Hi guys, I hope you are all well!
As I said in my Introduction post, one of my main aims for this blog is to focus on mental illness. It’s so prevalent, and yet there is still stigma surrounding all elements of the topic that makes it so difficult to talk about. My hope is that my posts will help contribute to the effort of de-stigmatising what can be an incredibly debilitating illness.
This post, as the title tells you, will focus on depression. It’s important to bear in mind that I am not a medical professional. Everything discussed in these posts will be based on my own experiences, and will occasionally include information from other reputable sources when I refer to statistics and figures. Furthermore, please understand that mental illness is different for everybody. Although there are certain symptoms that link to certain illnesses, everybody experiences these things in a different way. My experience will not be the same as yours.
Mental health is a difficult subject, to begin with, not least because it’s something that can’t be seen as easily as a broken leg. It relies, a lot of the time, on the victim being able to communicate how they feel in an effective, understandable way, and this isn’t always possible. Trying to describe how you feel in your mind can sometimes be like trying to catch air. That being said, I’m going to give it a go.
I have suffered from depression for many years, and was officially diagnosed with it several years ago. Although I do take medication for it, and it does help, it certainly hasn’t solved anything. The depression is still there, though sometimes it’s more muted than it would be without my prescription meds.
As I said, mental illness can be different for everybody, but there are several symptoms that can indicate a depressive episode. You may feel exhausted and lethargic; it may take you a ridiculous amount of time to convince yourself that getting out of bed this morning is worth it. You may feel unusually emotional, or even unusually emotionless. Depression is not one-size-fits-all.
My own personal ‘black dog’ often changes shape. It can be an anchor, gripping onto my ankle and making everyday tasks a struggle as I try to drag it around behind me. It can be a blanket, keeping me warm and safe in bed, and convincing me that being here is much better than whatever is waiting for me out there. It can be that consistent, nagging feeling that I am not good enough, that I shouldn’t even bother trying to achieve anything, because it’ll never succeed.
Many of the posts you see online, which try to break you out of that depression, involve activities which, for many of us, seem impossible. Go for a run! Go out with friends! De-clutter your space! Make a fruit smoothie!
Well, these are all wonderful ideas, but what if you can’t? What if you don’t have the energy to make it past your front door, never mind run around the block? What if you’ve cut friends from your life, or they’ve abandoned you while you sink into this persistent bog-like illness? What if the only fruit in your house is the artificial fruit flavouring in those sugary treats because you haven’t been shopping in over a week? These suggestions work great for some of us, and of course there is research to suggest that fresh air, exercise, and socialisation can work wonders for your health. But if you cannot bring yourself to do these things, what then?
If you feel like this, there is nothing wrong with you. It’s perfectly normal to read those suggestions and scoff at the mere thought of having enough motivation to de-clutter a drawer, never mind your whole room. Still, you need to continue. You can’t allow this anchor; this dog; this cloud- whatever you want to call it- to win.
There are other things you can do which, while perhaps being smaller steps than healthy eating and exercise, can pull you further towards a better state of mind.
If you have pets, for example, nothing is better than cuddling with them. Lay on the couch and let them snooze on your stomach or chest; listen to their breathing.
If you don’t want to go for a run, sit in the back garden for a little while. Take a book, even if you don’t read it. It’s there if you want it.
Take some time to yourself, even if only for an hour. I’m a huge fan of documentaries (not everybody’s cup of tea, I know!). There are some great examples on BBC’s iPlayer at the minute, and there are many more to be found online. Find ones that focus on nature, or art, perhaps an historical period you’ve always wondered about. They’re much more relaxing than true-crime, and can motivate you to read more about it when you’ve finished the series.
Little things like this, things that required little energy and next to no leaving the house, are still victories. Remember that.
Celebrate all of your little victories! Had a shower? Cooked a meal? Took out the trash? Clipped your nails? Victories!
If you do find yourself suffering from depression, please don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. In the same way that people felt relieved at school when the talkative person asked a question, because everybody else wanted to ask but were all too shy, there are so many people around you suffering the same thing as you, in silence. Be the one to raise your hand. Speak to a parent, a friend, a boss. If you have nobody close to you that you feel you can open up to, think about therapy. In the UK charities such as Mind, and the Samaritans offer plenty of resources and support for people in this situation. Samaritans also offers an excellent email service, if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone. You should never have to go through something like this alone. Depression is a real illness, and it has nothing to do with laziness. It’s a temporary rip in your mind that causes all of the motivation to leak out, like a hole in the bottom of a paddling pool.
There are infinite resources out there. It may take time to find something that works for you, but I promise you it exists. I’m a personal fan of the #TalkMH discussions, which take place every Thursday on Twitter. You can find out more about it here.
This was more of a jumble than I had planned it to be, but I really hope this helps. If you ever want to talk, my own contact details are here.
Until next time! x