Thursday, June 4, 2009

Depression and Motor Skill Retardation © Megan Snider

"Der Tod, das ist die kühle Nacht,
Das Leben ist der schwüle Tag.
Es dunkelt schon, mich schläfert,
Der Tag hat mich müd' gemacht.
Über mein Bett erhebt sich ein Baum,
Drin singt die junge Nachtigall;
Sie singt von lauter Liebe,
Ich hör es sogar im Traum."

--Heine (87.) (Click to read)

Literal translation (by Megan Snider)

I have omitted confusing elements of German grammar for the reader's sake

The death is the cool night
The life is the hot day
It will be dark soon; I'll sleep
The day has made me tired
Over my bed rises a tree
In it sings the young Nightingale
She sings loudly about love
I hear it as if from a dream

I'm not sure why I'm writing this post. I guess to get it out in the open. I'm writing again from Hell. I will make no corny jokes about the floor show or the waiting list or the occupants. As far as I can see the occupancy is one. No, I am not boo-hooing into a glass of whiskey. I am downing Diet Pepsi and working on drafts and rewrites sluggishly as I type to you. This is called depression and it is real.

Heine wrote in his poem about how life was a hot day and death was the cool night. As he writes, the singing Nightingale on a branch semi-wakes him to the thought of love and life and he despairs. I love this poem. I related to my counselor that I pray before I go to sleep that I won't wake up. Not to disturb anyone, but wouldn't it be nice just to drift off in a Xanax dream and never wake up again?

Ah, maybe I scare you. I apologize, reader(s). I'm not sure if you've come here because you know what this place is about or you want to know what this place is about. Sometimes I am afraid to be honest, because I am unsure how my words reverberate in your mind.

I wanted to write to you today about a symptom related to severe depression, which I have. I cannot say I battle it; to this day it has me pinned. When it gets bad-- when men reject me or lead me on, then off, when friends hurt me, when love sours, when I am made a fool-- I crumble.

The French word for orgasm is "petit mort" which means, "little death." As a German speaker and of German ancestry, naturally, I spit at the French and I'm not quite sure why they would call an orgasm that. Petit mort would be a better term for depression. Severe depression could then be the "big death" or, as we Deutsche say, "Der große Tod."

What's wrong with the French, anyway?

Now, now, that's enough of that. Break it up, you two.

So, let's talk about the big death. Severe (Clinical) Depression will kill you. You can forget your petit morts with depression altogether. Now, what I wanted to talk about specifically is the retardation of motor skills seen with severe depression. People assume naturally that it is cliche to shut down with depression. Oh, oh, no, it is not.

Let me share something with you for the sake of making a point. The night after I graduated from college, I knew everything was over for me. I have Panic Disorder. That means I have panic attacks every day-- even if I don't leave the house. For those of you who have never experienced a panic attack and believe a little panic is nothing to worry about, I envy you in your ignorance.

I have overwhelming depression. There was a character in the film "Gormenghast" who went around prophetically yelling, "DARKNESS! DARKNESS!" It was hilarious to watch, but I may as well be that man.

So, back to the story for illustration. The night after I graduated, I knew I was doomed. Job worthy by credentials, yes, job un-worthy by the mentals, yes, of course. So, I thought that it might be a nice night to drink. Usually when I say drink I mean pop or coffee or juice, but this time I meant liquor.

I had never drank before.

I drove to the county line liquor store and bought the cheapest Vodka I could find. It's all the same poison-- right? Down the hatch. I took it home and when my parents went to bed, I began to drink. I had panic attacks while drinking, but I kept going. It could be due to the German genes in me or the alcoholism in my family, but I could not stop drinking. I wanted to drink until I forgot my life and forgot that I was mentally ill. That point never came. That point will never come-- no matter if you drink pop, juice, or vodka. I drank for three hours straight non stop. Sip, sip, sip from a kitchen cup, waiting for the pleasant numb of oblivion. Do I need to tell you again that it never came?

I recall a point where it hurt to move and I laid in one position. Here's where the point comes in-- that feeling, that pain upon movement and life-- is depression at its deepest, darkest core. When you hit the bottom, it hurts to live. Like Heine said, the sunlight sears, the darkness cools-- the singing of the bird from the branch brings moans and pangs of torture-- of knowing that you have survived the night and must continue on alone, again, pretending that the thought of another day isn't a bloody nose or a fat lip or a crushed eye socket.

