If you search for a definition of depression, one of the first results will read ‘feelings of severe despondency and dejection.’ To lay it out in the simplest way possible, depression is a severe feeling of sadness. Although the main issue with this is that depression isn’t that simple, so the definition shouldn’t be either. In this post I’ll be covering some of my own experiences with depression and discussing some of the options available for people in order to get some help if they need it.
For starters, there are several different types of depression: Clinical, Manic, and Postpartum to name a few. Most variations of depression have similarities between them, or will at least overlap with regards to symptoms, however, each are also unique depending on the person who experiences them. Whilst those living with manic depression could relate to those living with say, Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D), they could be having entirely different feelings and triggers depending on the individual and their own personal story. This is what makes defining depression such a tricky task, and why there is a such a stigma and lack of understanding around the area of mental health in general.
However, I can define my own relationship with depression. It’s been something I have been dealing with for around the past decade of my life, and something I’m still dealing with to this day. Whilst things have gotten a whole lot better than what they were even this time last year, there is still progress to be made. Even my own symptoms and triggers vary depending on the day. Some days I’m overwhelmed with sadness, and this could be caused by something as serious as a core trauma or intense stress or it can be something as simple as an awkward interaction or even waking up in the morning and not feeling quite right. Other days, I feel completely numb. These are the most confusing days. It’s like having this overwhelming feeling of negativity without being able to identify exactly what it is that you’re feeling or what is causing it.
Most of us have heard the common symptoms of depression, such as changes in appetite, sleep patterns and irritability levels , but when I am asked to describe how my depression feels in a more general sense, many different metaphors come to mind. Most of us have probably heard of depression being described as a black dog, or a heavy suit that weighs you down, and while these are great ways of visualising the invisible illness, neither quite hit the mark for me. For me it has always felt like a faulty light bulb. Most of the time it works fine and turns on and off when needed. Then unexpectedly it starts flickering slowly, then quicker, then the darkness lasts longer with each blink. Sometimes it doesn’t work for days or even weeks. The only issue with this lightbulb is it can’t be changed or replaced with a better one. See after all the flickering, things can go back to working ‘normally’ and with no fault, but there is always that looming feeling that it may start flashing again when you least expect it. The good news is, at least in my experience over this past year, whilst this lightbulb can’t be replaced, it can be mended, slowly but surely if the time, effort, and care are put into doing so.
The first part of beginning this mending process is often tricky, but necessary. You need to be willing to acknowledge that something isn’t quite right. You don’t have to be 100% sure of what that something is but being able to identify an error of sorts in the first place is a great first step. You’ll find countless articles online, naming what to do if you’re depressed or ways to get through it. However, that’s just it, just like having a definition for depression it’s also difficult to have a full proof solution to feeling better, as it depends on whether or not it works for the person in question.
There are a few common suggestions which tend to help with that first step and are commonly used by people suffering from depression. It’s highly recommended that you talk about it, be it to a friend, family member or your doctor. Speaking to your doctor is always advised as an important step and though it can be daunting, it will allow you to get directed to good resources for helping you with your depression and any other mental health issues you may have. From here there are usually two options you’ll be directed towards, or a combination of the two. These options are Medication and Therapy.
Medication is something I have no personal experience with, however, I have many friends who have been and are on a range of anti-depressants. Anti-Depressants are used to effect neuro-transmitters in order to alter your mood, by increasing your dopamine or serotonin levels for example. These are very beneficial to many people who use them but for others they just don’t have the same impact to the healing process and can leave people feeling a little strange. Like I mentioned I haven’t used medication for my mental health, but this is not due to disliking the option or finding it off-putting, but rather that I was offered the alternative option of therapy and it seemed to help me in the way I needed.
From my personal experience, Therapy is a very useful option and has helped me a great deal in the past year since I started. Depending on the type of therapy you opt for you could be working on coping mechanisms and more goal orientated exercises, or you could be going for a more direct counselling route where you talk about how your feeling and where those feelings are coming from. The latter of which has been more-so what I have experienced, and this has worked wonders for me and helped me make peace with a lot of issues I previously had. This option has also allowed me to more clearly identify when I’m feeling depressed so that I can take those steps to get myself through it. However, like medication this may not work for some people, as it requires a lot of opening up and trust, which can be extremely difficult at times when you’re going through your darkest days.
The one thing that does need said which is an undeniable fact: You are not alone in this. The World Health Organization have stated that 1 in 4 people suffer from some form of mental health illness. 1 in 4. I was shocked when I heard this statistic, though to be perfectly honest less surprised the more I thought about. Mental health touches all our lives. If we’re not personally experiencing a mental health issue, we most likely know someone who is. I know that a lot of people would read this and say something along the lines of ‘yes, but it’s not that easy, those others don’t feel what I’m feeling’ and those people would be exactly right. Every person has their own struggles and battles to fight. However, that being said, I can guarantee you that this will not stop somebody from understanding what you’re going though or being able to relate to the feelings you describe.
That is what this blog is all about. So many people suffer in silence, probably enough people to change that 1 in 4 to an even higher statistic. Many people see mental health, in particular depression, as a weakness or something that is broken inside them, but this isn’t the case. It’s part of you, but it’s not all of you, and it is certainly not a part of you that should be tucked away until you’re alone and can’t stop it from attacking you whilst you’re already vulnerable.
Talking about depression is one of the core ways to help manage it. If someone asks how you’re feeling I know it can be tempting to say ‘yeah fine, just a little tired today’, but maybe we instead need to say ‘you know what, I feel awful and I have no idea why, but thanks for asking.’ It’s not about attention or having everyone crowd around to ask what’s bothering you. It’s about normalising these completely natural emotions so that when you are having a bad day, it’s not a sideshow but a completely normal thing that everyone goes through. It’s bad enough to feel these emotions without having to worry about how others view you whilst you’re doing so.
So yes, depression is confusing, and it is tough, but manageable with the right tools. If you’re experiencing any of the feelings described in this post, or know somebody who is, then there are many things you can do to help. Talking to somebody about how you or they are feeling can be very beneficial. If you’re not sure what to do but need urgent help, there are many emergency hotlines that provide support and encouragement such as Mind.org and Samaritans.org. You’re not alone in feeling this way, others are there to help.
Photo by Pixabay.