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What does depression feel like?

The following are two accounts from two individuals, both of whom have been battling depression for over three years.


Marlen is 38-year-old mother of two; she’s been married to her high school sweetheart since graduating from college. She owns and operates a thriving photography studio.


Dani is a 46-year-old accountant who works for a small firm. She’s been married for 26 years, and her adult son has recently moved back home.


Names have been changed for privacy.


Note from HOPE: Depression is a different experience for everyone. If your depression feels different from the accounts below, it’s okay – you are not wrong in how you feel.



Marlen’s story


What does depression feel like? That’s a loaded question.


Most days I forget I have depression, as weird as that sounds. I’ve had it so long that I feel like it’s just part of me – like if I were to have a bad stomach, like IBS or something, it’s just something I deal with, not anything I’m conscious about. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I’m guessing someone with depression would know what I’m talking about.


I was diagnosed with depression when I was 25, after I graduated from college. I was an art history major, and I think that when I realized my life wasn’t going to be spent gallivanting around Paris, it hit me hard. Life wasn’t going to look anything like I thought it was going to look like, and that made me really sad. I looked at my world and it was like, “Wow. This is it?” I tried everything – gratitude journals, better diet, church. Nothing was making me feel better, and I got worse, I think, because I was so guilty over the fact that I hated this wonderful life I was given. My husband is so good to me and we have really healthy kids but I just hated everything, and I hated myself because of it.


When I was diagnosed with depression, I really fought hard against medication because I didn’t want to mask what I was feeling. I went to therapy twice a week, went to church once a week, ready every book I could find. I dove into the science of it and tried to understand it that way while also leaning into my faith and trusting that I was going to get out of it.


If I’m conscious of my depression, I would say that it feels like a low, throbbing pain. It’s like a heartache – you know that numb feeling after someone’s broken your heart and you’re kind of over it but not really? It’s like that. For me, anyway. It’s not a screaming pain. It’s not like I just want to throw in the towel all the time. It just persistently hurts, but it’s tolerable, and yet it’s always there.


Dani’s story


Depression is one of the most terrifying illnesses I think anyone could have, because it doesn’t go away, ever.


I’ve had depression as long as I remember, but I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 30. I’ve thought about suicide more times than I can count, even though I’ve never attempted it. I think more along the lines of, “It would be so much easier not to feel like this anymore.”


For a long stretch, I was okay. I was worse when my son was younger. When he hit his teens and late teens, I felt like a different person. I was stronger somehow. I was exercising regularly, was really committed to my work, and just overall felt like I was recovered.


When he moved out, things crashed for me… it was like I hit a wall. I don’t think it was all entirely to do with the fact he moved out and we were empty nesters… I think it was coincidental and it just happened to be that he was moving out and I found myself in a new stage of life where I was questioning who I was and where I was heading.


For months after he left, it was a struggle to get out of bed, to shower, to do the basic things. I never wanted to go out, not even to pick up dinner. I never wanted to see people. I just holed myself up and busied myself with repainting the house or rearranging furniture. I gained some weight so that made me feel even worse. I cried all the time.


It impacted everything, even work. Before, I would use work to escape the pain, but it got so bad that I couldn’t focus on anything, and in my line of work, if you’re not accurate, things go south fast.


I went back to therapy and got on a different prescription. I’d say it took about three months to start to feel like “myself” again. I say it like that because I think sometimes it seems as if being depressed is “being myself” and being like everyone else is what feels wrong.


I’m still working on everything. My son has moved back in to try to save money to buy his own house, and I’ve loved being with him and having a sense of purpose again, so that’s nice. I know, though, that I need to develop that sense of purpose for me, not for anyone else. I know the logic, and I know what to do, but it’s a struggle when you’re depressed.

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