Monday, 29 October 2012

The In's and Out's of Depression

I think it's about time that somebody did an in detail description of what feeling 'depressed' is actually like. Of course the term 'depressed' can be used in many contexts and to describe a vast array of emotions, but what I will describe here is what clinical depression feels like.
Firstly, there is the medical side of this illness. I use the word 'illness' here because one type of depression is actually due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Either not enough serotonin is produced or the receptors in the brain are unable to detect it for some reason. This can be treated in many ways, with anti-depressant drugs being one such method.
There are also many other psychiatric conditions which come with bouts of depression: borderline personality disorder, seasonal affective disorder, bipolar, post traumatic stress, need I go on?
What I'm trying to get at here is that depression is common - very common. Plus it usually comes with a side order of other things that you didn't want too.
The causes of depression are varied. Some argue that traumatic events are the main cause, other go for genetics and some even claim that it's caused by certain medications and other medical type things. I say: who gives a crap? Let's just deal with the damn thing.
To give depression a definition is pretty much impossible because every person will experience it differently. You can, however, safely assume that you would feel sad, low, blue, whatever you want to call it. I'll call it feeling utterly shite.
When I'm at my lowest, I feel all the usual things: sadness, loneliness, not enjoying anything, no appetite, difficulty sleeping etc. All the symptoms you find on 'are you depressed' quizzes. But what is this actually like? Feeling sad and lonely is inevitable at some point in your life, but does it make you depressed?
True depression cannot be categorised this way. When I am in that place, I feel numb. It's like there's a barrier between me and the world and I can watch everyone go by, smiling and laughing, but they can't see me or they just don't want to. I feel so alone and I know that nothing will change it and nobody will ever care.
I'm so tired that you can barely even get out of bed. Washing and eating are definitely not your priorities.
I also feel extremely guilty for feeling this way, like I haven't got a reason to justify this feeling. I blame myself for it, but then feel guilty for being so hard on myself and blame myself for that too. It's basically a vicious circle.
I don't enjoy things at all, even the things I love the most. If I'm around people, I can't connect with them. I don't enjoy eating my favourite food or watching my favourite film. In fact my concentration is so bad I can barely get through an episode of a television show.
Anxiety usually accompanies depression with me, and I'm constantly on edge, waiting for something bad to happen. My chest feels tight and I feel like I can't breathe. Then the paranoia starts and I feel like everyone is against me somehow and they don't want me around.
Sometimes I start to cry and it just doesn't stop.
During these times I can't remember positive memories or have feelings of hope; they just aren't there. It's nearly impossible for me to do day to day things like read or listen to music or leave my flat.
It's at these extremely low times when I am vulnerable to suicidal thoughts. Of course I do not want this, and I'm terrified when I have these thoughts, like it's somebody else planting them in my mind.
Then there's the physical side. Not only does depression affect my mind, but my body takes a good beating too. The tiredness is one such example, but it goes further than that. Tiredness prevents me from doing a lot of things: washing, eating and even just moving, which of course has negative effects on my health. My muscles ache for no real reason, like they are constantly tensed - I usually blame this on the anxiety. I feel as though I'm in fight or flight mode, again because I am so anxious, so my digestive and immune system are not fully functional. I suffer irritable bowel syndrome because of this, which is horrific, and it takes me longer to fight off simple illness like the cold.
I often have the shakes, be it because of the medication or the anxiety or whatever, it's still impractical for simple things like writing, buttoning up a coat or getting a key into a lock.
Sometimes I have to get people to do simple things for me, just because my body won't allow me to.
It's like I'm elderly already but I'm only 20 years old.

I used to think that depression wasn't a real illness and that you just needed to pull yourself together and move on. I was wrong. When you are in that place, there is nothing you can do to get out of it. You can just wait for it to be over. The only way of ending it sooner is...well, ending it.

People may wonder how you cure depression. The simple answer is that you can't. You can't cure depression; you can simply live alongside it until you are ready to part ways with it. What you, and I to be honest, need to remember, is that it is an illness, not something that is yours or anyone elses fault. And we also need to remember that we are needed in this world, not for something big like ending poverty or curing the common cold, but to prove that depression can't rule us.
For me, beating depression is accepting it for what it is and finding a way for me to lead a happy life with it. I believe that my depression will not go away, but I am ready to accept this and move on with my life. I can live with this, and for anyone reading this, so can you. Fight it, get rid of it, live with it, whatever. Just don't let it beat you.

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