Depression gets hooks in you; cut them early on
I don’t know what the medical diagnosis will be to describe Simone Biles’ action this week. But I think there is a lesson here — a ‘teachable moment’— for anyone suffering when the demons close in.
After experiencing paralyzing bouts of depression on and off for 60+ years, I am reminded of an excellent description of its progression: ‘It gets its hooks into you.’
From my own experience, I think of clinical depression as being like cancer, but without the unsightly tumor. It grows over time.
Similar to cancer, the quicker someone takes appropriate action to deal with the gathering gloom, the quicker it can be dealt with.
To her great credit, Ms Biles is sending a signal from a global stage that to postpone recognizing or acknowledging or seeking treating for another day or week or month, only gives the hooks more time to make themselves at home.
This is especially so for people experiencing their first encounter, regardless of the age of that first onset. It can be a shock how, over the course of a day or a week, one is overwhelmed with the realization that “I feel numb and terrified at the same time. I feel like nothing I ever felt before, and I want to go back to last week.” But you cannot will yourself out of it.
The worst part is feeling you are alone in this, that no one else has ever felt this. Years ago, a therapist told me two things that helped me a lot.
First, half the people in our town were on antidepressants, and the other half should be.
Second, she told me to check out Kaplan and Sadock’s Comprehensive Text of Psychiatry at a Reference Library. There I found an exact description of my ‘altered state of awareness’ described by a monk in the 11th Century: at midday in summer the sky turns black and the sun is an intense white light burning your eyes and your soul.
(A search for the book shows different ways to access it without buying the $300 two-volume set.)
Meantime, here are some symptoms to watch for, from the Mayo Clinic.