The Stages of Depression I’ve Experienced and Their Relation to Suicide

THIS MAY BE SCARY AND/OR TRIGGERING TO SOME PEOPLE. PLEASE TURN AWAY IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE IT. THERE IS NO SHAME IN PROTECTING YOURSELF.

This is also extremely personal. If any of my friends or family read this, don’t respond negatively.

Note: I am a person who has dealt with depression on and off since about fourth grade. I have no qualifications to name these stages, or say that this can be generalized. This is my experience, but may also fit the experiences of others as well. The only thing I have going for me besides my experiences is the fact that I’m a Psych major. I’m a junior, and have about two-three full semesters left in my undergrad.

The first stage I’ve experienced is an overwhelming feeling of sadness, sensitivity, helplessness, and hopelessness. In a definition, that’s pretty much what depression is, but how it plays out makes this stage different and more specific than the definition. It plays out in a way that makes me appear as a little kid who cries a lot. It’s like I’m having a fit or a tantrum or am being overdramatic, but instead of me screaming my head off, I’m crying, feeling down, not wanting to move, and looking for the slightest bit of comfort I can get. Then, when I get it, I’m horribly surprised and somewhat greedy about it. Either that, or I try to push whatever attention away because of the belief that nothing will help. My actions tend to be very illogical during this stage and I’m usually not sure what to think.

^^First stage’s relation to suicide: I haven’t really contemplated suicide during the first stage, except in an overdramatic way that was actually meant to be a cry for help. If I thought about it during this stage, it was mainly a fantasy and a cry for help.

^^Thoughts: What’s wrong with me, why can’t I be normal, why do I have to feel this badly, I just want to feel better, what if it gets worse, what if I can’t control it, etc…

^^Main emotions: fear, worry, doubt, confusion, hope, sensitivity (if that counts as an emotion)

The second stage is where I’m still feeling all of the above, but instead my crying/urge to cry is greatly repressed (normally successfully) and I look for other ways to express myself. I usually do it through escapism* [see below] or anger. It’s at this stage that I begin sleeping too much. At first, it feels like a gift, but as I progress through the stages, I soon see that it’s not. I usually hold back my tears in this stage and feel like I can only let them go when I just can’t handle it anymore. I start associating with people less. I listen to them try to comfort me, but I only let some people’s words affect me. I don’t really feel comfortable letting people in when I’m in this stage, unless I know for sure they won’t hurt me or leave me. This is the stage in which I usually start to neglect chores and self-care. I don’t really have the energy to do what I need to do, but it’s not too overwhelming until the next stage. I still have some energy at this point, but my output is usually of lesser quality and I’m irritable, picky, and defensive.

^^Second stage’s relation to suicide: I don’t typically feel suicidal during this stage. However, I end up thinking about what life would be like if I withdrew from people completely.

^^Thoughts: Just keep it together, you can do it, what if I can’t do it, what if I can, shut up, no, I can’t, yes, you can, whatever, just do it or not, whatever happens happens, and I’ll suffer through it, it’s happened before, I’ve been depressed before, when will this ever stop, I may have to deal with this for the rest of my life, is there anything I could’ve done differently, if so, do I deserve this, do I deserve anything negative or positive, where’s my proof, can I even think that far, it’s so hard to think normally, I’m feeling (_____), maybe I should just go with this, just go with what I’m feeling, but the people I’m hurting don’t deserve to get hurt, well, there was that one time……ENTER: STAGE THREE

^^Emotions: fear, anger (sometimes extreme), irritability, wonder, determination (but it’s complicated, because I don’t accomplish whatever I’m determined to accomplish, be it good or bad), helplessness,

