Depression – a sufferers perspective

My view on depression. I was diagnosed with major depression when I was 18 after years of feeling ‘not quite right’. I hope this brings some clarity to friends and family of sufferers and support for those experiencing it.

What does it feel like?

Imagine driving along a foggy country road. Everything from 10 meters away is blanketed by a grey haze, even with the fog lights blazing, nothing seems to lift the heavy clouds that hide all thats ahead of you. This is how I would describe my experience. My emotions felt clouded, hidden by the heaviness that lay ahead of me. At first everything felt overwhelming and as a way of coping with this heaviness I went numb. Looking back I think this numbness was my minds way of allowing me to keep going to work, school, see friends. In some ways I felt like giving in to my emotions and truely feeling them would swallow me whole, leaving me incapable of carrying on with my ever busy life and instead spending days wrapped up in my blankets. Like fog, this numbness would lift without warning, leaving me in a mess of tears, anger and self hatred – why did I feel this way? Life isn’t so bad, why can’t I just be happy? Maybe I deserve this. These emotions would consume me, I couldn’t think, couldn’t talk, couldn’t explain how I felt because I didn’t know what I was feeling.

Family, friends

As my depression evolved my social circle lessened. The friends I had in high school are no longer part of my life. This caused alot of resent on my part – didn’t they care? could they not see what I was going through?  After years of anger towards these people I came to a conclusion, a realisation. Depression is a hidden illness, it caused me to isolate myself, make excuses as to why I couldn’t go out, why I had to stay home. I didn’t want pity, I didn’t want people to see my weaknesses and my pain. Even if someone did reach out to help I doubt I would have accepted it, at the time I didn’t think their was anything wrong, if I couldn’t put it into words it didn’t matter, so I continued to isolate myself and eventually my friends stopped contacting me, after all they never saw me.

My parents tried to help, unfortunatly their methods proved unhelpful at the time. Stop being so sad, be more positive, you’re being silly. Although these responses came from a good place they prove to me that speaking out was useless, after all, what I was feeling was just silly apparently. I felt that I wasn’t being truely listened to and for this reason I stopped talking about what I felt and reacted with anger when prodded for ideas.

What could have helped?

Stop asking if I’m alright. The more people asked how I was the more I felt confused and alone. After opening up a frequent response was “but you’re ok, you just need to be more positive”. What I needed was someone to just listen – truely listen to what I was saying, these responses further made me angry at myself as I felt that my feelings were further confirmed to be unimportant. If I asked to be alone, they wouldn’t leave me, if I sat and tried to strike up a conversation they were too busy. Sometimes being alone was what I truely needed, some time to contemplate my thoughts and try to make sense of them in my own time. LISTENING IS KEY – sometimes quietness is better than response.

Getting Help

I had no idea that their was so much help available. I was lucky to have a great doctor who gave me time to explain what I needed and got me in contact with a great therapist. I was put on anti depressants and began going to weekly therapy sessions. At the time these didn’t feel helpful, but looking back I feel that these helped me to get to know myself again, recognise my feelings and learn how to deal with them and why I was feeling that way. Recognising what I was feeling helped me learn coping mechanisms, writing, yoga and exercise have been my main ways of destressing, giving myself some time to think and truely express and focus on what I am feeling.

Anti depressants – my experience

When I first began taking them I wasn’t prepared for the side effects as my body adjusted to them. I felt suicidal, couldn’t hold in my emotions, it was like a dam had burst and everything I had held back for so long was suddenly errupting without control. It took almost two months for me to begin feeling the positive effects. I was more stable in my moods and felt clearer, lighter as the thoughts that were locked inside me for so long had escaped.

Life now

I still experience depressive episodes, but I have learnt how to deal with them. It’s ok to take some time out to reconnect with myself – push my chores aside and just let myself stop. My view on my depression has also changed. Instead of feeling guilt and frustration during these episodes I try to view them as learning experiences, times for me to dive deeper into my own thoughts and learn something new about myself. Crying isn’t weakness – it takes strength to be honest and express who we are.