Clinical Depression: My Personal Experience

evilrixEngineering Manager
An expert in cross-platform ANSI C/C++ development, specialising in meta-template programming and low latency scalable architecture design.
Warning: This isn't your typical EE article. It contains details related to medical conditions and my personal experiences. The reason for this article is that I hope by sharing my experience it may help others in a similar position. If you are easily offended by discussions regarding the human anatomy please consider this warning before deciding to read any further.

I used to be very active in the EE community: I was one of the highest ranking experts in the Topic Areas that I frequented, I was within the top 100 ranked experts on the site, I attended one of the EE Core Conferences and I held the full range of community support roles on the site. Page Editor, Topic Advisor and Cleanup Volunteer were all community shields that glowed with pride on my profile. I was active in all these roles and then one day I just stopped!

Actually, to say it happened over night isn't quite true, but I did go from being very active to barely active within a very short period of time. I was the sort of member who just had to stick his opinion into anything and everything. Love me or hate me (mostly the latter, I suspect), I had quite a ubiquitous presence on EE. One day I just quit; I retired and walked away. My reason? At the time I really had no idea. I just lost all interest in EE, I lost all interest in everything. That wasn't me. I have strong opinions and I like to share. I also like to help others and for me to no longer care just wasn't me. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

This article is my story on what happened and my hope is that if it just helps one person who is feeling the same, then it was worth the time taken to write this article.

Here goes...

A few years ago I was diagnosed with suffering from clinical depression. I didn't even realise, at the time, that anything was wrong. It was only due to my long suffering wife keep telling me that I was not being myself and insisting that I should go see my GP (General Practitioner - what we call our everyday doctors in the UK) that I ended up being diagnosed. You see, I wasn't coping with life very well. I'd stopped going to the gym. I'd stopped taking care of myself. I'd put on a huge amount of weight. Everything seemed to be too much like a challenge and that the world was out to get me!

When I eventually went to see my GP (it took my wife weeks to convince me to go) she was very empathetic. I'd like to think that this would be the case for all doctors, but I get the feeling my GP may have had had direct dealings of a personal nature, with deperssion, since she just understood; she got it.

My experience with others I know who have also been diagnosed is that different GPs have differing levels of empathy. My advice would be, if your GP doesn't understand, ask to see a different doctor. After all, you're paying for this service (either directly or indirectly) and so you have the right to expect the right level of support!

My GP talked to me, asked me lots of questions and eventually suggested it sounded like I was suffering from clinical depression. Clinical depression is a term used to define an unexplainable feeling of sadness, loneliness, emptiness and/or loss. Specifically, it's classed as clinical depression if that feeling lasts for longer than a couple of weeks. This is further amplified if the cause of the feelings are unknown and/or there is no real obvious reason to be feeling that way.

We can all suffer from the "blues" but clinical depression is different, It's not just about feeling a little down; rather, it's like feeling like neither you nor your life has meaning. Everything becomes pointless, nothing makes sense anymore and you no longer care about anything nor anyone. It's literally the most selfish anyone can be and, yet, it's also completely not your fault! That last part is important, this is NOT your fault!

For example, if someone close to you dies and you are really very sad you might say that you're feeling depressed, but that isn't the same as feeling clinically depressed. On the other hand, if that feeling continues and doesn't get better with time there is a chance you might need help as you may be suffering with clinical depression. In my experience, with clinical depression you don't feel so much sad, as you do helpless.

It's like being at the bottom of a deep well. You can look up and see the opening from which to escape but there is just no way to climb out! Further, you don't actually care about climbing out; instead you'd be more inclined to pull others into the well with you. You see, depression is a hungry beast. It's not satisfied at just having you. No, depression needs to feed; if it can and if you let it then it will also feed on everyone around you!

To make matters worse is that everyone seems to think they know and understand depression. Eventually, you'll run into the amateur therapist who tells you to "get over it" or "snap out of it". They assume it's just you wallowing in self pity and that you should just "get a grip". They don't get that depression isn't about being sad, it's about being alone and no longer in control of your own emotions. You wouldn't say to a paraplegic, "come on, just walk" so why would you say to a person suffering with depression, "come on just be happy".

The thing is, depression isn't that simple! It just doesn't work that way! Depression can have many causes and not all of them are directly caused by emotional stressers. In fact, those that are can be easiest to deal with, because once the cause is identified you and your therapist can work towards resolving them. In other cases the cause can be due to chemical inbalances within the body and no amount of "pull your socks up" advice is going to help. In those cases, the physical cause needs to be diagnosed and dealt with. Trying to get your GP to take you seriously enough to order the tests neccessary can be a bit of a challenge.

Unfortunately, depression and mental health issues are just not taken seriously enough, especially in the UK where I live. There is often a stigma attatched to anyone diagnosed with a mental health issue; no one wants to admit to having a problem and those that do can often find themselves looked down on by others. Sadly, this doesn't just apply to the general public, but also to a lot of GPs. Depression is something that needs to be taken seriously because the failure to do so can have serious consequences!

