This is the first part of the depression series for the mental health awareness month.
Although depression is spreading as we speak, clinical depression is often not fully understood, and is naively, by those who haven’t experienced it, confused with normal sadness or feeling the blues. This post will show the stark differences between major depression and normal phases of sadness or grief.
When we are going through a difficult time, it is obvious that we will have feelings of sorrow and grief. It is also normal to cry it out. However, these feelings and this phase has an end. Whether it’s a few hours, days or a month, we recover and move on. Our sadness isn’t debilitating. Our day to day activities are not affected, and we don’t let the sadness or grief overtake and control our words and actions.
Major depression however, is completely different. It is often the result of a traumatic event or a major loss, but it can also be the consequence of a series of traumas and adversities that have affected us for a long period of time.
Want to understand depression? Then read on, because I’m about to tell you what it feels like. The symptoms, the signs, the full works.
- The negative emotions lasts more than 2 weeks.
- Their day to day activities feel exhaustive. Even basic mundane things such as eating, grooming and maintaining good hygiene feels difficult as if there’s too much energy being used to complete them.
- They experience anhedonia. This is when activities and hobbies they once enjoyed and did regularly comes to a halt. Nothing interests them anymore. Nothing makes them feel genuine happiness. They no longer feel ‘alive’.
- They feel hopeless and lonely. Not just the loneliness where they have no friends-but the kind of loneliness where they are surrounded by many, yet feel like they have no one.
- They may either experience insomnia, or oversleeping. With oversleeping it’s a mixture of struggling to actually even get out of bed, as they feel like they have no motive for the day, and nor do they have anything to look forward to. It is also because they are genuinely so exhausted all the time that they have no energy, no matter how much they sleep.
- The same with eating habits. They may over eat (comfort eating), or they may lose their appetite and not eat enough. This can then cause obesity or eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
- Feeling mentally, emotionally and physically drained. The body feels heavy like there is an enormous amount of weight placed on their shoulders, weighing them down. Aches and pains around the body is also very common, especially around the head and neck. They may also suffer from constant headaches.
- Anxiety begins. Especially social anxiety. Being in social situations, even if it’s a quick walk around the neighbourhood, can feel intimidating and tiring. The chatter of people around them and the different noises of a bustling town, overwhelms and consumes all their energy. A heightened sense of self consciousness is there, where they feel like everyone is noticing and secretly judging them. Once anxiety starts, panic attacks also become prevalent.
- Triggers form. Anything that reminds them of a trauma can set them off.
- Feelings of intense emotion can then be followed by the extreme opposite-feeling empty and indifferent towards everything. A complete absence of any emotion and feeling like they are lost. A considerable amount of sufferers describe it as feeling numb. This is then followed by intense emotion again, usually caused by a trigger. This rollercoaster further debilitates the sufferer by the confusement and exhaustion it causes.
- If they do feel happy at one point, or are temporarily distracted from their depressive state, then as soon as they’re alone again, the feelings crawl right back and overwhelm them.
- Lastly, the most serious manifestation of major depression is when the sufferers resort to self harming, and forms suicidal thoughts and tendencies. They may feel so hopeless with life and their depression, that the only means of escape they feel they can resort to is self harming or suicide. They are hiding and suppressing so many emotions that they feel an unnatural release when they self harm. Some self harmers keep it a secret, but some show it openly. I actually knew someone who self harmed, and never hid their scars. As dark as that sounds, this is a sign that they are desperately and blatantly asking for help. They want someone to notice the scars, because to verbalise their dire plight, is just so difficult.
Depression is real. Very real. It isn’t something you can just ‘snap out of’. It isn’t something where you can just ‘get a grip’, and it’ll go. It’s dark, it’s destructive and it is soul breaking. Reach out to anyone who you know might be suffering from major depression. They may display a pretence of being ‘okay’ and happy, or they may push you away. That’s common, as they feel shame, like there’s something wrong with them. They don’t want to be a ‘burden’ on anyone, and they think you’ll get freaked out by the intesinty of their emotions, if they were to open up to you. Keep knocking, gently, empathatically yet never in pity, and they will slowly accept the hand you’ve reached out to them.
In my next post I will discuss another form of depression called dysthymia. For now, please leave comments on your experiences. I want this series to create a community of people who have experienced mental illnesses. Sharing your stories and views with each other will connect us all in a profound way, as well as teaching us things we may not know yet. Even if it isn’t you, but someone you know who is suffering, you can share your story here. If you need any advice, then again please comment, or you can email me privately on firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will give it my best shot to help you.
To all my lovelies reading this post, please never stop searching for the light.