What is Depression?
Sometimes it’s hard to put a feeling into words, but family therapist Edvardo Archer can vividly describe the experience of depression:
“It feels like a cloak that is on you wherever you go and sometimes the shadow of it feels consuming”
Our assessments reveal that the majority of moms in crisis come into the ĒMA program showing some signs of depression. So we sat down with Eddie to learn more about this important subject and what helps and hurts.
What Depression Feels Like
It’s easy to throw the word “depression” around without really knowing what it means. A depressive mood is something we all might experience in life at times, while major depressive disorder (also known as clinical depression) is a persistent state that interferes with daily life.
Eddie explains that clinical depression is defined by two symptoms that must be present for at least two weeks or more:
- A depressed mood
- Loss of interest and pleasure
People suffering from clinical depression may also be experiencing weight loss, physical fatigue, energy loss, feelings of worthlessness, and even thoughts about death (ranging from the mild existential crisis to serious suicidal ideation). While some of these symptoms are easy to spot, others are more hidden.
“The key thing you notice is this weight and shadow that hovers around you,” Eddie says. “Some days it is small and you can manage. Some days it is really heavy and really big.”
Causes of Depression
Depression is often triggered by life stressors or major changes. Research has suggested it may even be a coping mechanism the brain uses to protect us during traumatic experiences. Depression can be experienced at any age, although it is common in puberty and around major life changes.
Regardless of when or where it happens, depression typically presents in episodes. It is different for every person. Depression might last for two weeks each quarter, a crash once a month, or occur seasonally around Christmas or the anniversary of a painful event.
Understanding its causes doesn’t make depression go away, but reflecting on what prompts an episode can help a person preempt and put strategies in place to deal with it when it comes. It can be helpful to ask yourself or the person you are journeying with: “what could be triggering this?”
Dealing with Depression
Moms in crisis are particularly vulnerable to depression.
“All of the life stressors–the inability to meet basic needs, homelessness, unemployment, lack of community–it’s so easy to become that broken version of yourself,” says ĒMA founder & CEO Charlee Tchividjian.
Eddie agrees wholeheartedly that to have healthy communities we need healthy families, which start with healthy, whole individuals. Depression is one thing that can shadow a person’s life and empty them of hope and joy.
It is important to note that clinical depression may never go away. In fact, Eddie says that should not be our goal–either as people experiencing those feelings or as the friend supporting someone else through it.
“Your intention is not to make it go away, but to begin to walk with them,” he says. “To help them function alongside it.”
It is critical to retrain ourselves to see depression not as something to be erased, but as an experience people can learn to live through. The main characteristic of clinical depression is that it interferes with a person’s daily life. So overcoming it is the long journey of each small step that keeps someone functioning through that depression.
For moms in crisis who carry so much weight and responsibility–not only for themselves but for their children–walking that journey is not easy. But ĒMA is dedicated to equipping and empowering them to raise their children in stable and nurturing homes.
ĒMA surrounds vulnerable mothers with a faith-based community of women. Certified ĒMA Advocates and our Case Management team provide mothers with a full spectrum of support. Our evidence-based education equips mothers to improve their parenting skills, emotional health, and financial stability. Court advocacy provides mothers experiencing child welfare involvement with individualized case management, service coordination, and in-court support to ensure her children remain in her care or are safely reunified. Lastly, moms in need of mental health support are connected to therapeutic services.
Through our 1:1 advocacy model, ĒMA has witnessed an 84% decrease in depressive symptoms in moms who participate!
“Families are the bedrock of our society,” Charlee says. “Ground zero is the stability of the family.”
This article adapted from a video interview of Eddie Archer and Charlee Tchividjian. Watch the video here.