Your alarm clock goes off in the morning after a night of restless tossing and turning. You slowly get out of bed and feel “off”. Maybe you’ve felt that way for a couple of weeks. Showering is exhausting, and getting dressed takes so much energy that you’re ready to crawl right back into bed. You think to yourself – “why bother? Nobody is going to notice if I miss work, anyway.” You struggle with feeling like maybe you don’t deserve that job– that someone as worthless as you couldn’t possibly be the best fit. You’ve had a hard time making decisions lately, and you just can’t stay focused on anything in front of you. Your friends group-text about your bi-weekly hobby, but you aren’t looking forward to it like normal. You groan and make an excuse – you don’t care to go anymore and have no motivation to force yourself to do so. There’s already so much you’ve had to force yourself to do lately – your lack of appetite has even made eating a dull daily ritual. You have to, though, because without force feeding yourself, the fatigue would pull you under. Attempting to sleep more doesn’t help, either. The bed that used to welcome you after a long day now taunts you. You crave mental peace, but in the dark and quiet hours of the night, you stare at the ceiling while your thoughts race and ruminate, spinning around extreme self-guilt and shame. You do this same, zombie-like routine day after day. You feel numb, wanting to feel anything at all, but all you can do is sink deeper into your hopelessness that nothing will ever get better. You wonder if things would be better off if you didn’t wake up one more dreadful morning – if your family would be better off without you, if you’d escape the endless pain. Maybe you research suicide methods, or even attempt suicide. You feel irritable, getting easily frustrated over minor things. People begin to notice that something is wrong with you – you’re moving more slowly, yet can’t sit still. This deepens your frustration, sadness, and feeling that you’re the problem.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) most commonly appears in early 20s. Some individuals rarely experience a remission of symptoms while others go years without experiencing a major episode.
Genetics allow a predisposition for MDD, and an early onset can likely be attributed to genetics. Adverse childhood experiences, stress, and trauma are environmental factors that contribute to development. Neuroticism is a well-established risk factor, particularly in response to stressful life events. Another explanation is brain chemistry. Neurotransmitters in our brain can become imbalanced, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.
Bilateral stimulation uses our body in a rhythmic way via auditory, visual, or tactile means, alternating right and left-brain stimulation. Tapping your knees back and forth, tapping your feet, and even running facilitates bilateral stimulation, aiding emotional processing so that emotionally charged thoughts and memories cause less distress. This may be because the dual attention task induces a REM sleep like mental state in which we can process emotions, or because we’re able to access the trauma memory network, forging new mental associations.
Additionally, know your triggers – we can’t prevent an episode, but we can manage it if we’re aware. Generate structure throughout your day, including a sleep routine and daily schedule to stick to. Do any exercise – walking to the mailbox beats staying in bed all day.
If this resonated with you, know that you’re not the problem and it isn’t your fault. Reach out – you can find further relief through counseling.