I'll just put it out there: I've been diagnosed with chronic depression. "Dysthymia", if I try to mask in in medical terms. I've probably had it for quite some time, possibly decades. Am I embarrassed to admit this? Not really. Worried that putting this out on the Internet will affect my current or future career opportunities? Not particularly. It's just this thing about me, this thing I'm addressing, and it almost feels like I'm more ashamed about it if I don't talk about it.
I was a little concerned about my first visits with a therapist, almost a year ago. The word "depression" came up early in our conversations (and therefore in my thoughts with increasing frequency), but I really felt that couldn't apply to me. I was wary of claiming depression because I had heard that people who were depressed, clinically depressed, were almost unable to function. Hours or days were spent on the couch or in bed, because they couldn't escape the greyness of their own thoughts. Additionally, I actually felt a little guilty for even considering the notion that I was depressed, because what did I have to be truly depressed about? What right do I have to be depressed? With only the odd bump in the road here and there, I really don't have a lot in my life to complain about (not legitimately).
My therapist explained to me that was a common perception of depression, but the can't-get-off-the-couch feeling is only one manifestation, one level of severity. The day I was actually diagnosed with chronic depression, he put it in a way that I'll never forget: "You're able to function all right, but it's as if you're always walking around in three or four feet of water. Now, three or four feet of water isn't going to kill you, but who wants to do that all the time?" I don't know if this is his analogy or a description commonly used by psychologists talking to patients, but that nailed it. Right on the head.
There was such a wave of relief at hearing a description that so crystallized how I feel. I think it almost validated my own feelings and made it seem okay to admit that I actually did need help and that what I was doing was going to be good for me. I still think that, and I hope I continue to make progress at addressing this part of me.
I'm not one hundred percent certain why I felt such a need to write this up and launch it into the infosphere, laid bare for any and all to see. What if my family reads it? What if my co-workers read it? Shrug. It's just me; it doesn't mean I'm crazy or broken or anything that I haven't been for the past twenty years. On the contrary, it might be part of the explanation for (without excusing) the fact that I've definitely become much more cynical and grouchier and, at times, meaner over the years.
The difference now is that I'm coming to terms with that and trying to fix it. And not all by myself.