

Well, I'm currently a student at university i'm supposed to be in my second year, but it looks like i'll have to drop out because of depression. (I'm not sure if I should be allowed to call it that, but iv'e had all the symptoms for over a year, and my local doctor seems to think so.) my family are skeptical I guess, and there are times when I'm sure and times when I think I'm making it all up.

Most days I feel tired, upset or restless or angry. I cant see a future for myself and hopelessly procrastinate and get irritated by the smallest things.

Therefore, my question is should we think of depression as some kind of existential struggle to find purpose in your life? or a chemical imbalance? A passing phase into aduthood? or selfishness as I've read on some other sites.

ps. I would also like advice on how I can deal with it, do you think i should take a year out of my studies?

thanks xx

Closing Statement from Vague Ideas

Thanks for the advice everyone, iv'e found it very encouraging. i wish i could have replied to all your comments but i completely forgot about the time limit.
I'm really very greatful, thanks again
:) xx

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    Nov 14 2012: Depression certainly isn't selfish. It's a good bet that you perceive it to be be so because of the stigma around it.

    My views on this may be controversial, in that I do not see depression as a dysfunctional illness. I see it as a normal reaction to something dysfunctional. The fact that depression is now so common, helps to support this argument.

    I think you are correct in saying that depression is to do with an existential struggle to find purpose in life, but I disagree that it initiates as a neurochemical imbalance. A neurochemical imbalance, under normal circumstances, is a reaction to profound dissatisfaction or loss, leading to a chemical imbalance that persists in facilitating the required existential struggle to achieve something better for you personally. It does this by stimulating introspection, which in turn stimulates deep thought about your current situation.

    During this period of introspection, I think it's essential that you temporarily get away from the situation you recognise as making you unhappy. It may be the subject you are studying, the Uni itself, something or someone you have left behind at home - only you know that. It is also essential that you have plenty of emotional support around you from people you love and trust, to enable you to talk at a deep level about what is troubling you.

    Don't discount the value of antidepressants. They don't have to be a life sentence if you also have that emotional support around you.

    I know of many students who have gone through periods of depression, and by taking a year out has been the making of them. They often come back either refocussed on their original subject choice, or change to a clearly defined and more satisfactory subject choice.
  • Nov 12 2012: I can tell you that seeking the help of professionals is the best first step.

    If you are looking for personal experience, I can tell you some things I do to change my mood.
    1) Do something nice for someone else.
    2) Take a long walk in a secluded natural setting somewhere.
    3) Spend some time with a older family member.
    4) Watch marriage proposal videos or talent competition best first audition videos on internet.
    5) Answer questions in TED or some other forum.
    6) Write something or build something. If I had any art talent, perhaps draw or paint something.
    7) Volunteer somewhere to help a group.
    8) Walk in a Mall and window shop.
    9) Watch a feelgood movie: You've got mail, Sleepless in Seattle, Nottinghill, etc.
    10) Call the kids
    11) Think about a problem that might be solved be my talents and do something towards contributing towards a solution, like write a paper, express an opinion, ask a question, or invent something.
    12) Not me, but some look for spiritual support from a religious group.
    13) Visit the gym and workout
    14) Clean up an area around the house or in the yard.
    15) Approach your studies from a different angle. Suppose you were to write the textbook? what would you include or exclude from the textbook? Might give a different perspective on your textbooks. what would you teach in class? Might give a different perspective on lectures. What have other textbook authors and professors done to convey the message to students? If you try and take on some of these tasks, it may give you some insight into your classes that transforms them from a source of depression to a source of inspiration.
    16) Find a friend and talk. Share a drink or a meal. Talk about life, dreams, and goals.
    17) Do not be misled into thinking being smart means being successful. Work will always be required. The trick is to find a way to enjoy the work part, and set a course that holds your interest in life.

    Hope this helps!
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    Nov 13 2012: Remember, this is not professional advice ... just a friend. This is self diagnosed as depression by you. I don't know about your school but most have a health services available to the students. Go there and tell them your problem and have them refer you to the proper specialist .. it could be medical ... psych ... behavioral, etc ...

    Until it is isolated and you understand what it is and what your options are do nothing.

    I am not an expert but to self diaginose and / or self medicate / or seek resolution without a professional opinion is not good advice.

    The important thing here is that you recoginize there is a problem. I find it hard to believe that your doctor (who agrees with you) did not refer you to a specialist.

