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Monday, 27 July 2015

The D Word

If the title wasn’t clear, I’m talking about depression. One in four people will experience some kind of mental health problem, and yet depression can often be diminished as a ‘bad mood.’

Before I carry on, I want to say that just like everything in life, depression is different for everyone who goes through it, and this is just my experience. I feel like I’m in a place now where I can openly talk about it as I couldn’t be further from the place I was then. A lot of this will be vague - I think I mentally blocked out a lot of it and can’t remember all of the finer details but if this post helps just one person, I’m happy with that.

I’m not even sure how or why I became diagnosed as depressed. For some there may be a significant reason as to why it happens to them, for others it can be little things that have just built up and become unbearable. I was going through a bad time around the time of me being diagnosed and my behaviour had become reclusive. I stopped socialising, seeing my friends and wouldn’t leave the house full stop. I would never open the curtains and stayed in bed, so I literally shut the world out. I lost interest in all of the things I used to love, my appetite faded and I just spiralled and spiralled.

After some paperwork at the doctors I was officially diagnosed where I was referred to counselling. At first I struggled with the concept of telling a stranger my feelings and how and why I felt that way. I consider myself a private person who would rather bottle things up than burden someone with my problems. But if anyone is trained (or paid) enough to understand - it’s a counsellor.

I vividly remember one session where he described depression as like a tiny snowball at the top of a mountain. It rolls down, gathers speed and gets bigger and bigger because it’s out of our control. For me that was completely true. I’d lost control of my own life and I hated that. I couldn’t see a way out or a way to stop the snowball. I’d forgotten what it was like to be happy or to look forward to something. My friend would ask if I was excited about our holiday and I remember telling him how I felt nothing. It seems strange even writing that down (and mentally saying it in my head as I type). But it was true.
One of the main frustrations I found with depression was other people’s attitude towards it. A common question myself and other’s who go through it get asked is “Can’t you just snap out of it?” If only it was that easy. I think what builds this misconception is how commonly depression is bounced around and used by even those not suffering with it, when they’ve simply had a bad day. “Oh I’m so depressed.” Are you really? Or are you just exaggerating? I’ll hold my hands up - I can be a bit dramatic sometimes, but claiming you’re ‘depressed’ when you’re just a little blue really undermines the illness - because that’s exactly what it is. You can’t just ‘cheer up’ or wake up one day and it’s magically gone. No medicine or tablet will make it disappear overnight.

I don’t even recognise who I was then but I did a complete 180 on my life. Now I have happiness and appreciation for every damn thing. I don’t really allow myself to ever feel sad (which I probably should) and pride myself on lifting everyone in my life up. I’m spontaneous and live every minute like it’s my last to try and win back the time I lost whilst having depression.

What’s the magic answer? How did I do it? Again, I don’t fully remember. The counselling certainly helped and it’s something I definitely recommend trying if you’re going through it or think you may be depressed. Even if it doesn’t end up working for you, you’ve given it a go. You may feel better talking to someone close to you - if so - do that. Find what works for you. It may not be the most conventional method but who cares. Those closest around you will pick up on out of character behaviour or will notice a change in your mood. Get them to tell you because I got so wrapped up in my black hole that I didn’t spot shifts in what I was doing until someone pointed them out.

Don’t suffer in silence or shut the world out. Life is a beautiful temporary thing that there shouldn’t be a day that goes by that isn’t the best day of your life.


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