The third stage is when I’m extremely lethargic and mentally tired. I start sleeping and staying in bed a lot. I stop contacting people personally. I stop doing what I’m supposed to do, whether that’s with school work, chores, friendships, or self-care. I can start to wonder how long I can run, how long I can keep escaping my triggers before I’m forced to face them again. I know some people may think of responding with, “Well, maybe it’s better for you to face it than running and hiding,” but the thing about that is depression doesn’t leave me in a stronger state. It doesn’t allow me to do better or to grow. It tears me down. If I grow after experiencing a setback, no matter how minor or major, then it’s because I’ve let myself grow and be fed by positive forces in my life, not negative ones. The negative forces (my depression, anxiety, people who don’t believe me, people who expect me to be ok or act like it, the results of me neglecting everything, the guilt from being depressed, the anger) keep me almost bedridden because every time I go to eat, or talk to someone, or go to class, or take a shower, or whatever, I’m faced with every single negative thing in my life, past and present. It’s overwhelming, and even with positive coping skills, I’m still having all this almost consume my being and I can’t often control it.  I see how good life can be but it’s not. That leads to the next stage.

^^Third stage’s relation to suicide (for me): thinking of it, possibly lightly contemplating it (they are not the same thing!!!!!!!!!!!!), possibly thinking of some sort of unofficial will

^^Thoughts: I can’t do this, what if I do it anyway, that’s way too much hurt for me to deal with in one day, why can’t people understand, if I don’t talk to them, how will they know, is the idea of depression really that covered, the world really isn’t designed for people with mental disorders is it, that sucks, there’s nothing I can do, I can’t get out of bed, I can’t find interest, I don’t want to read, I don’t want to watch anything, I don’t want to move, moving emotionally pains me, what would happen if I just weren’t here anymore, what am I going to do if I can’t handle life, I thought it would stop once I got away from my parents, guess not, I need to eat, I need to take a shower, I need to exercise, I need to be happy, I need to do everything that I’m not doing-which is everything-but I’m not, how am I doing nothing, how am I able to still be alive, maybe I’m not able……….ENTER: STAGE FOUR

^^Emotions: Hopelessness, exhaustion (mental/emotional, but it’s also physical), confusion, a sense of having given up, light anger, helplessness (sometimes) (or, like I can be helped, but it might not be good enough), distanced,

The fourth stage is one in which I have abandoned almost every single thing I have needed to do, with the exception of eating, going to the bathroom, and self-care (although, that’s minor.) I no longer have the energy to do anything positive and what little energy I do have is spent looking for a new world or way out of my life, out of me. I think you can be suicidal during any stage of depression, but I think this is the one where it really kicks in for me. (Well, it can. It doesn’t always and hasn’t in a while.)

^^Fourth stage’s relation to suicide: Out of all the stages I’ve mentioned, this one comes closest to suicide. I know how I’ve messed up. I see how I keep messing up. I see how bad I am. I see how bad life can be. I see how good life can be but it’s not. I see exactly how I’m incapable of doing what I’m supposed to do.

^^Thoughts: I can’t do this, why isn’t (insert good thing here) helping me feel better, I feel sick, I can’t eat, eating is all I can do, I’m so scared, but at this point I’d rather just let (whatever bad thing) happen to me, I can’t stop, it’s like I’m frozen, like I’m numb, but in a painful way, does anyone understand, does it matter, that doesn’t stop me from going through it, what can I do, nothing, (these next two if I’m feeling suicidal) so why am I still alive, why don’t I just end it……….ENTER: STAGE FIVE

^^Emotions: all types of exhaustion, helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, constant embarrassment, unworthiness, (It’s not an emotion, but either excessive hunger, like I need to eat, even if I’m full (usually makes me feel like crap after, or having no appetite or hunger at all))

The fifth stage is when it gets way worse. It’s my opinion that a person suffering in this stage should probably be hospitalized and watched (but there are the issues of money, isolation, and them being taken that far out of their comfort zone). I don’t mean this in a bad way, but, in my experience, this stage indicates that their life is in danger. They may not be suicidal, but if they’re not eating, then they could die regardless. For me, this stage involves me being bedridden still, and only getting up to do very small, very necessary things as infrequently as possible. I can hardly move during this stage. My movements are slow, my mind processes things slowly-much slower than normal-, and I am unable to cooperate at normal speed. I’m not sure what I’d do if there was an emergency while I was in this stage. There have been several times when I’ve almost called the campus police or almost called an emergency counseling session because of it. I’ve had to fake being sick or tired so many times because it was easier than explaining to people what was wrong with me. (Side note: my favorite explanation that someone came up with was that I was on drugs, to which I responded with, “I wish.”) I am very scared in this stage because I don’t know if I’ll come out alive. I don’t know what goes on physiologically with my body when this happens, and I don’t know how it’ll impact me in the future.