    I am a big fan of documentation of all kinds. If you write down everything time depression sets in, what you eat, what your schedule is, length of depression, last eye exam, periods, meds (over the counter and perscribed), and all other things you can think of in a diary This gives your doctor a great snapshot of your life and the influences you encounter. When someone is screwing with my life I want them to have all the info possiable to base a decision on.

    This works for me (except the female part) and hope it helps to resolve your problems.

    I wish you all the best.

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    Nov 13 2012: To me depression is the same as mourning.
    It can have a light up to a severe impact on any person dependant on circumstances, resilience and the amount of loss.
    The kind of loss can be family members, a fortune but also the child you were if growing up or the ability you lost with illness or handicap.
    Resilience has to do with intelligence, fitness the struggles one has overcome already and many more.
    Circumstances can be good or bad in many ways, physical as well as social/emotional.

    It isn't unique to humans because animals show the same behavior among which there are problems with appetite, curiosity and dissociation. Most things become difficult like tidiness, sociability and agenda. Unique to humans however is that their way of thinking can make things worse or better.

    The way to go about are many as some here suggested but for all it is about following your bliss. Think what feels good, do only if it feels good, look for directions that give a good feeling. Don't let you be made miserable in any way, not by people or what you need or need not to do. Look for better people, better places. Try to think less and less, meditate if possible, love yourself first and be positive about everything. See your dreams in life in front of you but live in the moment itself. Don't worry, trust that all comes well in the end.
  • Nov 12 2012: "Therefore, my question is should we think of depression as some kind of existential struggle to find purpose in your life? or a chemical imbalance? A passing phase into aduthood? or selfishness"

    E) a little of all of the above

    There is no line where the chemical imbalances begin and your personality ends, the chemicals and electrical activity in your head ARE your personality.
  • Nov 15 2012: HI,

    I wrote yesterday a note about depression, called "Depression for dummies".

    For I was a regularly depressed person, I explain where that comes from, how is works, how to cure it and how it looks like when we are out of it.

    I hope that gooel translate will be able to translate it for you enough well, cause it's in french. But as I tried by copying directly the url in the translate editor, we can understand most of it. If you have sentences, or ideas that you don't get, please feel free to ask.

    Have a nice life!
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    Nov 14 2012: Hi Vague IDeas,

    I agree with many of the posts so far.

    Depression is not so simple. There is one aspect of it, however, that you better come to grips with very quickly.
    That aspect is that chronic-depression becomes locked-down - there is a dynamic that is well observed that depression that becomes latched-up(chronic) can continue even after the cause is removed. Recovering from chronic depression takes a while, and will not succeed if initial stressors are still present.
    I would suggest a few things:
    1. respect your own stress responses - when you feel them, withdraw as a matter of urgency. De-couple your plans that expose you to the stressor. This may involve terminating stressful relationships - and contact with anyone who stresses you. This is not easy - our culture almost worships stressors, like only failures and wimps avoid them. This is propaganda - make up your own mind - it is your life, and you are responsible for how you live it, no one alse is qualified to judge. LIkewise, be alert to environments that stres you - there could be environmental toxins in play.
    2. Do things that reduce build-up of glucocortizol. Measured breathing works well. Totally avoid anything with MSG - this actually floods your body with cortizol - it is instant depression. Likewise do not consume anything from a factory farm if you can possibly avoid it - forced harvest rates are all dependent on toxic practices. Do daily meditation and mindfulness exercise. Do a lot of physical exercise.

    In summary - amputate toxic people, places and diets. Attach healthy people places and diets.
    You do not have a lot of time for this.
    Do NOT take any form of anti-depressant without prescription from a *highly skilled* psychiatrist.. Remember that these medications have only a small affect, significant side-effects and only work on some people - and they are generally adictive.
    You have nothing to lose apart from a re-think on strategy. If you get suicidal thoughts - get psych help asap.
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    Nov 14 2012: If one is not depressed, one is NOT paying attention. We are in the throws of collective suicide, environmentally, economically and socially. To ignore that reality or to 'medicate' it away will never solve anything, plus will give side effects in who knows how many and what ways. Choose your poison wisely, they are not all the same.

    However there is a way out. To take a vow to do all you can to build bridges to a sustainable future, in how you live and influence others. It takes strength and the rewards are few, but deep and lasting. Be a part of the solution and the depression will fade. It may not go entirely awy, but you can replace it with renewed vigor toward becoming the light.
  • Nov 14 2012: Like some of the other have commented the first thing to do is speak to someone professionally and never try to self diagnosis.

