The 'Ugly' Truth Behind Depression
And Why It Isn't as Ugly as You Think
It's the 30th of March, 2018. "Good Friday." What's so damn good about it? I look out of the window to my left and all I see is the constant trickle of rain which seems to do nothing but reflect my mood. I think they call it seasonal depression, but how can one have a mental health issue directly affected by the seasons when you live in England and you only really experience one season?
As I write this, I am entering my seventh week of a particularly bad spell of mental health problems. I have received no help from the NHS, my university or my therapist—and this has given me a lot of time to think, to really reflect on what people do not simply seem to understand about depression and the violent course it takes on our lives.
1. If you have no experience with mental health yourself, or are not a qualified professional - the 'advice' you give is pretty much useless and frustrating.
Yeah... Sorry. This isn't an easy one to address in person, but I can guarantee if you're telling someone that "it gets better" or "it doesn't last forever" or (arguably even worse) "it's all in your head, what you've got to do is go out, get some fresh air and appreciate the world around you" or anything along these lines—they're sitting with a false smile, barely listening and internally screaming. Almost everyone, if not everyone, who has or is experiencing mental health problems and reaches out to someone about it, has or will hear this useless excuse for advice. It just shows that you aren't even bothering to try to understand what that other person is feeling, and chances are you're only saying these things for personal gain. Your intentions aren't to make the person struggling feel any better, but to make YOU feel like you've done something when in reality, you have done nothing. We already know it doesn't last forever.
2. It genuinely has physical repercussions on my body.
Depression doesn't just manifest in the brain. It works its way into the inner workings of our physical being. People report constant headaches, migraines, fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, insomnia, chest and back pain and, most popularly, lack of appetite. So it isn't really "all in your head"—it is in your head and in your nerve cells.
3. Sometimes, I don't have a reason as to why I'm feeling down.
This is something people seem to find particularly difficult to grasp the most. To someone who's never experienced depression it is easily assumed that a low period in life is caused by a tragic event, but it's not always the case. Sure, depression can be triggered by losing a job, losing a loved one, missing the mark at school etc, but it can affect anyone; it IS an illness. I sometimes find that people don't want to accept that my low moods can be caused by nothing, and that sometimes I just wake up feeling worse for wear. It happens.
4. Asking for help is pretty much impossible.
In my experience, it takes something really bad for me to reach out to someone and say "I really need help right now" and even if I do, I will put on a smile whenever I see whoever I reached out to because I don't want to put them out. Mine and many other people's mental health makes us believe that nobody cares about us, and that people have better things to be doing with their lives rather than helping us—and maybe that's true—but the people that matter WILL help. Sometimes, that knowledge needs to be prompted out of us. It doesn't hurt to ask someone going through a rough time if they're okay, or how they're doing. Start the conversation. We will talk if you show willingness to listen.
5. I don't want to hurt you.
Depression is a very selfish illness—it causes us to act rash and push people away. It isn't because I don't want you around, it isn't because I am sick of you. In my mind, I am protecting you. I know it can be hard for friends and family to know what to do, and it can bring them down. I have seen it first hand. I do not want that. I don't want you to feel guilty, I don't want you to feel like you're letting me down by not knowing what to say or do. I may overreact to things and take them personally, I may say things that are mean or make it seem like I don't want to be around you, but I don't mean any of it, and I am sorry if I have ever caused upset because of this. It may be hard to love and care for me at times because of my depression, but by being by my side through it all and showing me unconditional love is the best thing you can ever do for me.
6. I didn't ask for this.
I know I can joke. I know I may seem attention seeking. But none of this was through choice. My coping mechanisms may just be different to what you're used to.
7. Feeling Sad =/= Depression
Being sad is a normal thing. It's an emotion that everyone feels. If something bad happens, you're likely to feel sad, but usually that'll leave within a few days. Depression, on the other hand, is constant. It can last days, weeks, months and even years in some cases. Depression affects everything about you, your personality, your interests, and the way you see/plan your future.
