Everything but physical pain

How would you explain the fact that you are sick, to someone when you have no physical evidence to show? It is easy for people to understand that you are hurting and having pains from a toothache, but hurting from depression? It is almost impossible to explain if the person you are talking to has never been there.

The absence of physical pain is a driving factor and may go on to explain why depressed people would mutilate themselves to provide evidence of their illness to doubters. In his accounts of his experiences with depression, Andrew Solomon recounts how he tried to infect himself with HIV so he could kill himself with it as an excuse. Although I find it crude and extreme, he explains, “I needed something I believed in, something to show so that everyone would understand how desperate I was. I had to give up the invisible impediment for a manifest one”. This wish for self-harm, I have come to learn is a common occurrence for depressives who resort to physical harm to bring the physical state in line with the mental. They often do not care which form it takes, be overdosing on drugs, injuring themselves or in extremes, attempting suicide, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it.

This is what you could do:

  • Keep a log of your depressed mood shifts, what’s going on around you at the time, and what your thoughts and feelings were.
  • Learn to identify triggers, and develop some control because then you can strategize how to avoid or respond differently to things that make you feel bad and want to self-destruct.

This helps you gain some awareness; the fact that there are explanations for your mood shifts and the realization that your depressive episodes are not isolated events but may be linked to some triggers.
Depression may not be a physical illness, but it is a mentally and emotionally painful illness that can rid you of your will to live and affect every area of your life. When you feel like hurting yourself to prove to others the extremity of your pain, remember you can always talk to someone.