Friday, 15 August 2014

Mental Health Spotlight - Depression *Sensitive*


So today I was going to do a post about my favourite blushers, but after hearing of the sudden death of Robin Williams earlier this week I’ve been contemplating doing a post about depression from my point of view. Before you read this post I just need to make you aware that this is a sensitive subject, so if you’re feeling wobbly at the moment you might not want to read what I’ve written. I also need to add a disclaimer that what I’ve written is simply my own experience of depression so should not be taken as medical advice.

Image from Weheartit

I was diagnosed with depression age 15, over 10 years ago, but in retrospect I can see the signs from a much younger age. At 15 I became very unwell physically, and I believe this probably triggered my depression, and from that point on, life has been incredibly difficult. I’ve had periods of better mental health, but have also had a lot of times when I’ve been very unwell and had to spend time in psychiatric hospitals.

Depression is grossly misunderstood and I think one of the biggest reasons for this is because people use the term so flippantly that it has completely lost its real meaning. If someone feels a bit sad one day, or they’ve had a bad day and feel a bit rubbish, they will label themselves as ‘depressed.’ But the next day they’re back to feeling happy again and forget all about the day before. This is not depression. Clinical depression is caused by a problem with the chemicals in your brain and persists for months and even years. Mental health terms are banded about these days too easily. If you’re a bit worried; you have anxiety, if you’re not feeling hungry; you’ve got an eating disorder. People need to understand that mental illnesses are a lot more serious than this. I won’t go into talking about the huge range of mental health problems, because this post is to focus on depression, but I think it’s important to realise how these terms are used incorrectly so often.

It is very wrongly assumed that someone with depression can simply pull themselves together and snap out of it. If only it were that simple. If someone had a broken leg you wouldn’t tell them to focus on the positives and walk on their leg, would you? It’s the same reasoning for depression, apart from the part of you that is broken is not visible. The chemicals in the brain are not working properly, which causes symptoms of great sadness and sorrow. This cannot simply be fixed by positive thinking and it is incredibly offensive to tell someone with depression to pull themselves together. If you only take one thing away from this post, please let it be this!

Image from Weheartit


So, what does depression feel like? You may have seen the analogy of the black dog with regards to depression and I think this is a great way of describing it. Sometimes the black dog jumps up at you and you feel engulfed by darkness, unable to breathe and you can’t see the light in the gloom. But you may have other days when the black dog isn’t so close to you. Instead, it is keeping its distance, but is still attached to you by its lead. You might be able to see things more clearly, but the dark shadow is still there, following you wherever you go. You can’t get away from it no matter what you do. You might try to drop the lead, but the dog still follows you. Depression is incredibly hard to escape from once you are in its grip.

Image from Sane


I’ll be completely truthful now – I am really struggling at the moment and I want to tell you what depression looks like to me. I struggle to get out of bed every morning because sleep seems like a better option than having to face another day. I find it incredibly hard to look forward to anything and I don’t enjoy things I used to like shopping, arts and crafts and spending time with friends and family. A lot of the time I just want to hide away from the world because it just feels like too much to deal with. I’m already fighting the monsters inside my head, telling me how worthless and disgusting I am – I don’t have the energy to deal with normal life as well. I cry myself to sleep most nights, wishing and praying that I just won’t wake up the next day. And do you know what the worst part is? I simply don’t know why I feel this way. Yes, my physical health is making life difficult and there are a lot of things that are making me feel down. But I also have a lot of positives in my life that I should be looking forward to, but in reality I’m not. This is why depression can be so difficult to understand. I mean look at Robin Williams. He was successful, popular, had a seemingly perfect family life, yet he was still depressed. The fact is that depression does not discriminate – no matter what your life may be like, depression can still engulf you. And people telling you that you have nothing to be depressed about just makes you feel worse!

Something that I struggle with quite a lot is, when people do take their own life, you get so many people saying how selfish they were for choosing suicide. Firstly, suicide is not selfish. Yes, it’s not nice for the people that are left behind, but calling it selfish actually belittles the person’s suffering and assumes that they made some sort of informed decision. In reality they were not thinking properly. The chemicals in their brain were skewing their thoughts and they truly believed that people would be better off without them. I have tried to take my life more times than I can remember, and, despite what people seem to believe, it is definitely not the easy way out. Doing something that you know could be irreversible goes completely against your basic human instinct to survive. When I have tried to take my life I have tortured myself thinking about my family and friends I would leave behind. But, at that point in time, I have felt like there is no other option. I have tried living my life but have got to the point where I just can’t do it any more. The bleak gloom has engulfed me so much that I feel I am being crushed. It’s just too much for me to handle.

