The demon that wants you alone
It has taken a long time to get here. To get to the point where I can say, I have depression.
I said a few years ago that I have ‘down days’ but that I didn’t class myself as someone with depression as I didn’t see myself as survive as I know others are.
Since then I have had bad moments that have stretched into days and indeed longer.
I am at the point where some of my friends have noticed and I have had to not only look at myself, but I have had to take the hardest step someone like me can take- I’ve had to ask for help.
The truth is that I am not okay. I have depression and as I learn more about it and understand my struggle, I understand that it has not spurred from a single incident just a handful of years ago, but I’ve always lived with it.
Everyone is different, and while some things are common, not everyone has the same traits.
My depression has prevented me from going out since I was a teenager. Nothing along the lines of agoraphobia, but it made me waste my teenage years locked away in my room pretending to myself that I was fine and everything was good.
It grew an anxiety that kept me away from things that my friends were telling me were great and that I would enjoy or even things that I knew I wanted to do, but like a cold hand around my throat; it forced me to move away from all of that.
This stopped me from living my life. It stopped me from making those memories that everyone should be able to make. And while I was struggling with this, that voice in my head was telling me that everything was fine and that I was happy to be locked away.
There was a milestone in my early 20’s. It was around 2 weeks after Christmas. I was living with friends and woke up one morning not feeling my normal self. I didn’t smile that day, or the next or in fact for the next 2 weeks. My best friend asked me what was wrong- when I said nothing, he reminded me that he had been my best friend since 2000 and he knew that something was wrong. It was at that time I fell on an excuse that I have used countless times, I said I was just tired- not sleeping well.
This was not entirely a lie, there was a problem with my sleep and was something that I had been to the doctor about- but I was sleeping too much.
As a teenager everyone expects you to sleep all day, but when I hit my 20’s and I was still doing it, I thought something was wrong.
This was another symptom of my depression, but as I only told the doctor that I sleep all the time and that I was still all tired, it was a warning flag that went unnoticed.
These are important to make clear because recently my depression has gotten worse. I have admitted to friends that I have depression and that I am looking for therapy.
Saying these words out loud makes me cold, made me feel ashamed and embarrassed.
I was with friends and I know they care, but depression is something that seeks to isolate you. Factor in that mental health and mental illness is still something that has a severe stigma to it- especially for men, and it’s really not hard to understand why so many of us suffer in silence.
Men after all are strong, we are not emotional and from childhood this is ingrained in us. If we are suffering the manly thing to do is to just, suck it up and ‘be a man’.
Wouldn’t it be nice if depression was as simple as just feeling a bit down? Unfortunately, that is not the case.
It makes you a recluse. It makes you step away from your friends, it stops you from doing the things that you want and love to do. Depression makes you sabotage relationships- sometimes before they have begun. It puts you into this downward spiral and the further down you go the harder it is to get help.
I am not okay. I will never be okay.
But I am working progress and my fight with depression will keep going.
I write this for a number of reasons.
1. I’ve always found writing to be very relaxing. I struggle with dyslexia and anything that I write is a victory. This is important. It’s far too easy to focus on the mistakes I have made. Too easy to look at my life and condemn myself over and over again for my shortcomings. It’s so important to remember what we have done right. Did you clean today? Victory. Did you do something that you actually love to do? Victory. Did you go for a walk? However long, that was a victory. For me, writing something is a victory- and putting it out there is another one.
2. I hope that someone who needs help can find this and realize that they are not alone, that it’s okay to be broken and that help is right there. For so long I have been lost, knowing that I need help but not having a clue on how to get it, how to start or even if it’s out there. But the more we talk about these things, the more we open up, the more we realize that we are not alone.
3. To make people more aware that depression is not just feeling down.
Sleeping too much and still tire
Not being able to sleep
Not wanting to do the things you know you enjoy
Not wanting to go out
Only wanting to eat those bad foods
A sex drive that vanishes for no reason
A constant lack of energy
Not having it in you to smile or keep to plans
This is just a handful of symptoms but I’m hoping it raises a few flags for you or about someone that you care about.
