On Depression

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:

Minor mode:

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.

Major mode:

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.

History:

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.

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4 thoughts on “On Depression”

  1. So this sounds like a platitude, but: I know a lot of people who have depression.

    Sadly, it is true. My mother has it, my brother has it, my Granny on my father’s side had it (she passed away this year), when my sister took a different contraceptive for 3 months, she had depression. Some o my friends have it (those who have told me). Also, my Fiance has it.

    It’s scary living with someone with depression. My fiance takes medication, which means he doesn’t have any episodes. But he hasn’t been to see anyone to talk, to see if there are any underlying causes psychologically, instead of chemically. Sometimes I worry if the medication changes him, or hides and covers up real doubts that he has. It’s something I can live with though, as when he wasn’t taking any medication, he would be very volatile emotionally (could get upset over the smallest things). This, combined with a reduced libido caused by depression, and also caused by his medication, made the kindle to some really upsetting discussions. But all these things we work through together.

    When I was young, my mum wasn’t diagnosed. She got angry very easily. She got upset very easily. She would blackmail me and my siblings emotionally, and try and buy our love through material possessions. Once, she threatened to put us all in a car and drive off a cliff.

    It got worse when my parents split up. Mum went into hospital, a ward for those with mental health issues. We only saw her once a week. She eventually got out and was better. Then she had a car crash and it sent her back to the ward. A few years down the line, and I’m a teenager, and my mum has a boyfriend (they’re now happily married), when she deliberately takes too much of her medication. I had to get her boyfriend. I have never told my siblings that this happened.

    Things are better now. She still has a quick temper, but she’s also quicker to calm down. But for a good few years, it was hard.

    Sometimes I worry that I’ll get depression – especially as it’s on both sides of my family. I worry the most that I’ll have post-natal depression, and that I’ll somehow hurt any future child I may have.

    But they’re not things I can worry about too much, I’m pretty lucky with my family, my job, my Fiance, and my friends. I know that if I DID get depressed, then I would be able to talk to them about it – which is a relief I know not all people with depression can claim too.

    It is still a taboo. But what annoys me is when people say ‘oh, I’m so depressed’ in blase fashion, when what they mean is that they are upset. Depression is neurological, chemical, and psychological. Sometimes circumstances come into it, but often, it is just the way we are made up.

    I’m not sure what my point was here…..

    Sorry for the massive comment!

    1. I’m a bit of a pain with responding to people digitally, I tend to like quoting bits that I want to respond too, and then commenting on that ‘piece’. Hope that doesn’t offend…

      ‘It’s scary living with someone with depression.’ – I can’t even imagine how difficult it is. I’ve tried to understand, and I like to think that I know but I don’t think I do. I think what I imagine is only half as scary as it really is, and if its worse than I think it is then its got to be scary… Not so much when its a friend, but if its someone you are living with, or are in a relationship with then its always there – they can’t hide, and it just elevates and elevates…

      ‘he hasn’t been to see anyone to talk, to see if there are any underlying causes psychologically, instead of chemically’ – I think it depends on what satisfies you as a person. I was told to take the drugs because I had a chemical imbalance, but I was silly and decided to read up on it and though it was true for some, there were cases where it wasn’t true. I like to get down to the bottom of things, and I think that’s why I struggled with medication, so I take these tablets and suddenly I’m better? It didn’t seem right to me, and then what was better? Happier? I didn’t know what to think, really, I wondered whether by taking the drugs I was just deluding myself – that I was just covering up the fact that there were hundreds of bad things in the world that I felt some sympathy/empathy towards. One of the worst parts for me was when the girl I was with said nothing when I started on the drugs – it was as if she were saying ‘okay, well thats sorted’ which is fine from an outside perspective… but for me it was like being punched in the face, suddenly everything I had felt about things, and thought was normal to feel, was wrong. I wondered whether my political views were just an aspect of my depression, and my vegetarianism, and my activism – was that then all wrong? Had I done too much? And then of course there was the poetry – I defined myself by how I felt, and I that’s why I wrote (to begin with), how would that change?

