Everyone’s heard about it and a great deal of people will be affected at some point in their lives (the lifetime risk for women is 10-25% and 5-12% for men (DSM-IV)); depression. It’s perfectly normal (and probably even necessary to make us appreciate the nicer moments in life) to be sad and unhappy at times. If such periods last for longer and affect a person in ways that hinder them from coping with everyday life, depression may be diagnosed. For diagnosis, depressed mood (sadness, hopelessness) and or loss of interest and pleasure must be present, as well as four or more other symptoms (insomnia, fatigue, changes in appetite or weight (commonly under-eating),…).
It’s one of the most common mental disorders, oftentimes co-occurring with others. You get sucked into a nasty black hole (a metaphor to illustrate your matter becoming somewhat dissolved, you being ‘nothing’ as such, no longer ‘feeling’ much other than ‘darkness’) (or, a ‘black dog’ holds onto you, as illustrated in the book ‘I had a black dog’ by Matthew Johnstone). You feel trapped, as if this blackness is trying to consume you, you can’t escape, and at times you don’t even want to, because you allow the disease to control you and take away your energy. Your energy to fight, your energy to fight it off. You may be able to escape somehow on your own if you don’t fall too deep, but seeking help can’t be wrong and is for some people the only way out.
I felt like writing about this when I a good friend of mine emailed me recently. He suffers from major depression. He’s an incredibly nice person, and what I admire most about him is his openness and honesty about his illness. He never tried to hide it or lied about it (well, we shared a flat, so, unless you’re a bad flatmate or someone who’s just out all the time, you’d have noticed). Many people keep their illnesses a secret, if they can, i.e. if it’s more of an ‘invisible disease’ that people don’t easily notice. Why? Because of society’s labels! “Mental” “Ill” “Incapable”… You wouldn’t wanna meet someone, maybe fancy them, then they find out about your state of mind and distance themselves because society just made them belief you’re any less worth than anyone else, right!? Because it’s not true, and luckily many people know that now.
I’m writing this post hoping that what I’ve studied and experienced can maybe help someone out there. Many people take antidepressants but while they may help you in gaining ‘control’, the major part that has to change in order for you to get better is in your mind. Going to therapy can be vital!
I listed some of the things you need to become aware of below.
You have to realise, you can’t just snip your fingers and change like that. TODAY is the day. On the first day next month it will change. THIS is supposed to open my eyes, from now on it will be all good. Trust me, as great as that would be, it doesn’t work. Maybe for some, but not for most people. Accept that change takes time.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Challenge your thoughts! (I’m gonna stay in bed so no-one can hurt me. I can’t do anything about my situation anyway, I’m helpless >>> Blimey, learnt helplessness got me, didn’t it! Now if I stay in bed I’m definitely not gonna meet the love of my life, right!?)
Why are you upset? (because my boyfriend dumped me) Reason! (maybe it wasn’t supposed to be. there are plenty of fish in the sea, and somewhere out there, there’s the right one for me)
Don’t isolate yourself! It’s typical for depressed ones to stay in, be by themselves ‘sulk in peace’. Bad idea! If you don’t let yourself be alone you don’t get the chance to let your thoughts overcome you and make you sad. Other people can distract you and show you that there’s more to life than your problems and your illness!
Similarly to the point above, do stuff! The worst thing you can do when you’re depressed is LETTING yourself be depressed. I know it’s hard when you wake up and all you wanna do is stay in bed because you don’t feel like there’s anything out there worth getting up for. Just don’t think about it! Get up in the morning right away, don’t let your depression gain control. Then go out and do something. Maybe plan one activity per day that gets you out of the house, e.g. meet someone, (as, when you agree with yourself to go for a walk (alone) you can easily change your mind, while you can’t when you’ve got a date with someone). Get to know yourself. do what you used to enjoy, maybe you’ll enjoy it again, or try new things that you might enjoy… maybe a job would help, too, giving you some purpose and a reason to get up in the mornings.
Most importantly, love yourself (yeah, that sounds cheesy but think about it, so often we don’t really appreciate ourselves for who we are, we don’t even KNOW who we are…). Think about your good qualities, and accept your faults too! Be KIND to yourself. Don’t be mad that you got ‘infected’ with depression. See it as an ‘injury’ that you have to deal with, that you have to ‘heal’ and ‘repair’. It’s okay to be sick, you will learn from it eventually, you will get to know yourself better through it! Allow yourself to be sad but try to see beyond it.
And of course, belief in yourself! If you WANT to be better you CAN! You just have to kick-ass yourself a little.
Once you feel like you’re overcoming an illness, be it psychological or even physical, there’s this fear. You’re afraid that it won’t last, that you’ll trip again. And that fear is particularly high if you know that depression is one of the disorders that often comes with more than one episode. Breathe and stay calm! Live in the present, not in the future! Look back at what you’ve accomplished. Don’t be scared. Have people to talk to, be it friends or therapists.