Depths Of Depression

The world lost a good man this week.  He ultimately succumbed, as so many have before him, to the ravages of depression, and those who knew him, personally or professionally, are devastated.

Depression is such a terrible, pernicious condition.  It isn’t readily apparent when people are suffering from depression.  It isn’t visible, like a broken leg or a wasting disease.  Often people who are depressed try, successfully, to hide it from casual acquaintances — but the blackness and anguish and despair are always there, brooding and lingering under the surface, ready to pull them down again and again and again, until they just can’t tolerate it any longer.

Those of us who are fortunate, and who don’t suffer from chronic depression, can’t possibly understand what it truly means to be depressed.  It’s like a person who has known only perfect health trying to understand what it is like to live with constant, crippling pain.  You can’t comprehend the life-changing impact of permanent pain until you personally experience sustained physical torment whenever you draw a breath.  For the depressed person, the agony is just as real and just as unbearable.

Because depression doesn’t have physical manifestations, and because many people who suffer from depression are embarrassed by their condition, it’s difficult to measure just how widespread the problem of chronic depression really is.  Some estimate that as many as 1 in 6 Americans suffer from that affliction, with an economic cost of tens of billions of dollars.

But those are just numbers.  The real cost is in the losses suffered by families and friends who lose a loved one.  The real cost is the death of each person who was a good father and husband and friend, an active participant in his community and his workplace and his children’s lives, someone who made a real difference in other people’s lives.  When such special people lose their battle to this dreadful condition, the cost is incalculable.