      ‘Sometimes I worry if the medication changes him, or hides and covers up real doubts that he has.’ – It’s very difficult to know, I think, I know that I had quite a bad reaction to the medication but I think that was down to me more than the chemical element itself. The thing is, the doctor handed over a prescription and said come back in two weeks and we will talk, and there was this implication that on these drugs I would be happy – that things would change – and I still don’t know to this day if they did. When I had good days, rather than be able to enjoy then I’d start wondering whether the good day was due to the medication, or whether I’d be having a good day anyway if I wasn’t on the medication – the problem was then that I’d think myself into a corner, a corner I couldn’t move from, and then the whole day my head would be like a block of concrete – I wouldn’t be able to think or feel without thinking about who I was, and whether I had changed, and whether I was ‘myself’. I don’t think the medication changes anyone in a massive way – but I think it depends on how much you rely on your emotions, and how much you question them – being happy is the greatest thing you can be, and its not healthy to question that. I questioned it all the time, and that became normal to me, so throwing me some drugs just threw me all the way into the matrix again!

      ‘he would be very volatile emotionally […] This, combined with a reduced libido caused by depression, and also caused by his medication, made the kindle to some really upsetting discussions. But all these things we work through together.’ – Discussions is a MASSIVE keyword here. Talking, talking talking talking is so so helpful, but it also has to be done in the right way and often the talking doesn’t seem to end. Sometimes you can end up talking about an issue numerous times, and it seems to creep back when you think you’ve already got past that, but the talking and discussing is so important – asking questions, giving space for responses, its all very subtle but because its subtle it can be very difficult (I think). Reduced libido is certainly not helpful, and when tied in with volatile emotions, or emotional stress, or emotional distance it can ruin everything in a relationship. I think you have to be incredibly strong to hold on things during those times, but that’s where ‘knowing’ about it is helpful – if neither of you knew, then it would just seem like the relationships falling apart, right? That’s not to say that knowing fixes things either, but it at least gives you a ground to stand on; to build up from. I think a common problem is that those not within it think that now that they both know about it it becomes sorted – I mean, it works with everything else, it’s not a bad way of looking at things at all; you walk along a footpath and meet a man who tells you you’re on private land, you apologise, leave, and now you know that its private and not to walk that route again – it makes sense, but with depression it seems to be about how deep it is; the depression after a breakup, or an incident is quicker and easier to overcome because there is something to return to. With the footpath, if you find yourself on private land but don’t know what private or public is, then you have to get that into you’re head before you can distinguish between the two – it takes longer. Talking is the same, I think, and its something I didn’t have when I started on my medication – the girlfriend of the time acted as if that was that, and we rarely talked about it, and when we did we weren’t talking in the right way, it never felt like I was being listened too – and that didn’t help either.

      ‘But for a good few years, it was hard.’ – I can agree, it’s in my family too, but I can’t really talk about it (it’s not mine to talk about, really). But rest assured I’m with you, although my situation was nowhere near as tumultuous as your own.

      ‘Sometimes I worry that I’ll get depression – especially as it’s on both sides of my family.’ – I’m not really sure if it works like that – they say that it does, but I don’t really think it does. A great deal of it is down to chance as well as how you are brought up, but ‘being brought up’ is such a variable – people instantly think ‘PARENTS!’ but its far far more than that; the objects we interact with, the friends we make at school, the school itself, whether we fall over lots… so many silly silly things, people act as if anything the parent does the child will do too, but it’s really not like that – certainly there is a higher chance of those things, but we don’t give enough credit to childhood independence and other outside factors.

      ‘I know that if I DID get depressed, then I would be able to talk to them about it – which is a relief I know not all people with depression can claim too.’ – Awesome, awesome awesome awesome awesome.

