My garden depression is not a disorder
The amount of times I’ve convinced myself that I have a depressive disorder when what I had was actually a normal response to events in my life…too many to mention without an ounce of shame.
For one, I know what depression looks like. I diagnose and manage patients with depression for a living. Secondly, I know what entails a “disorder” – it has a lot to do with how well, or not, you function when your state of mind tells you that life sucks, nothing matters and everything is a scam.
In this here post, I’d like to get into what actually constitutes a (major) depressive disorder, a depressive episode, and garden depression (which is not a real term, but I refer to it the same way Cardi B refers to a garden snake, as opposed to, well, a king cobra).
To have a (major) depressive episode, one would have to meet some criteria, according to the DSM-5 manual. An episode would have to occur for at least two weeks, and significantly distress the person or disrupt their work and social life. At least five of the following need to be happening during the two-week period, nearly all day, nearly everyday, to officially call it a major depressive episode:
• Depressed mood
• Lack of interest in, or enjoyment from, almost all activities
• Significant weight change (loss or gain) or change in appetite
• Changes in sleep (excessive sleep or inability to sleep)
• Changes in level of activity (restlessness or being slowed down)
• Loss of energy
• Feeling worthless, excessively guilty
• Inability to concentrate; indecisiveness
• Constant thoughts of death, constant suicidal thoughts, with or without a plan or attempt
To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, one would have to have at least one major depressive episode.
What I had experienced, when diagnosing myself with depression, was never enough to be called a disorder. Other names for my experiences of “garden range depression” are grief, bereavement, sadness, PMS, etc. Although valid, my feelings of “depression” have never included those other points (not at the same time that is) and I have never missed work because of it (perhaps more a case against being fearful of losing my job and becoming broke and poor, than against my depression not being severe enough to disrupt my functioning. Who’s to say?).
So what of it?
Anyway, I say all this to remind everyone that, we live in a society that has glamorized mental illness, to a point where people might either overestimate their normal healthy response to life and self-diagnose as having depressive disorders, or, conversely, underestimate a very legitimate mental illness in themselves for fear of being called an attention-seeker because of trends. Both kinds of people would benefit from seeing a professional, and getting therapy. However, only one might require more than therapy, that is, antidepressants.
My last word: of course mental ill-health has increased. What with the world we’re currently living in…of course depression and anxiety abound. Ours is to be gentle and kind with ourselves, and with others. And, for me, this is work, quite literally, my job.