A reader who has just started following my page decided to take the challenge and contribute a paper he just recently wrote for school. He would like to stay anonymous but is a senior in high school in the USA. He wrote what is called an ethnography which is the study of the human race and cultures. It is qualitative research where you write an in-depth description of everyday life. This is very anecdotal, so please share if you agree or disagree or if you would like me to write a more detailed add-on?
Depression is a serious medical condition but we have little feedback on how it affects people. Sure, doctors say depression causes you pain and changes your whole outlook on life but that is very broad. The purpose of my ethnography is to get inside the heads of people with depression. I will explore their feelings, emotions, what doctors have prescribed for them, mental as well as physical pains they feel and what they do in social situations. This will also show how people with depression are worse off in terms of getting jobs, being successful and having a normal life. For this ethnography, fake names will be written down because all of this information is confidential and privileged.
The first part of my venture was to go to a depression meeting. This was easy since it was an open forum and everything was confidential. I told the group that I was here to observe because I was not yet comfortable speaking. The forum leader said this was perfectly fine and almost nobody talks the first time. I said this publicly for quality assurance; I wanted everyone to think of me as part of the group. When going to a depression meeting, I was interested in their demeanor. It seemed that they acted normal when talking to people that I assume are friends. There were no symptoms to report or any strange actions. The significance lies in when we are openly able to discuss our feelings.
At first, no one participated and needed a little push from the instructor. When the people were talking, I noticed nervousness in their voices, stuttering, and a fear in their eyes when they were talking. None of them made direct eye contact with one another and mostly looked down when they were speaking. It looked like they were very uncomfortable. When the person was done speaking, you can see a sigh of relief on their faces.
It seemed that most of them did not want to admit they had a problem and that is why most of them were not on anti-depressant drugs. Most people think that they can control depression but medically this is a chemical imbalance that cannot be cured. The stories of pain they felt, the physical and mental pain and the overall anguish made me feel depressed. What opened my eyes about the seriousness of this disease is that some of them talked about how they sometimes felt suicidal but have never acted upon it.
To do this, I interviewed a good friend named John that has been depressed for a while. He has been put on so many pills with no avail in treating him. I asked him about the types of drugs and the side effects it may have caused. John replays, “I have been on so many drugs it is hard to count. I feel like I am a drug addict having so many pills stocked up in my closet. Drugs such as Ritalin, Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Effexor XR and Remeron are only a handful of what I have tried.”
He said that most of them did not work but the ones that did actually made things worse. He went in depth about how the drugs gave him a false sense of happiness. “I was forced to be happy which made things worse. I had no control over my emotions with this stuff and I felt like a damn drug addict all the time. I felt dizzy; my eyes were red and glassy but worse of all I felt like I was high. I was a freaking zombie for god sakes, everything I did was half-assed probably because I had no appetite and was weak as hell most of the time.” So he has refused drug treatment for now.
I find this very appalling that most doctors will just pound you will pills. There must be a better way to understand depression and be able to give them a drug that is right for them. There is too much trial and error and playing with emotions. Side effects that are most common with these drugs are severe lethargy, mania, loss of appetite, sleep disorders, and suicide. With all of the new drugs out there, a better diagnosis as to which drug will help the different types of symptoms should be established.
My second question was to another one of my close friends named Bill and it was in regards to the physical pain that he feels. Doctors talk about the pain but how does this affect his everyday life. What does it do to you mentally and is it controllable? He described the pain in terms of nervousness. Bill says “Have you ever had to do a presentation to a large audience? This is what I feel all the time. Minor situations that most people can calm themselves down would make my heart race. I get sweaty, my stomach starts to hurt, and I can feel the build up of acid, like the beginnings of an ulcer. I try to control the pain but how can you control something that is not there?”
“It seems my body makes a small situation a big deal and no matter how many deep breaths I take, it does not go away. Sometimes the pain just comes out of nowhere and this can really ruin a good time. Everything is fine but I get hit with a stomach pain as if I am guilty of something. The pains bring anguish and then I start to get even more depressed. I start to think about past events as if they have just happened. Most people think I am just over dramatic but I am not able to physically control it.”
This is terrible. Everybody doubts themselves at one time or another but to have self-doubt all the time is terrible. Knowing that there is no physical method of controlling it startles me. No matter how much you try to calm yourself down, the feelings of depression do not go away and this is very bad. I really do not know how he goes through this all the time. I am a good friend of his and he hides all of this very well. This will also hinder career opportunities as well because someone that always has self-doubt will never be able to take risks and make big deals and business moves. Also in big businesses presentations in are required and done often.
