Being depressed is so much more than being sad all the time.
11th August 2014, news broke that Robin Williams passed away, a beloved actor who resonated in the memories of so many who grew up watching his stand-up or his films such as Hook, Mrs. Doubtfire and Aladdin. In the later hours after his passing and the media swarm that followed, we found out that Robin took his own life after a long struggle with his mental illness – something he’d been open about in the past. No one ever said depression killed him.
Depression is a misunderstood illness, nowadays if someone says they’re depressed most jump to the conclusion they’re just a little bit down, in a spot of bad luck or they’re just being ‘emo’. We all go through periods when we feel down and most will find a way to brighten their mood, but when you’re depressed you consistently and persistently feel down for weeks, months and in some unfortunate cases years.
A good portion of people still feel that depression is inconsequential and all it takes is for someone to ‘snap out of it’ and ‘try harder’. They couldn’t be more wrong; depression is a real and very serious illness that the World Heath Council stated affects one in ten of us in some form, with the latest figures showing more than a fifth of Britons go through a stage of depression in their lives; more shocking is two thirds of those depressed go untreated in the UK. It does make you wonder why so little is known and why people are so unprepared?
Hopefully, this article can dispel some of the misconceptions of depression.
10. You Feel Everything And Nothing
Being depressed isn’t just about feeling sad, unfortunately, it comes with a whole bag of ailments and the problem is there isn’t a simple set of rules it follows, one person suffering may have the complete opposite symptoms to another. There’ll be days where you feel like the whole world is crashing down on you, and then there’ll be days where you wish it would just so you can feel something.
For some, you just want to hide under your duvet as you feel wave after wave crash down on you. Tasks that were once second nature – be it something as simple as making a cup of coffee, or your coursework – suddenly feel overwhelming and can reduce you to tears.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, it can be the most boring illness possible. There are days you feel numb to everything, nothing that used to excite you does it anymore, be it sport, your favourite TV show or even a social life. You feel absolutely nothing or emotionally you’re exhausted and you just desperately want to feel something, and this unfortunately is where self-harm can come in.
9. You Begin To Hate Yourself
Did anyone ever see that episode of House M.D. where his patient was dying because his body’s immune system was attacking itself? That is essentially what depression is like, your own mind and body turns on you.
Low self-esteem is a huge trigger in depression, and as you start to sink deeper you take yourself down with you. Mirrors can become your worst enemy as they’re a constant reminder of just how much you dislike the way you look and who you are. You criticise yourself for every little failure, every little blemish or sometimes you’ll attack yourself for ‘allowing’ you to become depressed in the first place.
Battling these thoughts is the equivalent of that moment in a marathon when a runner hits the wall, but instead of an imaginary brick wall you have to break through, those depressed see a mirror reflecting back to them what they’re most critical of.
There is nothing logical going on inside your head while you’re depressed when it comes to how you view yourself, don’t make it harder on yourself by believing any of those thoughts swimming around in your mind.
8. You Feel Guilty
One of the factors that can lead to you starting to dislike yourself is how guilty being depressed can make you feel. It’s a heavy burden to live with, and the guilt you feel can cloud your judgment and make you prone to be extra hard on yourself.
Your guilt can stem from feelings of selfishness and uselessness, while you attack yourself for every little failure that might have occurred. You may feel all the more guiltier if your depression starts to affect your social life because the last thing you want to do is drag your loved ones down with you since what possible right do you have to be sad? It’s your illness and therefore your problem.
7. You Become An Excellent Liar
“How are you feeling today?”
“Yeah, I’m okay, not much else to say really.”
It’s very difficult to come clean about your depression, it’s much easier to put on a smile and brush off anyone’s concern with a casual ‘I’m fine’, because sometimes letting go of your façade and being truly honest about how bad you feel is too hard. Then there are the days when you let slip and you’ve got to cover your tracks and say you’re just having a bad day rather than a bad month.
It’s easy to hide your depression when you’re amongst friends and family, you join in conversation at the right moments, laugh at all the right punch lines and force enough of a smile to keep any suspicions at bay when deep down your mind is completely torn up and focused elsewhere. It’s one of reasons Robin William’s death took so many by surprise because how can he be depressed when he’s so funny, energetic and full of life? Well, like so many of us he’s an absolute natural at hiding his feelings.
6. Your Eating Schedule Is Ridiculous
Depression can really affect your eating habits; while you’re depressed there is no in-between when it comes to food, you either do it all or none at all, there is no moderation.
It may be seen as a joke to some, but quite a few do turn to food in their worst moments, food high in carbs and sugar can release serotonin, a chemical that can raise your overall mood, so it’s no wonder some crave food when they’re feeling low.
Others’ appetites can simply disappear, any feelings of hunger buried under those of feelings of anxiousness and hopelessness, while some feel so exhausted they don’t try to put together a decent meal, or skip one every so often. Sometimes just eating one piece of a fruit or a chocolate bar can seem like an appropriate meal.
