Emotional Coma, or Vegetative Depression
[August 3, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
It was very difficult for me to admit to anyone that I had experienced an “emotional coma” (that’s what I was calling it). It happened twice that I can remember, possibly three times in my first (highly dysfunctional) marriage. My emotions would become overloaded and they would shut down. I went to bed and stayed there for over 24 hours. I could not move, could not eat, could not cry. I just laid there as the hours went by. I was particularly ashamed of what happened because it must have scared the children. The two oldest remember and we have talked about it several times. I remember one time my ex was following me around the house saying something that he wanted me to believe. I knew they were lies. I could not shut him out and I could not break free. I cannot remember very clearly but it seemed he wanted me to admit something that was not true. It was crazy-making, for sure. But I could not cope….and so I shut down.
A darkness settled over me.
Friends called and tried to “get me going” again….told me to snap out of it. I am not sure what motivated me to function again. I truly believe that my mind and emotions simply needed rest. There was always a fight going on. I needed to gather my forces.
I only told one or two people about this because it was used, in my life, to show me how sinful and crazy I was. Incidentally, I have not had any such darkness since I left him two years ago. I have been able to cowboy up in the bleakest of circumstances. But, I never shut down again.
In my crisis and trauma certification training a few days ago, I was taught that there is actually a name for what happened to me. It is called “Vegetative Depression”. Goodness. I cannot tell you dear readers how validated I felt when I understood that this is actually a thing. And, it is not only a thing but it is considered a “red flag symptom” of a person who is in the midst of a massive crisis response. It signals a total emotional break-down — or the fact that emotions are debilitating. I was not crazy! My mind and emotions were only trying to survive! It is considered a “normal response” to trauma and I had no idea. The Psy. D who was teaching the course said that if a person begins to go into a vegetative depression, that it is our job (as crisis counselors) to recognize that they need help right away.
What a relief to know that I was not sinking into the depths of hell (for that is how it felt). It was, indeed, a hopeless place to be in such an emotional coma….it was guilt-ridden for I was unable to care for those who needed me….and it only added to a growing belief that I was crazy.
If you have experienced this type of depression, please do not feel ashamed. Sometimes, our very souls cannot handle what is happening to us. We hide, we ball up, we wither. Our bodies and minds understand, subconsciously, what must happen in order to preserve our own sanity.
[August 3, 2022: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to August 3, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
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