When severe depression hit again yesterday, for reasons I must not disclose, I was unable to move or work. I laid in bed all day. No T.V. blaring, no fans to cool me, no books, no noise-- only text messages from "friends" telling me how I'd "failed" and "blew it." I can't tell you what I am writing about, I can only tell you the circumstances.

I rose oh so slowly to go downstairs to take a dose of God-knows-what for God-knows-why, thinking that my parents would be in bed. My mother was still up. As she spoke to me she pointed out that I moved and spoke slowly and inquired if I had overdosed on benzodiazepines. I had not. What she was seeing, as my counselor and I agreed, was motor retardation applied to severe depression. It's not laziness. It's not overdose. It's literally walking death.

Motor skill retardation is the screeching halt of the muscles. The gait slows, the mouth slows, the eyes slow, the arms and legs, the twisting and pulling-- everything shuts down and switches off. Why? Because the mind has slowed and has given up hope. The body follows the mind. Evidence shows that during major depressive episodes fine motor skills slow as well as gross motor skills.

Fine motor skills are movements of small muscles such as in the fingers, thumbs, and eyes. This also applies to hand eye coordination.

Gross motor skills usually follow patterns and involve large muscles, which develop before small, intricate muscles. Babies usually learn gross motor skills first in addition to learning how to control their eye movements.

Retardation of these skills hints to a deep problem. I suppose that no longer wanting to live could be considered a deep problem. This is not written for offense or shock value-- rather for "truth" value.

Think about that and watch for it in your loved ones. Sometimes things are not so easy to define in life. Watch, look, and listen. Someone might need you.

© Megan Snider

Sources Cited:

Fine Motor Skills
Gross Motor Skills

Author's note: Ah, yes, I realize the era of citing from Wikipedia is over and it is frowned upon. It is still good for the general once-over glance in my humble opinion. Sometimes I need information quickly and simply, like one might need a hamburger quickly and simply-- hence, Wikidonald's.


  1. Hello Megan,

    In an earlier post you remarked about patient with physical illness - cancer and AIDS - being considered courageous for dealing heroically with their conditions. In my opinion, you deal heroically with yours. My heart aches for your suffering. So very much you are teaching your readers. It is heartbreaking that you have to experience this so that we can learn more about how tragic and debilitating it is, but a blessing to read your descriptions so that we can better understand our own disorders, and those with whom we live, work and otherwise co-exist.

    I have always found your descriptions very well done - accurate because "vague" IS how we feel when we're in the deepest end of the pool. Everything is dull, so it seems impossible to pinpoint the exactness of it.

    Sleep, Megan. Sleep this night away and we will hope for a better day tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.


  2. Ah, thank you. Hopefully I'll sleep. I always found it strange when drug addicts would say, "Everything feels too real." I have never felt "real" enough. This blog isn't about feeling bad for me, because I know other go through worse.

    I've always had the fear of developing schizophrenia and hearing voices, which is interesting since I may have high functioning schizophrenia, scizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder which are all related. But, as long as there are no voices, I can survive, I believe.

    We've got to dispell the #$%$^%$ stigma about mental illness. People with mental illness are basically SCARED out of their minds-- it doesn't help if others are SCARED OF us. What nonsense!

    The options are mind-numbing drugs or mind-numbing fear.

    There must be something better somewhere other than this crippling fear or crippling pain that starts up in the brain and paralyzes the body.

    I have to admit that I don't know what to do most of the time, but if that is all I can admit at this time, then I will do it gladly. Billions of diseases had no cure. Right now we cannot cure the mind-- despite the doctors and their overpaid psychobabble.

    I hope one day we will be able to look back on this all and realize we HAVE come far-- not for my sake, but for that of everyone else in my shoes.

  3. How can someone be so intelligent and yet so inept? That's what severe depression does to me. I believe I have destroyed another career opportunity with my shrinking sense of self, fear of rejection, anger and frustration. I just can't seem to trust myself around others. All of my emotions are so close to the skin.

    I actually lost my way to work the other day -- I have driven there five days a week for six months. This mental/physical/emotional retardation is dangerous and I think it's consuming me.