Depression, like many mental issues, depends entirely on how you characterize the requirements for something to qualify as depression. I’m no psychologist; I don’t even play one on TV. However, my understanding is that true depression requires that it not be result of a life event, so, let’s talk about cancer and depression.
It’s Not Depression, It’s Cancer
It is expected that finding out you have multiple myeloma will trigger some negative emotions, but is that cancer depression?
It doesn’t matter. There is really no benefit, for me at least, to having depression as opposed to having a natural reaction to learning that you have cancer and that it will affect you for the rest of your life.
There are prescriptions available, of course. Frankly, my multiple myeloma oncologist seems fine with writing me a prescription for whatever I need, so I bet if I asked I could get some sort of antidepressant. Of course, they might make me talk to that counselor again… 😣
I guess this is why it matters whether or not it’s a natural reaction to having cancer, or if it is depression.
What Is Depression?
I have ADHD. I’ve spent a lot of time researching ADHD and learning what ADHD is. The most important thing to understand is that ADHD isn’t just getting distracted, or having a hard time focusing. ADHD caused by actual biological differences in the types or amounts of neurochemicals generated by the brain, and its reaction to them.
In other words, ADHD is biological. You can’t fix it with attitude adjustments or by trying harder. You can use various ADHD tricks to manage how your brain works, and subsequently how you go through life, but you can’t flush out the root biological cause with behavior modification.
When it comes to depression, there seems to be a biological component. Ironically, many of the same neurochemicals that cause ADHD also cause depression. The two issues are often comorbid conditions, although more people with ADHD also have depression than people with depression have ADHD.
However, depression can also be something that gets caused or triggered later in life. One could argue that this makes some depression a mental thing, like PTSD, where the brain just responds differently than it once did.
One can also look at the increasing evidence that the brain changes over time, a concept known as neuroplasticity. If the brain has a biological change that now produces, or fails to produce, the proper neurochemicals, depression can be something that is triggered.
What Does Cancer Depression Feel Like?
Where does that leave me?
Well, I’m going to call it cancer depression even if I don’t have any formal diagnosis. I’m doing this for two reasons. One, it appears to be a semi-permanent thing, easily triggered. Two, it doesn’t feel like me. I mean, I didn’t feel like this before, so something has happened.
What does cancer depression feel like?
Like most things, both in life and with this stupid disease, it can be different for everyone. For me it’s not sadness so much as a crushing apathy that comes from knowing that the clock is ticking much faster for you than everyone else. Even if you don’t checkout, there is still a solid chance that you won’t physically be able to continue what you start, whether it’s the fatigue from the chemo, or an unexpected hospital stay.
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Going through life with your brain set to “It Doesn’t Matter” is tricky, and it’s new for me. Unlike my ADHD, I don’t have any tips or tricks to help.
Time for some research.
For now, I don’t think I’ll ask about the antidepressants, but that might change in the future.