Image from Sane


Many people have said how they wish someone had spoken to them about how bad they were feeling, but in my opinion this is simply something that is said after someone has gone. I’ve tried to speak to people before when I’ve been feeling suicidal and generally you either get accused of attention seeking or you’re told to think positive and pull yourself together. When I’ve been in hospital after attempting suicide, I have been judged and looked down on by doctors and nurses. I’ve heard staff talking about me behind my back, commenting on what an attention seeker/drama queen/nuisance/waste of time I am. Why on earth would I try to talk to someone when I know this is the reaction I will get? I’m sure there are people out there who do care, but in my experience I’ve not found very many.

If someone you know struggles with depression and tries to talk to you, please please don’t just tell them to think positive or to get on with life. It completely belittles what they are going through. They need someone to listen, to be there for them and give them a hug. They need help to feel safe again. Ask them what you can do. They’ve chosen you to confide in and you should feel honoured. It’s incredibly difficult to open up about suicidal thoughts and if they’ve opened up to you they obviously trust you a hell of a lot. I’m not saying you have to fix everything for them, because that wouldn’t be fair. But you can help them seek out support, either from a charity or by taking them to their GP. You could be the difference between life and death.

I hope hearing me talk about my experience of depression might have helped you, even if just a bit. Whether you’re suffering from depression yourself or someone close to you is, I hope you’ve been able to get something out of this. It’s a shame that it’s taken something this high profile to get people talking about depression, but now that we are we need to make sure we don’t stop. It needs to be talked about to break the stigma that surrounds it. People need to feel able to talk about their thoughts and feelings and this could save so many lives. We need to push for more money for mental health services, to help the 1 in 4 people who suffer from mental health problems. And we need people to know that they are not to blame for their depression and that they deserve to be helped.

If anything I have written has affected you, or you can identify with it, please contact your GP or the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90.

Do you have any experience of depression and can you identify with what I’ve written?



your photo name

9 comments:

  1. I can totally identify with this. It's interesting how the calls to Mind have gone up so much since Robin Williams died. I think sometimes people need to see someone they respect has the same problems as them, as then they don't feel as ashamed? I don't know, I'm just guessing this is peoples motivation for coming forward.
    And if I get told to think positively one more time I shall scream. It's so belittling isn't it.

    Stunningly Inept

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry to hear you can identify with this Isabel - it's such a horrible illness to cope with. I agree though, perhaps people feel more able to talk about it now that they've seen someone they respect suffering from it. I just hope that it will help people talk about depression more xx

      Delete
  2. Jenny, I love this! So beautifully written and truthful.
    I like you struggle depression. I find it hard to sleep, to go out and to generally just get out of bed some days.
    I think people are too quick to judge and there too many assumptions and pressure from others to 'snap out of it', because if it were that easy I wouldn't be depressed. My Dad is guilty of this! He believes everybody should be happy and I have nothing to be unhappy about but everything to look forward to. It's like my new job I am waiting to start, he thinks I should be excited but in in fact I am beginning to lose interest and am struggling with motivation of late.He is also went mad and was very unsupportive when he found out I was on antidepressants, however I don't think he realises the extent of the condition and how I feel without them.
    Depression and mental health illnesses are serious just like any other illness, such as physical illness and disability, it is suffocating and extremely hard to live with and people's assumptions and judgements and comments just make it that much harder.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Zoe that's very kind of you. I'm sorry to hear you have trouble with your Dad understanding you. Perhaps give him some literature to read about depression to help him understand what it's like to be depressed and that you can't just snap out of it? Hopefully the more that people talk about mental health the more understanding there will be xx

      Delete
    2. Thanks Jenny. Could give it a go.xx

      Delete
  3. Hiya this was very brave of you to write about this subject, I struggled with depression in my teens just after i become ill and other issues. Its only been in the last few years that I've lost the black cloud and had more happy days although i don't think you can ever truly overcome depression. I think your right about depression losing its meaning, some people use the word to describe a day when there just upset about something and its usually something so minimal and have no idea what its truly like to be depressed. However it is important to seek help when things don't get better. I also have been using MIND for a few years. I feel so weird writing this anyways remember I'm always here if you want to talk :) x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Laura Jade I really appreciate your support. It's so good to hear that you are having some happier days now, and I hope you continue to get more happy days than bad days xx

      Delete
  4. I fight to live everyday as well....it's not depression in my case but grief. My heart is broken in a million pieces and those pieces hurt very deeply.
    Thanks for sharing this...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry to hear that Michael. I hope you are getting some support in some form or another. I know it doesn't help much but all I can say is please do keep fighting x

      Delete