I’ve been wanting to write about this for some time now, but lots of things have been happening lately that meant that I couldn’t give this topic the attention it deserves. I could have run along with a sort-of summary article, written in a spare thirty minutes, but I would have regretted it. If there is anything this topic needs, it is care.
Depression has become something of a bad word in modern day society. People who don’t experience it often, or at all, will say to someone suffering, ‘what’s the matter? C’mon man cheer up! There ain’t nothing to feel down about,’ which is fine if you’re not in the middle of it/suffering from it. People will say, ‘ah, case of the blues eh?’ as if its something of the everyday, as if a simple ‘chin up!’ will get the ball rolling again. But it doesn’t, and often it can make things worse.
I want to share my experiences in the hope that those reading this that have what I ‘have’ don’t do what I did, but I also want to write this in a way that helps those that don’t suffer from depression understand the difficult emotions that a person goes through when depression hits them. I know that, for me at least, when I found myself in a difficult situation the people around me very often didn’t know what to do, or, in trying to help did the opposite. I never blamed them for acting in the way(s) that they did – they were just trying to help, and that in itself is fantastic, just – you have to be cautious with things like this: those in a depressive state are often hypersensitive and over-emotional (hell, I know I am).
What I do:
I’ll open up about myself first (because it seems like the right thing to do). A few times a year I slip up. Sometimes these slip ups are more like breakdowns, and sometimes these slip ups are nothing more than slip ups, but they happen a few times a year and it was only recently that I taught myself to recognise the early signs of me ‘slipping up’. Here are some of the things I tend to do (will cover how I feel a little later) in a minor slip up:
- Lock myself indoors for 3/4 days at a time,
- Eat irregularly: often I stop eating (being indoors means less shopping – less shopping less food),
- Avoid eye-contact,
- Avoid all forms of conversation (seems absent/preoccupied),
- Sleep lots (and I mean lots).
- Become emotionally cold – subtly avoid friends/family/relationships (i.e. ignoring phone calls, making petty excuses as to why I missed phone calls e.t.c.).
These things tend to go unnoticed by friends – friends are more than happy to give you your space – and unless you live with your friends then they don’t tend to notice. You just go quiet for a week or two – perhaps he’s busy, they’ll think, and leave you too it. Closer friends might pick up that something’s wrong, and family (if you are living with them) are more than likely to pick up on these things, relationships even more so.
And then the major slip ups (or breakdowns) are all the factors of the minor, plus:
- Stuttering (I start talking and repeating the same things),
- Locking myself in my room (includes physical locking) 4/8 days at a time, only leaving the house when there is often no-one around outside (i.e. 2-5am, bank holidays, Sundays),
- Agoraphobia/ochlophobia (avoiding places with large amounts of people; theatres, shopping centres, supermarkets e.t.c),
- Glazing over – losing sense of time,
- I either sleep lots (as in minor) but in major I tend to go between the two – lots, or sleep hardly at all,
- Become easily angered, act erratically (breaking up with significant others, apologising for things I haven’t done, lie).
These tend to be pretty obvious, but you’d be surprised how un-obvious I can make them be.
How I Feel:
I tend to feel responsible for everything – and everything is not an overstatement. I may feel responsible for something that has happened hundreds of miles away by just reading about it, or seeing it on the news. I feel very vulnerable, very low, and very upset (and make myself upset). If I am in a relationship I feel unloved, or doubt that I am being loved, and as a consequence can get very paranoid. I feel like I want to cry all of the time, but cannot/will not cry. I feel very self aware but also very aware of others’ emotions (in a negative way, usually) and feel very sympathetic/empathetic to others. Sometimes I begin to realise that I’m acting very selfishly, and realising this tends to make things worse.
Same as minor (again), but with the following:
The typical ‘life is not worth living’ mindset, and I feel increasingly more absent from the world around me (think the matrix – it’s all a game). I feel emotionally detached, as if I am empty or incapable of feeling anything, which then leads to something I call ‘testing’. Testing is probably the worst thing I do, and its something I really regret doing later on, and I don’t think I’ve quite learnt to stop myself from doing it. I start lying to people and making up stories about myself to my friends, or those close to me (or to strangers). Perhaps I’ll say how I’ve met someone else, or will say I love someone when I don’t, or will try to start fights. I think I do this to try and make me feel something – that by starting a fight I will feel angry, or by telling my significant other I’ve found someone else I’ll feel sad or guilty, or hurt. These actions are the worst things for me, because its no longer about me dealing with my feelings – I start pulling other people in and making them miserable. This exacerbates things: and eventually I begin to feel things again only to realise what I’ve done in order to get those feelings back (and very often what I have done has nothing to do with me getting my feelings back (feeling back in the world), they just come back spontaneously), and often it culminates in self harm (a non-dangerous variety) and movements towards suicide (dangerous, obviously, but I’m still here now so I must have done something right (or wrong)).
So that’s me, and some people will know what that feels like whilst others won’t – some people will feel some of those but not all of them, and some people may feel entirely different things.
For me its a long term thing – I have no idea how or when or where it started, or what affected it – I just know that I used to be a stroppy kid, and have tried to do bad things to myself in the past – some I remember, some I don’t.
I’m relatively ‘fresh’ on the medical ladder: went to the doctors about two years ago after I scared myself (and others) and they gave me drugs (I’m not saying what, for the moment) which only made me worse. I dropped the drugs a few months down the line and refused to take any more drugs afterwards. From then until now its been Well Being services, and they’ve now put me on a (super long) waiting list for therapy. They don’t seem to know exactly what it is yet – I’ll explain later (maybe).
All this happened whilst I was studying my BA at university and in a long term (and long distance) relationship. I completed the degree, and (arguably) destroyed the relationship. Uni, my relationship, long distance and the doctoring put under a great deal of stress to the extent that what I had lived with relatively comfortably before became unmanageable, and I found myself trying to fix things myself – not knowing that I could turn to others, or the internet, for help and suggestions.
I was stubborn, and though I came out relatively unscathed, there was a lot I could have done better. I hurt some people that I would rather not have hurt, and had I not been so self-centred, so stubborn, and had reacted faster and in the right way then things may have turned out differently. However, I can’t say that the whole thing was my fault: there were doctor difficulties and significant-other difficulties that, if they had not occurred, or had been handled in a different way, would have made things an awful lot easier.
I’d rather others didn’t make the same mistakes I made, and I hope that, by giving some simple tips in tomorrow’s (or the day after’s) post you can avoid the silliness I found myself in, and that I imposed on others.