8. The tiniest achievement is a big deal to me.
Having a shower, tidying my room, eating two to three meals a day. These are all things most people do daily or every other day, but for me these can be big things. Leaving the house can be the most daunting of tasks some days, so if you know I've been having a particularly rough time and I tell you I went out and ran some errands, just know I am insanely proud of myself and sometimes, a little encouragement wouldn't go amiss. Once these small achievements start to become routine, we are on the road to recovery.
9. I think I am a burden and way too much to handle.
Sometimes I will sit and watch how I am with people in my low periods. I will watch myself accidentally oversharing, the way I cry at the smallest of inconveniences or for no reason at all, the way I'll cancel plans last minute and I cringe at myself for putting people through that. So I isolate myself. I feel as if I'm bringing my friends and loved ones down with these actions and believe it's just easier if I don't see you while I'm a liability. I need compassion. I need reassuring. I need to be told that I'm not bringing everyone down, because that's my biggest fear—dragging everyone else down on this sinking ship. Let me know if I can talk to you, show me that you don't mind being around me if I don't feel my best. Prove to me I have security around me.
10. I have good days.
Surprisingly, it isn't all melancholy and despair in my life. My mood fluctuates, quite erratically, so there will be days that I want to do things. I have times where I feel as if I am in control, and I can do what I want. While every day may not be great, every day can have its moments.
11. I acknowledge and appreciate everything you do for me.
I know it can be hard to know what to say. But every kind word and gesture is appreciated, even if I struggle to say thank you or show you I am thankful. I am.
12. I am trying.
Depression is an illness I have to work through. Recovery isn't a straight road to success; it is filled with bumps, U-Turns, and dead ends but at the end of it all—there is the light. I refuse to ignore my depression and it refuses to be ignored. It has to be treated. Whether that be through the NHS, through independent counselling or therapy or through medication, it cannot go untreated. Please stand by me as I go through the help. It's a huge step. There is no shame in accepting you need help. Depression is lonely and scary, but having you by my side makes it less lonely and just that little bit less intimidating.
If you or someone else you know is suffering from depression or any other mental health problems, please refer to any of the links below—reach out. Start the journey to recovery:
08444 775 774 (open Mon-Fri, 9:30am-5:30pm)
Campaign Against Living Miserably for men aged 15-35
Offers a network of self-help groups.
Men's Health Forum:
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat, and email
Mental Health Foundation:
0300 123 3393 (open Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
Supports people suffering with panic attacks and OCD, also offers courses to help overcome phobias/OCD.
0844 967 4848 (open daily, 10am-10pm)
0845 390 6232 (Mon-Fri, 9:30am-5pm)
Run by people with OCD for people with OCD.
0845 120 3778 (open Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Young persons suicide prevention society.
HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (Mon-Fri,10am-5pm & 7-10pm. Weekends 2-5pm)
Rethink Mental Illness:
0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4pm)
116 123 (free 24 hour helpline)
Offers support, guidance and information for friends and family of those who suffer as well as the sufferer.
0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30pm-10.30pm)
Comfort and care via text, sent when the person needs in the most: http://www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Help for parents and carers and professionals on child and adolescent mental health.
080 802 5544 (Mon-Fri 9.30am-4pm)
SUICIDAL THOUGHTS HELP:
OPEN 24 HOURS UNLESS STATED OTHERWISE.
Samaritans - for everyone
Call 116 123
Email: [email protected]
CALM - for men
Call 0800 58 58 58 5pm to midnight every day
Visit their web chat page - https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/webchat/
Papyrus - for people aged under 35
Call 0800 068 41 41 - Monday to Friday 10am to 10pm, weekends 2pm to 10pm, bank holidays 2pm to 5pm
Email [email protected]
Childline - for children and young people under 19
Call 0800 1111 (the number will not show up on your phone bill)
The Silver Line - for older people.
Call 0800 4 70 80 90
Or, call 111—the NHS out of hours line that is open 24 hours a day. They will help you and get you in contact with local help and helplines.