December 2, 2020:

I'm playing with the Beck Depression Inventory, a standard measure of the severity of the illness.

Today my score is 26: marginally toward the higher end of Moderate. Things are not perfect but have been far worse.

From curiosity I try the quiz retrospectively, remembering the way I felt throughout the two worst years of breakdown. Score 44, Severe, but not as bad as it gets.

You have to feel compassion for those with higher scores. I don't know how to imagine their suffering. It's clear though how my experience differed from theirs. Although in terrible pain I never felt badly about my self. I did not feel that I was physically ugly, did not hate myself, was not actively seeking ways to die. I believed there was a future, if only I could find the way, where the immediate priority was to hang on through the horror that was the present. Hanging on was exhausting, struggling to find that future I believed in was exhausting, fighting to move each foot one after the other was exhausting. There are people whose experience is infinitely worse. My heart goes out to them.

Thinking back to my gap year after high school, at the peak of teenage onset. Score 46, a hair above what I remember as the period of greatest pain. At that time I did believe I was ugly, did hate myself, did feel there was no hope. Lost weight, lost interest in people, lost interest in sex. Was easily fatigued, found it difficult indeed to make decisions. Fell into lethargy, social anxiety, agoraphobia, drugs. Curiously the quiz doesn't ask about language skills, which at that time were significantly degraded. Yet there are people in far worse shape. The scale goes to 63, and I truly cannot imagine.

The BDI does a good job, I think, of illustrating the widely contrasting forms depression can take. Differing not only from individual to individual, but also from one time of life to another.