In hindsight the process of depression started quite slowly, but only in hindsight can I see I was like Dr Evil’s henchman in Austin Powers, with plenty of time to get away from the slow-moving steam roller, but seemingly unable to save himself, I guess it was inevitable. At the time it felt like a surprise, like the feelings had crept up on me and I had no way of fighting them off, the process was already well under way.
When I started to realise I could be on that slippery slope, I started by looking up the symptoms on the NHS website – they read a bit like any average persons bad day; feeling irritable or intolerant, feeling hopeless and helpless, not getting any enjoyment out of life, unexplained aches and pains. Frankly, any Londoner who must travel every day via the Underground goes through this range of emotion throughout the 45 minute journey. So my initial response was just to tell myself to snap out of it, just get on with things and power through. I kept telling myself that there were so many others who had it much worse off than I had, many many others who had more reasons to feel more than blue continuously, others with rough upbringings, unbelievable adversity or difficult relationships, so why the hell did I feel justified in feeling shit, I shouldn’t, I couldn’t, I wouldn’t.
I suppose the reality of my situation started to make itself more felt when the physical symptoms started to kick in. Isn’t it funny that Depression is a recognised illness and yet as with most mental illnesses are only respected when our bodies, not just our minds, start to tell us that there is something wrong.
Suddenly, I couldn’t sleep, I would lay in bed squeezing my eyes shut and resisting the urge to move about too much so I wouldn’t disturb my snoring partner. I couldn’t quiet my mind, these issues that had seemed so unimportant and menial were playing like a GIF in my mind, short sharp snaps of anxieties I had no idea were such a problem until they were stopping me from sleeping.
Then my appetite changed, if I wasn’t bingeing on crap food and beer, I was practically starving myself. Completely unaware of what my body needed from me, I was dehydrated, bloated, starving then stuffed, parched and quenched – completely uncomfortable and unhappy with whatever physical feeling I had at the time.
I have had depression before about 7 years ago. I didn’t remember any of this, I remembered being grumpy, more irritable than usual and actually angry with my situation, but I didn’t remember the utter restlessness and discomfort that comes with it. All of the physical symptoms came as a complete surprise. I am, in a way, grateful that they are a part of how Depression manifests in a person exactly because of what I stated above. I was inclined to ignore the low feelings, the lack of motivation, it seems I was even prepared to ignore the need to cry at the most inopportune moments. I also recognise that when I speak to people about how it feels to be depressed I tend to lean toward describing the physical symptoms, I can only relate some of the psychological pain to someone who is going through the same feelings at the same time. I’m the first to acknowledge that you forget what it means to be depressed once you come out of the other side. Is it really because the illness is still taboo or is it because even the depressed person cannot tell you what it really means to be depressed without relaying the physical side effects to listeners? Why is depression not respected as a psychological illness without having to rely on physical symptoms to garner understanding?
The full list of psychological symptoms from the NHS includes:
- continuous low mood or sadness
- feeling hopeless and helpless
- having low self-esteem
- feeling tearful
- feeling guilt-ridden
- feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- having no motivation or interest in things
- finding it difficult to make decisions
- not getting any enjoyment out of life
- feeling anxious or worried
- having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself
The NHS states that if you are experiencing “some of these symptoms for most of the day, every day, for at least two weeks, you should seek help from your GP.”
These symptoms can feel arbitrary, I recall having this page open on my laptop for days using the above as a sort of check list. It sometimes came to a “chicken or egg” argument; am I feeling irritable and intolerant, or am I finding examples because I have asked myself whether I am feeling irritable or intolerant? Sometimes I felt like some of the symptoms were actually just personality traits, I have a history of finding it difficult to make decisions, does that mean that I will get even worse at making decisions or should I still count that as a symptom?
I could have prevaricated on the symptoms logically and illogically for even longer if I decided to. I finally decided that I had to recognise that something just wasn’t right. I had to tell myself, Amanda, listen to your gut – you’re not feeling great are you?
I will tell you, that process wasn’t easy and it still took me a further two weeks. I wanted to fight that intuitive self with logic, reality and practicality. It wasn’t practical to try to deal with a mental illness, it wasn’t logical at all that I felt low when I kept telling myself that my life was on track, I didn’t have time, resources, energy or finances to deal taking the time that I figured I would need to heal.
Then one day, I broke – that is the only word I can use, cheesy as it may seem. I just broke into heaving sobs, utter hopelessness and fear like I have never experienced, I felt an extreme anxiety that the whole world was going to fall down around me. Every one I loved was going to leave me, I was going to end up homeless, helpless and useless to this world. All I could think to do was cocoon in my bed and never have to raise my head to deal with all of that feeling.
Now, I was incredibly lucky, and I continue to be incredibly lucky, I have had the most supportive partner anybody could ask for. If you are lucky enough to have a rock like I have, then I know you will get through it. It is incredibly difficult to have that initial conversation with any one about acknowledging depression and deciding how you best need to go about the dealing and healing process, most of the time, it’s not practical, it doesn’t fit well with reality and it can mean some significant life changes for every one around you. So, while it is one of the hardest things to do to admit the weakness, most of us have someone we love close enough to help, tell them! If you don’t feel like you can tell anyone that you know, speak to your GP or contact one of the many support services available. It is incredibly difficult to do this on your own.
This blog will continue to follow my progress, I will be looking at my depression in phases, how I dealt with Dr’s, how I dealt with my working situation, and how I dealt with getting on the path to healing. I will also aim to delve into specific symptoms to address and help others recognise how these can impact us on a daily basis, and how I am working towards removing these symptoms from my life.
I would also like to look at how depression is dealt with, not just from an individual standpoint, but in the media, by Dr’s, by medical services. I’m not saying I am an expert, but I decided to start this blog once I recognised that there is actually a demographic not highly represented when it comes to depression, I am part of that demographic and I hope to address these issues not just for myself, but for the many others who may be suffering alone, confused and unsure.