JOURNAL ENTRY 1
DATE – Friday 5th May, 2017
WARNING – THIS POST MAY CAUSE DISTRESS AMONGST SENSITIVE READERS.
I think I’d like to tackle a difficult subject which both myself and many of my friends know all too well – living with depression. Now, of course, everybody experiences depression in their own way, and I by no means am attempting to dictate how others who may have this affliction are feeling. I am merely here to describe how it affects my own personal being. There are many different symptoms of depression, some unfortunately being quite invisible, and many different challenges to face – but at the same time, there are always various ways to overcome such issues.
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Depression, contrary to popular belief, is not just ‘feeling sad’. If someone claimed they were feeling depressed because, I don’t know, their favourite football team lost a match earlier that day, then yes that is a cause for commiseration, but that is not necessarily depression. Depression is a constant state of low mood in which an affected person may feel anxious, isolated, worthless, angry and, yes, sad. Depression can cause many different issues such as a loss of interest in once-enjoyable activities, lack of appetite and energy, fatigue, insomnia, desire to self-harm and, in extreme circumstances, commit suicide.
WHY IS DEPRESSION SO DANGEROUS?
Depression is a very nasty mental illness to have and the clue is in the title – MENTAL illness. One cannot physically see symptoms of depression as one may see symptoms of a cold – such as a runny nose – due to it being a illness of the mind rather than the body, and so it is common for depression to be cast off as simply a ‘downer’. It is what is known as an invisible illness. Whereas someone may be offered a hot drink and a blanket by a friend if suffering from a cold, that same friend may just instruct someone suffering with depression to take a walk in the sun, or do an activity they enjoy, as a cure-all to mental illness. This is not the case, and is a very dangerous mentality to have. If you have a friend suffering with depression, the likelihood is they will not experience the same pleasure from these activities as they normally would, and therefore would not recover from depression – if anything, they would probably feel worse for their friend to not understand how their mind is working. Of course, the condition of depression can extend to thoughts of self-harm and suicide, which brings the dangers of the mental illness to physical bare.
MY EXPERIENCES OF DEPRESSION
I started experiencing true depression around six years ago, when my father passed away from cancer. My depression is one that fluctuates – some days I can be in a better frame of mind than others, and due to no outside influence from circumstances around me. Of course, if something bad happens then my depression can be triggered in that sense, too. But most of the time I pray for a good day when I feel I can muster the willpower in my head to actually get up and do anything. I’ll put it this way – someone with fibromyalgia would struggle to get up and do anything on bad days where physical pain racks their body. I struggle to get up and do anything on bad days where I may not necessarily be in physical pain, but I’m unable to ‘unlock’ myself from my head and muster up the willpower. I’m not comparing myself to sufferers of fibro – that’s another nasty illness on its own merit, another invisible illness, and I am friends of people with fibro and I offer full support to each and every one of them. My depression has also often led to a complete lack of appetite and insomnia on occasion – there has been instances a few times of me going about three/four days without any sleep or nourishment. This causes physical health issues, too. A few times I’ve had someone come up and say to me, ‘Wow, you look a lot skinnier than you used to’. Whilst I’m sure this is a statement with good intention, it doesn’t help when I know exactly why that’s the case – it’s not a good reason. Depression has gotten to the point where I’ve been unable to attend university for four months on end, and as a result I’m probably only going to get a foundation degree rather than the full sh-bang – if that. I have also self-harmed, as recently as a couple of weeks ago, and whilst this has a stigma attached to it as seeking attention and such – wait, stop there. If someone, as you say, is self harming for attention, why draw a point as to this rather than the fact that maybe they’re seeking attention because they need help? Would you call someone out for seeking attention if they’re waving their arm for help after being run down? Even so, most of the time self-harming isn’t for attention – at least, not for me anyway. It’s a release – a physical adrenaline rush that can help relieve problematic emotions I may be experiencing. Now, of course, this is a dangerous way to deal with depression, and I would fully recommend seeking professional advice for other means of dealing with depression before self-harming. This brings me on to my next point.
SPOTTING THE WARNING SIGNS
You should automatically recognise the warning signs of depression if you know what they are. If you see any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to speak up about it. If a loved one is being affected by depression, they may not have the strength to see a doctor until someone makes it clear it’s the best thing for them. Your concern can motivate the affected person to seek help. Symptoms include:
- A loss of interest in work, hobbies, and other pleasurable activities. A withdrawal from friends, family, and other social activities.
- A bleak or negative outlook on life.
- Frequent complaints of aches and pains such as headaches, back aches, or fatigue.
- Oversleeping or undersleeping. Sudden indecisiveness, forgetfulness or disorganisation – spaced out.
- A change in appetite – i.e. eating more or less than usual.
- Drink or drug abuse.
- Evidence of self-harming – e.g. cutting, scratching, overdosing.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I’M SUFFERING FROM DEPRESSION?
The very worst thing you can do, in my opinion, is to isolate yourself. If you’re feeling trapped within your own head, it’s not going to make it any better from cutting yourself off from friends and family too. Your family care for you and your friends care for you, and they would be worried if you just suddenly disappeared for weeks on end. I deal a lot with my depression by going out to my regular haunts, such as a local bar* or the cinema, to see my friends on a regular basis. Human company can be beneficial, but it is not the cure-all. If you believe you are suffering with depression, I recommend you see your local doctor or GP as soon as possible. They may prescribe you with antidepressants such as sertraline or fluoxetine (Prozac), or recommend different forms of therapy including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Even if your doctor feels you are not suffering from clinical depression, they will likely also give you a list of links to follow on the Internet for self-help.
* I do not recommend over-consumption of alcohol as a release for depression, as it causes various other health problems instead, and usually is only a temporary solution anyway.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF SOMEONE I KNOW IS SUFFERING FROM DEPRESSION?
Depression is a serious illness, and it can affect absolutely anyone, but it is an illness that is treatable. If someone you know and love is affected by depression first-hand, it can be very difficult to deal both with their feelings, and your own. The main thing to remember is that you, as a person, cannot magically fix their depression for them. It is your responsibility to ease their suffering as much as you can, and make things a lot easier for them to be able to treat their own depression in their own way. If you try to magically fix things for them, there is a very strong chance you’re actually making things worse. It’s important for the person suffering to know you are there for them and that they matter. Saying something along the lines of, ‘I may not know exactly how you feel in your head, but I care about you and I want to help you’ will make a HUGE difference. It’s important to remember that depression cannot be fought overnight. It will be a long and tough road, but take things one day at a time and circumstances should begin to improve. Sometimes, people don’t ever fully get over depression but learn to live with it. I’m like that. Obviously, it would be better for someone to be able to free themselves from depression, but just bear in mind that there is no one right way to deal with the issue – everybody’s different. Just keep an eye on them to make sure they’re not dealing with depression in a destructive manner.
Thanks for reading my blog post. If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, I’ve included a few useful links at the bottom of this post for you to have a look at. Wishing you all the best – Bertie x
SAMARITANS – (Telephone helpline open 24/7 on 116 123)