Poor eating habits have been proven to make depression worse, it’s very easy to drastically gain or lose a lot of weight, so it’s important to try and maintain a balanced diet and exercise in this time.
5. Sleeping Pattern Isn’t Any Better
Your sleep schedule just goes kaput; one of the defining symptoms of depression is being unable to sleep, there is nothing more complicated than our relationship with sleep when you’re depressed.
Insomnia is a horrid part of depression, and there can be countless nights you lie awake in your bed, tossing and turning and trying desperately to force yourself to fall asleep while your mind is in overdrive, dwelling on situations and feelings you have no control over. When you finally manage to drift off, it’s never for a long period of time, your sleep is restless and that ‘well rested’ feeling everyone raves about becomes nothing, but a distant memory.
Then, like with food there’s the other side of the coin as some will struggle just to keep their eyes open. You spend all day in bed, constantly tired and end up maybe hitting 12 hours of sleep when you don’t have anywhere to go, because getting out of bed is too trivial, and when you’re feeling that down you just lose the energy to try.
There is a definite link between a poor and scattered sleeping pattern and depression, and it’s one of the first warning signs that something is not right.
4. You Celebrate The Little Things … And That’s Okay!
One thing you’re never prepared for is how overwhelming the smallest of tasks become.
As mentioned earlier, sometimes getting out of bed and forcing yourself to face the day or even go out for a walk is a challenge. It is so hard to continue fighting, but when you muster up the courage and force yourself to open the door, whatever hits your face whether it’s the sun’s warmth or the freezing rain, it wakes that little part of you that you thought was lost.
Everyone always tells you there’s light at the end of the tunnel; the problem with depression is the ones suffering can’t see a glimmer of sunlight through the pitch-blackness. No matter how small the task may be, it gives you a glimpse of the light everyone keeps telling you is right around the corner. It could be as simple as cooking yourself a nice dinner or completing a level on your favourite video game – whatever it is, let it become the chip on your shoulder you deserve.
Trying to re-enter society and rejoin your circle of friends on a regular basis after being depressed is difficult, it can’t be done in one big step and that’s why you have to celebrate the little things.
3. It Doesn’t Make You Weak
Despite what a small (yet always vocal) minority will make you believe, depression is a disease, not a choice, and in no uncertain terms does it make you weak, and it certainly isn’t a case of ‘only the strongest survive’. You wouldn’t tell someone with cancer or diabetes they’re just being weak and need to get over it, in fact you wouldn’t dream of doing such a thing, so why is it okay to say that to someone who is depressed?
Very few take depression as seriously as a doctor. In some cases you need counselling, in others you need medication, and that’s okay – this isn’t something you can just get over, and seeking help is not an admittance of defeat, it takes strength to want to fight for yourself.
So many find it hard to open up to friends and family about their depression, the stigma that follows the topic on mental health can make for an uncomfortable conversation with others and not to mention the fear of being judged for something you can’t control. One of the strongest things we’ve witness people do is be honest and open about their depression – that takes courage on so many levels.
2. Some People Will Be Careless And Hurtful …
‘There are countries at war with each other, children starving and you’re just moaning about being sad. Be happier, you have nothing to be upset about.”
Sound familiar? The stigma behind not just depression, but mental health needs to be challenged as far too many brush it off as unimportant, and all it takes for someone to get better is to ‘try harder’ and ‘smile more’. Depression is a complex medical disorder, and it takes so much more than a stiff upper lip to get past it.
Then there are morons like Gene Simmons who says people who are depressed, or with any mental illness for that matter, should just save us all the hassle and kill themselves – exactly the sort of message that should be heard. While the Daily Mail occasionally enjoys throwing a good ‘deal with it’ or ‘depression is the new black’ article every so often, it is really important for those who know people suffering that it isn’t something you can just snap out of. Not only are these sorts of comments outrageously wrong, but they can cause a huge amount of harm.
Stephen Fry, a man very open about his struggles with his bi-polar disorder, is often on the receiving end of these narrow minded comments, after all, he’s rich, successful and loved by millions – what does he have to be miserable about? Telling someone they have no reason to be sad because someone is worse off is the equivalent of telling someone they have no right to be happy because there is someone better off.
Remember, hard times will always reveal your true friends.
1. …But That One Caring Person Makes All The Difference
Stephen Fry once wonderfully said: “If you know someone who’s depressed please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do.”
When we say you are not alone, we truly mean it.
All it takes is that one person who takes the time to talk to you, and has the understanding and patience to be by your side when you’re at your very worst. If you’ve got a friend whose mood you’ve seen decline, take them aside and ask if they’re okay, and if you’re suffering in silence, please seek help or grab a friend and let them know you need their support.
Depression will make you feel alone; you are not alone and you can beat this.