      ‘But what annoys me is when people say ‘oh, I’m so depressed’ in blase fashion, when what they mean is that they are upset.’ – Blase was the word I was looking for whilst writing! And I couldn’t agree more, to be ‘depressed’ is such a variable, it’s different for different people, but it’s become dangerously vague as a medical term; washing in amongst the everyday to the extent that you might be on your knees crying out that you feel awfully depressed and people will still think ‘what? Be happy fool.’ Medically its difficult too, they never know what bracket to put you in and it’s all so unstructured. They still don’t know what to do with me, and I’m still unsure of my diagnosis – I go to the doctors when I’m unhappy, but there are times when I am very happy, and I do many things, and I travel and I talk to people and I plan big trips and silly things, and I sit and wonder whether they’ve got me right – I mean, the medication seriously screwed up everything for me when I was on it, I remember going to a class and I was sitting there shaking inside, and then my arms were just shaking and I couldn’t write. No-one had seemed to notice, but I just couldn’t stop – and then I got concerned that I wasn’t saying enough in class (I’m rather talkative, like discussions) so I answered a couple questions and then later the teacher was talking about something and said, ‘like what Hayden was saying’ and I’d phased out then, I looked up and said ‘what? who said my name?’ and my hands were shaking and I felt like I was falling into the table. I thought I’d hidden it pretty well but then at break I popped outside to try and get some air, some space, and my mates were so concerned, so so concerned. That medication was the silliest thing I have ever done, ever ever done – for some people it does great things, and it works, but for me all hell broke loose.

      ‘I’m not sure what my point was here…..’ – you don’t need to have one!

      ‘Sorry for the massive comment!’ – no need to apologise, I rather welcome it. =D

      1. Hey,

        So, after reading your reply, I decided I wanted to sit down with my Fiance and talk about his depression, so that I could understand it. I’d shied away from talking about it deeply before, because I thought he was embarrassed by it. But he wasn’t, not with me at least 🙂 He still finds it a very personal thing, and I know he wouldn’t talk to many people (or…. anyone really) about it, so I was happy that he felt he could open up to me about it. It’s put a lot of my fears and doubts to rest.

        He’s said he would like to come off the medication one day, but doesn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I don’t know what to make of it, but I will trust him. If it comes to that, and it doesn’t work well, then I’ll just have to remember that we can talk about it.

        I know that talking to someone about things can help (I had to see a councilor when I was a kid after some traumatic stuff happened to me) so I do want to encourage him to do that… but he is such a scientist, and truly doesn’t believe it will make a difference. He also thinks that the medication could only be working as a placebo. I think we come from very different perspectives.

        Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I hope it helps other people, too 🙂

        1. Hello!

          First of all I’ll apologise for the late nature of my response – it’s essay and portfolio galore at the UEA so I’ve been tearing my hair out for the past two weeks! Anyway, it all gets handed in today so I’ll have some time to get this up and running again…

          It’s great that he wasn’t embarrassed about it, because I think so many people are, they see it as a weakness, or something – but he didn’t, and that is fantastic! It is a very personal thing; and it makes talking about it (in a way) a very intimate thing too, its great that he could open up about things because its the ‘not-opening-up’ but that is usually a massive killer (and downer) for conversation on both parties. We are curious beings (some more than others) and when someone says they don’t want to talk about something we instantly ‘want’ to talk about that something!

          ‘He’s said he would like to come off the medication one day,’ if he said ‘one day’ then that means that at the minute all is probably well, if he seems happy enough on medication then that’s fine, really! And yes, if it does come to that keep talking like you can now, no stress, no labouring, no nagging – just discussion, talking – it works wonders =) it may not go well – but you can work through things so long as you can talk and meander your way through each others feelings, and show an awareness of each other – careful footing and all that (if that makes any sense…).

          ‘I know that talking to someone about things can help’ it can help, but it also can make things worse (sometimes). Talking to a counsellor can, and is, very helpful for a lot of people, but it also puts you face-to-face with some things you haven’t been face-to-face with for some time. This can be dangerous in the short term, and the long term – I’ve come out of some sessions quite upset – not with the councillor, or what the counsellor said, but with myself. All things are so variable – like medication, it helps some, but hinders others – if it works then that’s great.

          ‘He also thinks that the medication could only be working as a placebo’ – sounds like me… =P What I think is also interesting is how we say things like ‘medication or therapy’, or ‘medication or counselling’ when people can, and have, worked through depression on their own – there are sites out there that help with self therapy, which is very interesting, and sometimes people just learn to be different, I guess! Things change, but see how it goes, and I wish you all the best!

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