Tuesday – Mental Health Awareness Week – Depression
Phewf. No pressure with this one (sarcasm).
(Before I start, I want to refer everyone to Mind, Samaritans and worst case scenario (in the UK), 999. If you feel like hurting yourself, 999 is exactly the number to call, that’s an emergency, that’s what they’re there for.)
“Eurgh this weather is so depressing”
“I can’t believe the summer’s over already, I’m so depressed”
We’ve all done it. Used the word in a place it really doesn’t matter. Like saying “it’s freezing”, instead of “it’s really cold” or “I’m boiling” instead of “I’m sweating like a beeyatch”. Only nowhere near as harmless.
First piece of advice – stop using the word where it doesn’t apply. Unless you’re cripplingly numb, not wanting to leave your bed, hopeless or without any motivation at all, you’re not “depressed” about the weather or your holiday being over.
My boyfriend’s depression was the first experience I really had of it. After dealing with my own anxiety and a housemate with an addiction (trust me, it was a rough couple of years), my housemate (and best friend, as he was at the time) came to me, about feeling down. I don’t remember how the conversation started, but I do remember telling him to go to the doctors, and not taking no for an answer. Selfishly, he meant too much to me, after the year we’d had, for him to be in any difficult position.
The GP gave him a sheet of paper to tick off his anxiety and depression scores and go back in two weeks and see if anything was different. That annoyed me. Particularly when I read his scores.
I’ve asked him if it’s OK to talk about this on the blog. His reply “I’d rather you talk about my mental health problems than not, because it could help someone else through theirs” (what a guy, right?).
“In the last two weeks, have you had thoughts about hurting yourself, or you’d be better off dead in some way?”
“On some days”
I cried when I read that. Then I walked in to his room where he was sitting, playing on his Xbox in the big red chair, and sat on his knee and gave him a cuddle. I made him promise that next time he’d talk to me, and that under no circumstances would he hurt himself. And that piece of paper still terrifies me.
The story fortunately has a happy ending for us – he’s had a course of SSRIs, and ten week sessions of CBT. And he’s so much happier.
People often refer to depression as like a cloud. And it’s a great metaphor – the little rain cloud that follows you, and only you, while everyone dances around in the sunshine. And you feel tired and jealous and angry that everyone else gets the sunshine while you feel…well…numb.
I’m fortunate enough to not really suffer from depression – I say not really, my GP thinks I do, but to be honest, I think it often gets lumped together with anxiety.
The only real time I felt it kicking in, combined with the anxiety, was when my mum was in hospital. I’ve talked about that episode in a previous entry – The All Clear – and the feelings that came from that. They hadn’t really gone away when a good friend committed suicide, and from then I couldn’t quite trust my feelings. I wasn’t quite drowning, but I was only just managing to swim. That’s when my meds were upped again, and acted like the life jacket to keep my head above the waves when I got a bit tired of fighting the current. (Great metaphor, right?)
So we’ve talked about what depression means. But what about what it doesn’t mean? Depression can mean feelings of suicide and self harm. But it doesn’t always. Symptoms of depression range from mild to severe – what’s most important is to catch it early.
Realistically, how many people have never had a day where you didn’t want to get out of bed? I bet the numbers are tiny. How many of us haven’t wanted to get out of bed, not because we were tired, but because we didn’t see the point.
A huge majority. But when that teeny tiny occasion becomes a regular occurrence, it gets more serious.
What I’m trying to say (and I have no idea how successful i am in managing it), is that any one of us can become depressed. We all start out the same, and depression comes from a range of sources, but often boils down to two: genetics and circumstances. A balance of both. It can be any of us.
(There’s a great little cartoon that does the rounds on Facebook occasionally, of a friend not wanting to get out of bed, so the other friend joining them and making a pillow fort.)
It’s common sense really – look for changes in your friends – mood, temper, energy, they’re all fairly big indicators. Withdrawing from socialising, attitude changes etc. and if you’re concerned, talk to them. Gently of course, there’s no need for confrontation. Not immediately anyway.
Most importantly, if you think a friend is in any danger of harming themselves, call 999.