Search this blog

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

What depression feels like

Depression is a common medical condition that seems to have hit a peak in our current digital age. There are different types of depression; unipolar depression, dysthmia, bipolar disorder, seasonal affective disorder; postnatal depression. Depression and anxiety can be classed as mild, moderate or severe. In my experience my depression has mainly been moderate, as it has never reached a stage where I haven’t been able to do anything but lie in bed for months and barely leave my house. I could be classed as a ‘high functioning depressive’ in the same way I would have been classed a year ago as a ‘high functioning alcoholic.’

Depression varies from person to person in terms of severity and how it affects their life. It can involve feelings of emptiness and apathy. Blank. Lack of interest in life or in people. I could be sitting surrounded by people talking and barely listen or take in anything they would be saying. They would all be laughing and I would feel nothing. Isolation; wanting to hide away and not speak to anybody, wanting to just be in my room on my laptop. Suicidal thoughts or thoughts that you would be better off dead. Walking past a river and thinking about how wonderful it would be to just jump in there and float away. Wanting to jump off a building. Having strong urges to throw yourself in front of a car. And most of all, feeling unable to discuss this with anyone (except your therapist, if you have one).

People with depression can often hide it or be in denial of it, like with any mental illness. To other
people they may seem fine; slightly ‘off’ at times, but more or less there. That is one of the horrific things about it. You can know a person who seems totally normal, perhaps highly cheerful, and then next thing you know they commit suicide. Substance abuse is also a symptom of it; in my case it was alcohol and junk food, but for others it can be gambling, sex (not in a pleasurable sense), marijuana, cocaine, and the like. Using an external substance/activity in excess to change the way you feel is a sign of depression; an attempt at a ‘quick fix.’ An attempt to seek validation or feel important. People with depression suffer from low self esteem so may use other people to try and make themselves feel better; this makes it easier for others to take advantage of them. For example, a depressed insecure guy may meet a beautiful woman who manipulates him and uses him for money, or a depressed woman may sleep with or flirt with lots of men – not for fun and enjoyment, but to make herself feel wanted.

It is unclear as to what the main cause of depression is. In one instance it’s biological; family history leads to passing of genes. It is a chemical imbalance of serotonin in the brain. Some people are against medication, but I am an ‘instant gratification’ seeker, and if a pill is going to make me feel better, I am going to take it. I’d rather take antidepressants than feel depressed. Even a friend of mine once said that being ‘addicted’ to antidepressants is better than being depressed.

Depression = 'the black dog'
Depression is also circumstantial; childhood trauma such as abuse, bullying, or parental separation can cause it. Problems with families, problems with friends, difficult relationships; loss of loved ones – it is not uncommon to experience depression after a loved one has died. Stress can cause depression; work, school, exams, university. Oxford and Cambridge are known to have one of the highest suicide and depression rates out of all the universities in the UK. Depression becomes a vicious cycle; you feel miserable so you lie around in your room not wanting to do anything, then you feel miserable because you’re lying around in your room not wanting to do anything, and then you don’t go out and get worse and worse and etc.

The important thing to remember with depression is that it is an illness, meaning it can be treated. Medication, therapy, self-help books, exercise, nutritious food, doing things you enjoy and channelling your misery into creativity can all help. A person suffering from the illness isn’t going to feel that way permanently forever; it usually comes in waves or ‘episodes’. It’s important to
remember that you are not alone; probably every other person you meet has experienced some form of depression in their life. I believe that social media has contributed to this problem. People post so many pictures of their seemingly wonderful lives on Facebook and Instagram; if you’re lonely and you see happy couples everywhere it makes you feel worse about yourself. Also, the fact that we can spend entire days on our phones and laptops disconnecting ourselves from each other has made face-to-face communication more difficult, and also reinforces isolation. You can be sitting with a group of people and most of them will be on their phones, nodding and grunting during the conversations. It’s horrific, and there are many who believe that this issue is contributing to the mental health epidemic.

If you suffer from the illness or know someone else who does, I wish you all the best and hope you take action to help yourself get well. Remember: you are never alone.

No comments:

Post a comment

I've published three YA fiction books and two poetry volumes. To check em out, copy and paste this link into your browser: