I’ve come to realize that I’ve lived with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) for decades. Sadly, it took my near-death from suicide for me to both reach this understanding and seek help to prevent another suicide attempt. My near-death showed me that I could no longer be so private and so isolated – to survive I had to be more open and more social.
During my teens, I attributed the periods of low moods I experienced to typical teenage angst. When I was older, I attributed them to the stresses of post-secondary studies, or shift work, or money problems, or raising a family, or a bad night’s sleep. In other words, the same stresses that everyone experiences.
The initial periods of low mood, which were fairly fleeting, were sufficiently frequent that I came to call them Black days. I learned that if I isolated myself by staying in my room with a pillow over my eyes, the Black mood would work itself away. The solitude soothed me and helped me regain balance. Since isolation seemed to rid me of the mood, and since I was comfortable being by myself, this became my go-to reaction to periods of Black. This was also my natural response for periods of overstimulation. Solitude, quiet, and time all worked in concert to ground me, to recharge me, to end the Black episodes, to help me recover no matter the cause of my distress.
I didn’t see the Black days as the harbingers of the larger issue that they clearly were. Over time, though, as these things are wont to do, the episodes of Black grew in frequency, duration and, to my everlasting regret, depth of despair.
Like the progression of my obstructive sleep apnea, the worsening of the MDD happened in small increments, perhaps an hour or a day longer in duration, perhaps a deeper shade of Black. When coupled with my search for causes, and my discovery of them in the ordinary circumstances of life, the progression of the MDD was hidden from me. Moreover, my go-to solution seemed to be working. I was able to cope with the Black by isolating myself and working it out – which I would do when things simply became too much – and this added to my false sense of security.
And that is the crux of the matter. By not seeing the danger, it overwhelmed me, exhausted me, pushed me into an existence that was less than living. And it nearly killed me.
On September 2, 2014, I learned the true danger of the Black. The Black has infinite patience. The Black is relentless. The Black is unforgiving. The Black is the tar pit of despair, swallowing you whole, surrounding you, suffocating you in its finality, striving never to let you go.
Ultimately, The Black KILLS.
These realizations all came to me after my suicide attempt. My research revealed that many of the tools to combat MDD were the opposite of my natural inclinations. While I preferred to sit in and read a book, my MDD required that I go out and socialize. While I preferred to keep my privacy, to sit and think and strategize solutions, my MDD required me to seek the counsel of others. While my strategizing would have me revisit scenario after scenario in an effort to arrive at a solution, my MDD would use this ruminating as a weapon with which to beat myself for every unworkable solution and every misstep.
My HSP + INTJ + F meant that I was comfortable with a solitary life, with limited social interaction, with using isolation to solve problems, particularly my own. That this retreating from the world was also a key element of MDD meant that I wasn’t aware of the lurking danger of excessive Black days. My own inclinations, my habits, were also the symptoms of MDD and I didn’t know the difference. And, I now realize, even if I did know the difference, my personality was such that I didn’t possess the tools I needed to cope with the MDD.
MDD is deadly in its own right. However, when your personality is one where some of the symptoms of MDD are your natural reactions on good days, I submit the danger is disguised and worsened.
I’ve no scientific data to support this conjecture. It’s just my gut feeling.
Be aware of your personality. Be aware of the symptoms of MDD. Where the two intersect, be especially vigilant. MDD is a chronic illness and it will take advantage of every opportunity to reach its desired end.