^^Fifth stage’s relation to suicide: close, very close, I find it very hard to not be at least lightly suicidal during this stage. I often have contemplated getting up my energy to commit suicide, because it was the least painful option and the only thing depression has prepared me for

^^Thoughts: ugh, I have to move** [see below], come on, Autumn, you have to move, just get up, ok, just move your arm, that’s it, grab your glasses, ok, you can see, ok, now, walk, don’t fall, come on, whoa the floor is moving, no, it’s just me, am I falling, why am I dizzy, why can’t I move, I wish I would’ve looked it up when I had the chance, not a lot of good that would do me now, what do I do, my phone is right there, I can call someone, no, just focus on what you’re doing, just focus, ok, now, move your leg, come on, teach yourself to walk again, that’s it, now, make sure you do what you’re supposed to instead of committing suicide…………ENTER: STAGE SIX

^^Emotions: Helplessness, hopelessness, worry, doubt/no confidence, joy at movement, temporary gratitude, sadness and fear at the realization of how bad things are

The sixth stage is a small, in-between stage. I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to add it, but it’s important. Before the last stage, I’ve experienced a time where I contemplate whether or not to commit suicide. This is usually done with a much clearer mind than what I’ve had in the previous stages. Besides this, all I really want during this stage is to be able to move again………ENTER: POSSIBLE FINAL STAGE/STAGE SEVEN

The seventh stage is one in which I come back from the fridge or counter or bathroom and fall when I get to my bed. At times, it’s taken me hours to be able to move from that exact spot. I don’t always land comfortably. I often experience my limbs going numb. It can take anywhere from minutes to and hour or two to be able to move my body. Often, if my mind is fixed on suicide, then most of my thoughts are blocked. Words don’t really exist in my mind/brain. All cognitive processes are at an all-time low. (I’m unsure of how my heart rate is during this stage. I imagine it’s pretty low, which I might want to look into….) With my movements, I’m either going to commit suicide or work to get better. So far, it’s been working to get better. During this stage, anything normal is out of the question. My eating habits have involved whatever I could get my hands on that didn’t have to be cooked, usually bread or tea. It helped to drink something instead of eating because I didn’t have to chew. My self-care involves showering when I feel sturdy enough (which, unfortunately, isn’t often). It involves me staying in the shower for possibly an hour or two at a time because I just can’t move fast enough (or at all) to do what I need to do.

It’s too painful to list the thoughts and emotions that go on during this stage. Sorry.

[See below notes:]

*which I, in no way, approve of, but my mind doesn’t let me focus on reality and it’s saved my life. Huh. Maybe I approve of it a little bit. It’s an odd sort of defense mechanism. And I guess if it’s keeping me alive, then it’s got to be worth something. Not that it will save the world, mind you, it’s just that it’s helped me.

**It’s amazing how depression turns common phrases into things that are so much worse.

NOTE: Nothing about what I’m trying to say involves imparting the belief that this is a cycle. It isn’t always. A person struggling with depression may never come back from the last stage. They may be dead. They may commit suicide once they get up the energy. I don’t know how to get people to take that seriously. I’ve dealt with a lot of people that have underestimated what I’ve been through, who haven’t understood, either purposefully misunderstanding or not, that have reassured me (through actions/words, not that I was convinced) that I would make it through and be ok. There may not be anything that says I’ll be ok, and even if there is, it could be wrong. I’m not suicidal now, I just want to impart the seriousness of depression and how having a mental disorder can affect me/people.

That being said, nothing in this implies that it won’t get better. It might. It can. I’m aware people may have told me it can and will get better because of them trying to offer me hope. If I’ve expressed negativity at this sentiment, it’s just to make the point that it’s not guaranteed, and that I don’t appreciate people saying that because they don’t care to know the details.

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The Stages of Depression I’ve Experienced and Their Relation to Suicide

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