I am very clear with the face I show to the world. I have a big smile, I tell stupid jokes and say stupid things. I go to a somewhat extreme level to play the part of someone that is not just okay, but someone that is doing well.
When that facade drops just a little- I say I’m tired. I work nights and have multiple jobs, so it’s easy to believe. And when I only worked one job? Well I was up too late playing games. Self-inflicted so no sympathy.
It’s always been believed.
Now just to be clear, I don’t need someone to rush over and hold me. I don’t need people checking in on me every few hours or every day. I don’t need any special treatment because of what I am struggling with.
In many ways, that is something else that has stopped me for asking for help for so long. I am not a pity party. And while I may need encouragement to get out more, I certainly don’t need people to invade my home and smother me.
My work has to come from me. This is my journey. While there are people who will (and are) support me, I must still walk alone.
My victories will be celebrated by all. And when I fall, I may need people to reach out their hands for me to grab onto- but not to take me from under my arms and lift me.
Therapy is obviously the biggest thing that can help someone going through depression, but it’s not the only thing and shouldn’t be the only thing.
So here are a few things that can help you, someone you care about and things that have helped me.
1. Get out of bed.
Yeah I know, starting with a simple one. Everyone loves a lay-in, but spending all day in bed isn’t going to help. I now have alarms set on my days off to make sure that my lay-ins, don’t become bed-days.
Get up. Open the windows, let that air in, make your bed and then start your day.
2. Go out.
It’s easy to say but hard to do. We aren’t just stepping foot outside, we are fighting a demon that wants us to be inside all day, that wants us as far away from daylight as possible. Letting the sun in is great- but getting up and going out into the fresh air is a massive win.
3. Eat right.
Now look, I’m the last person to tell anyone how to eat, but we know that the kind of food you eat does affect your mood and mental state. Healthier food puts in a better condition to fight depression. I’m not saying never eat junk food or takeaway, but be aware of what you are eating.
4. Join a group.
There are a number of community groups out there. There is a sense of community when you are with people doing something together. It breaks down that feeling of isolation- something that depression preys on. I would recommend something like martial arts. There are plenty of options out there, some that focus on just punching a heavy bag. Some that focus on moving and balance. Even something like archery can be enjoyed and shared with pretty much everyone. I constantly say the third-best archer in the world is a man with no arms.
Okay this kind of ties in with my last point but there are some differences. A group can be once or twice a week, getting regular exercise is a massive help with mental health and it’s something that you can do at home with everything else. It’s a complement to your routine and much like a healthier diet, studies have shown that working on your physical health helps with your mental health.
Music is the expression of emotion. A song to you can have deep meaning, or encourage you to dig down deep and fight harder. It doesn’t have to be POP music- personally, that would make my mood worse. But the music you enjoy. Even the sad songs can help you face your depression. Looking that demon in the eye and telling it that it doesn’t control you.
7. Celebrate your victories.
This is the hardest one. But it is the most important one. When those darker moments hit, it’s important to remember the things that you have done right and done well. No matter how big or small. That meal you cooked that was pretty good? That book you finished after so long? That long walk you made? These are the things you need to remember because anything you achieve is a victory.
If things are particularly bad, something like having a shower is a victory. You’ve taken that step to care for your body because you are important. You matter.
If you are building that routine step by step, then that is a victory.
8. Be honest.
This is the first step and the hardest one. Yes, there will be days where you really are fine. When you are great and the sun shines just for you. But that doesn’t mean those dark days didn’t happen. Be honest with yourself and go through what you actually need. If you need help, be honest, be brave and lift your hand. There are so many people that are in the shadows with theirs in the air already. We all need to be honest and step out of those shadows.
All of these things sound easy, but they aren’t. Throughout all of this, there will be a voice in the back of your head telling you not to do anything. There will be invisible hands trying to pull you down into that water. This isn’t a quick match that we win and then never have to worry about it again.
This is a lifelong battle. We will take a few shots and even get floored from time to time, but that’s not the end of our fight.
You are, in every way, a legend. You are strong even on your weakest days and every time you land your own strike on depression, you will be celebrated.
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