Not Quite Sad or Lonely…What Depression Feels Like
Depression feels different to different people; these examples of what depression feels like are from JK Rowling and other women who often or occasionally feel depressed. How can you get rid of depressed feelings? It depends on the cause or type of depression – as well as your personality, genetic makeup, and physical health.
In this article, I share several stories and examples of what depression feels like from women who have specific reasons to feel depressed (which is called “situational depression”). I also share what helped them heal, to show you you’re not alone. You can overcome the dark shadow of depression and be happy again! I won’t go into the types of depression or natural remedies for depression – otherwise I’d be writing a book. This is just an article to help a reader who asked me, “what does depression feel like?”
Depression has been described in different ways, such as “loneliness of the soul” by Sylvia Plath and the “black dog” by Winston Churchill and an “mortal internal disease” by Leo Tolstoy. Depression feels like a dark cloud that suffocates you. Depression sucks all your energy, leaving you with nothing but emptiness. Yes, it’s depressing to think about what depression feels like – but it’s important to give voice to depressed feelings.
Shine light on your secrets, your shames, your struggles. The more light you shine and the more you share with the right people, the lighter your darkness will be.
What Does Depression Feel Like?
Depression doesn’t feel like you can’t stop crying…it’s more like an absence of any feeling at all. Here are a few real examples of what it feels like to be depressed, plus a few possible ways to deal with depression.
Our experiences are different – what feels like depression to me may be a normal emotional state for you. What does depression feel like to you? In the comments section below, feel free to describe your experience and share what helps you overcome it.
JK Rowling’s experience with depression
“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced,” says JK Rowling in an interview with The Times (UK).
“It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”
To JK Rowling, depression feels like a deadened absence of hope – which is very different than sadness. She found comfort in the four great truths of Buddha, especially the first one. Life is suffering. Rowling loves that because “life is not supposed to be neat.” She finds it comforting that life is supposed to involve suffering. “It’s a comfort to all of us who have messed up,” she says. “And then you find your way back, bizarrely.”
How do you find your way out of depression? I think it depends primarily on two things:
- The cause of your depressed feelings
- Your genetic makeup and temperament
If your depression is caused by a chemical or hormonal imbalance in your body and brain, then perhaps all you need are antidepressants to stabilize your hormones. If your depression is caused by a great loss or disappointment, perhaps you need to talk to a counselor (talk therapy) or even a spiritual advisor (who can help you learn how to pray for healing).
Depression feels like lack of energy and motivation
“There are days I wake up and don’t want to do anything,” says Kimberly Zapata on What Parenting During A Depressive Episode Is Like. “I don’t want to put on clothes, eat or drink, brush my hair, even get out of bed. I don’t want to live. It seems harsh when I put it that way, when I admit there are days and even weeks when I want to die, but it’s the truth…there are days the pain is so great and so overwhelming that I can no longer stand living. Why? Because I live this depression. It is a reality I face every day — a reality I’ve faced for 15 years and counting — and it’s a reality I now face as a parent. I had to learn how to parent through my depression, and during depressive episodes, because giving birth didn’t magically ‘cure me’ of my depression.”
How do you overcome long-term feelings of depression? Kimberly takes it one breath, one moment, and one minute at a time. She treasures her husband and daughter – and she sees them as her anchor in the storm. She is thankful for her life.
Women experience depression twice as often as men, and it’s estimated that 350 million people suffer from depression. Approximately 19 million of those suffering are Americans. This means nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population struggles with depression – and there may be many others who know what depression feels like but don’t talk about it.
Depression feels like crying all the time
Sometimes there is a reason to feel depressed, which many readers have shared on my article about coping with childlessness. For example, Manu says “I always feel like crying when I see a pregnant lady or a couple pampering their baby. I feel like I’m suffering from severe depression. I have no best friend, even my husband doesn’t listen or car. I lie on my bed, thinking of being childless. Not a single day has passed that I haven’t thought of being a mother. Depression feels like devastation to me.”
How do you stop feeling like crying all the time? Maybe a simple solution is to stop thinking about what is making you sad. If you lie on your bed thinking about your reason for feeling depressed, you’ll never stop crying! Sometimes the most obvious solution is the best cure. What does depression feel like? Lying on the bed crying. How do you stop feeling depressed? Stop lying on the bed and crying!
Other times, however, it seems like there is no reason to feel depressed…until you pay attention to the triggers. For example, some people feel mildly depressed in the late fall and winter because they’re simply not getting enough sunlight – and it’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Depression feels like a war between two parts of your self
“I sank into a depression so deep and dark that my emotional brain kept saying I should just kill myself even though my logical brain knew I had every reason to live and knew things would get better,” writes Maria Rodale in It’s My Pleasure: A Revolutionary Plan to Free Yourself From Guilt and Create the Life You Want. “I loved my kids and husband desperately but couldn’t seem to pull myself out of the dive.”
How do you pull yourself out of depression? When depression feels like a heavy dark cloud of nothingness pressing on your soul, you might need to explore different treatments. Research shows that a combination of talk therapy (especially cognitive behavioral therapy) and antidepressants is effective for many types of depressed feelings.
When depression feels like you have nothing to live for and no reason to get up in the morning, you need to reach out for help. When depression feels like you don’t care what happens to you or your family, you need to summon the energy to get the support you need.
A quick list of the “common symptoms of depression”
What does depression feel like? Here are the most common symptoms:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy (which is what depression feels like for many people)
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities that you once enjoyed
- No appetite – or eating too much
- Chronic physical health problems, such as aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not go away
- Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings
- Thoughts or attempts of suicide
It’s good to be aware of the common symptoms of depression, but it’s even more important to know what depression feels like. Why? Because knowing what it actually feels like to be depressed will help you recognize when you need to get help – and even how to help someone who is struggling with depression.
What to Do Next
Read The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time by Alex Korb. The truth is that there isn’t one simple tip on how to deal with depression, but there are numerous simple steps you can take to alter brain activity and chemistry. Some are as easy as relaxing certain muscles to reduce anxiety, or getting more sunlight to improve your mood.
Small steps in the right direction can have profound effects – especially if you’re motivated because you’re sick and tired of knowing what depression feels like! You can literally reshape your brain, one small change at a time.
Read How to Deal With a Depressed Boyfriend if you’re asking “what does depression feel like?” because you’re in love with a man who is struggling with depression.
What does depression feel like to you? Write about it. If you’re struggling with feelings of depression, don’t isolate yourself. Come out into the light, share what you’re experiencing. How do you cope with depressed feelings, and does it help to talk about depression with people who understand what you’re feeling?
While I can’t offer advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience of what depression feels like. Writing often brings clarity and insight, and can help you process your feelings.