    But the topic on how we view depression as a culture is a very interesting topic. I truly believe it is a disease and should be looked at more seriously than what it is now. The unfortunate thing is, is the people dealing with depression are struggling and hurting mentally, so that means it doesn't show like an open wound. There are a number of ways to decrease depression and start back on the road to a healthy positive life. But when people view it "as just picking yourself back up, because we all have problems" is an insensitive and less than understanding way to look at it.

    I wish you the best of luck and I hope that as a society we will start treating this as the disease it is.
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    Nov 13 2012: 1.Know, without a doubt, that you can overcome this.
    2.See the new 'you' in your mind's eye helping people who have similar problems.
    3. Seek help from qualified and competent people.
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    Nov 13 2012: Psychology recognizes clinical depression as a chemical imbalance of the brain, which often manifests itself during the young adulthood years. Accept it as a disease needing treatment, and not something you can think your way out of.
  • Nov 13 2012: Hi Vague..
    Now, I'm going to talk from my perspective, as a Swedenborgian, but 2000 characters are not going to change your world. Each of us has a different perspective as to what life is all about and what life, itself, really is.
    We are not our body or the chemical (im)balance in our brain. We are the spirit that occupies and uses this body. Everything belonging to our body and the condition it is in, can certainly influence our spirit to the extreme. But basically, our spirit should always be in charge.
    With our body is also the environment it is in. The room, or house, well anywhere we are can give our senses a hard time to stay 'balanced'. But as you may realize, we do not have the power to determine what happens to us, what we see or what we smell. However, we do have the freedom to choose how to react. Whether it is the smell, the looks, the swearing, there can easily be conditions that make us say: I'm out of here (or I love this! I'm staying!).

    Just saying we are a spirit in a body is meaningless, unless we have some idea what it means to be a spirit. Being a spirit means we also have a spiritual environment where we also have not much control over. However, there too, we have the power of choice as to how to react. We can get ideas and thoughts into our mind from that environment to which we can also decide how to respond. We may like ideas that come to us which suggest ways to make us seem smarter or richer or at least better than those around us now. The more we support ideas like that the more ideas like that we'll get presented.
    By deciding what thoughts to support, and dwell on, we decide what to love and so determine our spiritual environment.
    The most important aspect of that environment is Who are we putting in charge!! Life's choice ! Is it heaven or hell?

    heaven=life and love, hell=depression and anger.

    What Robert says below is great but some articles in here may help too
  • Nov 12 2012: Hey there!

    Similar to John, I understand depression as a somewhat selfish struggle to find purpose that is accompanied by a certain pattern of chemical processes. Selfish not in the way that feeling, doing or thinking anything in particular with regard to the depressed self is wrong, but that a lot of depressed thinking lacks a little perspective, that is, an accurate assessment of my own importance.

    I also see depression as one way of responding to a depressing environment.

    What strikes me in your post are the phrases "skeptical" and "making it all up". Skeptical about what? What are you making up? Feelings, thoughts? Or are you wondering in how far you would like to let your "depression" influence life-changing decisions? I don't know, just don't drink and drive, :D

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    Lejan .

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    Nov 12 2012: Would it make a difference to you how 'we' understand depression? Personally I could not care less about it the moment I get into 'mine'. :o)

    The situation you describe does not seem unusual to me, as I have been there as well and several times throughout my life. So whenever I notice an agglomeration of those symtoms, lasting or returning in shorter periods, I then know that I am not on a 'resonating' journey through life and that I have to change course to increase my chances to find a better one.

    It could just be, that your field of study is just not 'yours'. Or that the surrounding professors and/or fellow students are not the right environment for you.

    Discontentment can easily trigger all of the symptoms you named, to manifest itself in this vague and confusing 'existential struggle to find purpose in your life'. And once this 'struggle' is there, it usually does not come with instructions how to get out of it on the fast lane... :o)

    In those situations I start asking myself the question 'do I really like/want this' and if the answer is NO, I usually have no better alternative on hand as well. But this no problem, this is only the challange. ;o)

    So while I am 'painting' my personal yes/no map a certain 'cause & effect' pattern starts to appear. At this point in time I usually still have no better idea what's best or better for me, but what I can do is to start to reduce and eliminate all the 'NO's' off my map. Within this process I initiate and endure dramatical changes at times, and so far I have always found a next, a better path to walk on for some while.

    This is just 'my way' and no advice. And I am very certain that you find yours, as it seems you did start walking already. :o)

    Good luck!