The Chemistry of Despair

Laying in a hospital bed recovering from surgery, I felt uncomfortable, drugged, and depressed – very depressed – so depressed that for the first time in my life thoughts of suicide arose.

A nurse appeared to check on me. I tell her about the emotional abyss I’d fallen into. “Do you feel any pain anywhere?” she questions me. “No.” I turn away and stare out the window. I could feel my breathing slow. The room lacked light – it seemed so much darker than I recall hospital rooms being. The nurse must have turned down the lights, I figured.

Staring out the window at the machinery in between wings of the hospital, I saw no future, certainly not one I wanted to experience. Only dark days lay ahead, full of lonely isolation, failure, and despair. My investments had failed, I was unemployed, my home’s value was half what it was two years before, and sunny days were nowhere in the future. Nothing could shake this overwhelming knowingness of doom, dread, and despair I felt to my core.

It was March. A light rain littered the tiny room window with its tears. It was 7 pm and I was alone in a hospital bed with no worthwhile future – only rainy bleak days to look forward to. I should have been dead, surviving an extremely dangerous surgery, but gratitude was farthest from my mind. Life was no longer worth living…

“This is not me!” I suddenly and emphatically shouted to no one in the room.”FEELING is not BEING!” – “It’s the chemicals speaking! I REFUSE to listen!!!”

I closed my eyes and told myself that the feelings of despair were the result of the anesthesia medication. I was experiencing the chemistry of despair – which WILL PASS.

Within an hour, I realized that my sweetheart had been by my side the entire time – she was there with me when I went into surgery and was there with me again when I awoke afterward. The chemicals kept me from realizing that I was NEVER ALONE. The despair was entirely an ILLUSION! And, oh, boy, what a POWERFUL illusion it was!

Two later surgical procedures using the same anesthesia gave me two more bouts with despair-level depression. Each convinced me that my initial diagnosis was correct – my depression was caused by chemistry – rather than my life circumstances. My interpretation of my life circumstances was SKEWED by chemistry. If I were to wait just a few hours I would invariably feel fine again – back to my normal cheerful self, grateful to be alive.

Some folks experience a sense of despair over much longer periods of time – and I wager for the very same reason – chemical imbalance rather than life circumstances. Some find a “solution” in suicide – and had I had the opportunity, I wonder if I might have chosen the same route when I felt that level of despair. My heart understands now what they experience everyday – yet the feeling of despair IS NOT THEM – it’s a FEELING and is probably due the chemistry of despair.

Some people experience that level of depression for a relatively short period of time – hours, days, or at most weeks. I’m talking about acute depression or periodic acute depression – usually triggered by some event. However, I contend that what they INGEST may be a major contributor to their sense of despair. I felt it and know its gripping terror – the black hole abyss of darkness within – IT SUCKS!!

Your body chemistry IS NOT YOU!

If you suddenly find yourself feeling depressed to the point of despair – assessing your life as worthless, dark, and futureless, I wonder what might happen were you to suddenly and emphatically blurt out:

“This is not me! I’m not like this! When my body chemistry comes back into balance, I’ll feel much differently than I do now…” etc.

Then go eat an apple or other fresh fruit to CHANGE YOUR BRAIN’S CHEMISTRY!

If chemistry can bring on despair, chemistry can remove it, too!

I admit I had little true empathy for my clients reporting feelings of despair – I didn’t understand the level of soul pain involved – until it happened to me. I wish I had had the experience prior to meeting certain clients. I feel my level of empathy for them would have been much greater. BTW, I referred most clients reporting deep depression to competent and licensed resources where their chemical imbalances might better get addressed.

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