The truth; however, is that you don't need to suffer. There is help out there if you look for it. If you have any of the following symptoms and they have lasted longer than a couple of weekes go and see your GP:
  • Depressed mood, such as feeling sad, empty or tearful
  • Significantly reduced interest or feeling no pleasure in all or most activities
  • Significant weight loss when not dieting, weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite
  • Insomnia or increased desire to sleep
  • Either restlessness or slowed behavior that can be observed by others
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt
  • Trouble making decisions, or trouble thinking or concentrating
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or a suicide attempt
NB. This is a standard list of depression symptions garnered from various sources on the Internet.

In particular, if you are having thoughts that might result in you hurting yourself or others you should speak to someone immediately! Ideally a trained professional. Check Google, as there is almost certainly a toll-free number you can call to speak to someone. In the UK we have a number of volunteer organisations, such the Samaritans, you will almost certainly have something similar where you live. Just check Google or your local Yellow Pages. Failing that, talk to your partner, friend, work-colleague, boss, neighbour or your GP. The important thing is you tell someone how you are feeling and that you ask them for help. You are not alone!

After talking to my GP, I was, initially, offered anti-depressant tablets, talk therapy and CBT. The anti-depressants were to try and take the "edge" off, the "talk therapy" was to try and identify the cause and the CBT was to teach me "coping strategies" for the depression; more specifically one of the major symptoms for me: servere anxiety attacks. Looking back, my doctor should probably have ordered a full blood work-up, but as I was showing no other symptoms (at least back them) she decided this was the most appropriate course of action.

The talk therapy identified that I'd had some issues in my life that may have explained the way I was feeling but not why the depression had only started quite recently. Meanwhile, my depression was turning from bad to worse. I was struggling to do even the most fundamental things, like shower. My wife was having to instruct me to take care of myself, not something you'd expect in a higher functioning adult. After a time of taking the anti-depressants I did start to feel a little better and so for the next couple of years I just stumbled through life, taking the drugs and coping as best as I could.

Then, about a year ago, my wife started noticing my depression was worsening again. I was also having other symptoms. I was tired all the time, put on even more weight and I was struggling with my sexual mojo. In fact, as far as sex was concerned I just had no real interested anymore. As I am only 43 years old it seemed unlikely this was an age related concerns and so with that in mind we went back to the doctor. This time, a full set of bloods was ordered. I had to wait two weeks and eventually the results were in. 

Finally, I had a proper diagnosis! The tests showed conclusively that my problems were physical in nature. My thyroid was not functioning properly and my endocrine system (the parts of the body responsible for managing hormones) was no longer producing testosterone. These results explained everything. They explained why I had put on weight, why I was so tired all the time, why I was feeling so depressed all the time, why I no longer had my sexual mojo nor cared.

These results were incredibly emotional for me. On the one hand, they explained everything. On the other hand, had my GP done these tests a few years ago I might have avoided the last few years of suffering. Still, no matter, I finally had tangible results that could be treated; I had an explanation and the problems could be treated. I no longer had to live life like a zombie, stumbling through on auto-pilot but wishing it would all just end!

Today, I am now in the process of having these issues dealt with. I'll have to have on-going care for the rest of my life for my thyroid and endocrine problems, but the treatment is no worse than popping a few pills. It's taken quite a few years to get to this point and I really wish I'd been more persistent with my GP from the start, but the point is that just because you are suffering from depression does not mean you are going mad, nor does it mean you should have to continue to live your life in such a deep and dark place!

If you are suffering right now, please go and speak to your doctor. Insist that they take you seriously and demand that they perform a full blood work up. If you don't feel up to doing this for yourself, take someone who trust with you and get them to act on your behalf; be your advocate and stand up for you. If it wasn't for my wife, I'd probably still be the mess I was a few years ago, but with her love and support I am finally on the mend!

Good luck.
evilrixEngineering Manager
An expert in cross-platform ANSI C/C++ development, specialising in meta-template programming and low latency scalable architecture design.

Comments (4)

Cheer up evilrix

hypothyroidism -- caused by an underactive thyroid gland -- is the most common medical condition associated with depressive symptoms. Other endocrine disorders associated with depression include hyperthyroidism -- caused by an overactive thyroid -- and Cushing's disease -- a disorder of the adrenal gland.

Many central nervous system illnesses and injuries can also lead to depression. For example, depression might be associated with any of the following conditions:

Central nervous system tumors
Head trauma
Multiple sclerosis
Various cancers (pancreas, prostate, breast)

Corticosteroid medications such as prednisone, which people take for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or asthma, are also associated with depression. Other drugs, including illegal steroids and amphetamines and over-the-counter appetite suppressants, may cause depression on withdrawal.

Great job evilrix, it took a lot of courage for you to share this. I too went through a couple of years of clinical depression, a real dark time in my life. You really softened the symptoms but the big thing is you are not alone, there is help, and things will get better if you get help.  I applaud you.
evilrixEngineering Manager


Thanks you so much, tariddle, for your kind words.
RobOwner (Aidellio)
Most Valuable Expert 2015

Evilrx, very profound article and I applaud you for writing about it.
My wife suffers from hypothyroidism and borderline depression. I have no doubt they're connected, at least for her and you it seems.
I know even for myself that taking an active role in my health and seeking medical opinion both alternative and traditional has improved my energy levels dramatically.
Feel got you mate, but good to know you're on to a good thing. Hope it stays that way :)

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