What happens when you are with friends? Do you go through self-withdrawal or are you unable to generate interests for things you like? My friend Marla says, “I do have friends and am very close to them but I do not actually need them. When I go out, I do not really have fun at all. When I go to clubs, bars or play sports, I do this just to keep occupied but would have the same interest in just staying home alone.
Most of the time my friends sucker me into going out, so I just go for them, not really for me.” “My friends do not believe me when I say I do not have fun and think that I am over dramatic but most people do not understand the way I am feeling. When I go out, to clubs, surrounded by all these people I become intimidated. It seems like I see more flaws in myself and start to size myself up with everyone else.”
Just hanging out with my friends, I have seen this problem arise numerous times. Most people think that a person with depression can just take a deep breath and make the problems go away. Depression is a serious medical condition and is uncontrollable by a person without proper treatment. People should understand when they do not want to go somewhere they should not be pushed. If they are ready to go then they will tell you. All you can do is offer advice and encourage a person but do not peer pressure them into doing it because this will only make them feel worse.
Does this seem like a form of bi-polar disease? Bill states “I am not sure because this it is hard to explain what is going on. I know that I am good looking and in good shape but sometimes I get a voice that puts me down. I feel like I am small, out of shape, fat and ugly. I know this is not true but then I still seem to think about it looking at myself asking other people if they think I look bad.”
Again, this stresses the part about succeeding in life. Having another voice that makes you feel bad about yourself will lower your expectations about yourself and you will never be able to strive for the best. I noticed that my friends that are diagnosed with depression need constant reassurance. For example, he needed approval for a project he was doing. She told him that the topic was all right numerous times but he had to keep asking her as well as others every step of the way if he was following the guidelines. He is a very intelligent person and does very well in school but he always feels like he is doing something wrong.
What about as a child, did you have any of the symptoms of depression? John replays “I think that this is genetic because my family members were also treated for depression at one point. My teachers thought I had ADHD because I was very obsessive compulsive and my grades were very sporadic. I actually had a teacher tell me that I would be dead at the age of 21 because of the stress and anxiety I suffered.
I had no trouble speaking to my friends but my teachers noticed how nerve racking I became when speaking to a large group or to people I was not comfortable with. The only people that really knew me were my close friends because I shun most people away and I act much differently to people that I am not familiar with. I was known by some as a blabbermouth and by others as a mute.”
I hope my ethnography made people much more aware of the hardships these people must go through each and every day. The three friends I interviewed supported this ethnography because they really wanted to get the word out on how serious this condition is. First off, they wanted to send a message to the pharmacy companies and doctors to find an alternative method of treatment.
Everybody with depression does not have the same symptoms, so why have only one type of drug. Trial and error is a horrible method of treatment when playing with someone’s feelings and emotions. It would be nice for the first drug they select for you is successful but that is not the case for most people. Trying multiple drugs brings multiple side effects and this is why most people refuse treatment. From the interviews, you can see that they are living a horrible life. They cannot experience life to the fullest. Being scared all the time, having self-doubt, being obsessive compulsive, having internal physical and mental pain, is no way to live life.
This ethnography is also here to educate students, parents and people diagnosed with depression around the world. Most people are not open with their depression because people are ignorant about this disease. None of the people I interviewed want pity or for people to feel sorry for them. They already learned to deal with their hardships until they are ready to try treatment again.
Actually, most of them believe that talking to friends helps a lot with getting their emotions off their chest. This is not a cure but it helps them relief some of the stresses and emotions they are feeling. People without depression still have these feelings every so often, so others can relate. We think that the talking and listening is why they have cured a great deal over time. We talk with each other frequently and have deep, frequent discussions about feelings and emotions in a non-judgmental way. Because we are such good friends, they are able to say anything they want knowing that we are all there to help and not spread rumors later on. What we say is private and I would never make fun of them for what they tell me.
The three people I interviewed hope this ethnography helps either a person with depression to seek advice and talk to a friend, family member or loved one or for friends and family members to step up and have a deep, meaningful, private discussion with someone they think is depressed. Remember talking about your feelings is good for the mind, body, and soul. High amounts of stress and anxiety are bad for the heart and can lower life expectancy.
They hope that people learn that this disease is no joke and should not be taken lightly. All of the feelings that were expressed were completely true. This is what they feel and how they act. My report was unbiased and we are very open with each other so all this information is true. So for the people who say just suck it up, or you are weak if you can’t control your own body, think twice before you say that because you cannot fathom the pain they go through each and every day.