This is a bit more of a serious blog, I don’t normally go so deep and serious. But I just thought I needed to write this one. It is a subject that is very important to me and I think it’s important to talk about it.
I found it very hard to choose an appropriate title for this blog, I wanted something that would stand out. So I have used this title ironically. I think people see depression as simply just feeling sad like a child or adult would experience. I don’t think people understand the extent of which depression can take over someone’s life. It’s not just as easy as saying to someone with depression, “you just need to get out of the house/out more”, “just cheer up, there’s nothing in your life to make you depressed.” Those people certainly don’t help any situation.
Mental Illness is and always has been a taboo subject. I feel that people are afraid to talk about it. So let’s talk about it!!
Depression is defined as the state of feeling very unhappy and without hope for the future.
A mental illness in which a person is very unhappy and anxious for long periods and cannot have a normal life during these periods.
Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe. They include:
- feeling sad or having a depressed mood
- loss of interest or pleasure in activities that you once enjoyed
- change in weight – weight gain/weight loss
- trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- loss of energy or increased fatigue
- increase in purposeless physical activity or slowed movements and speech
- feeling worthless or guilty
- difficultly thinking, concentrating or making decisions
- thought of death or suicide
There are many more symptoms that many people suffer from. These are just a few of the most popular symptoms that are seen in people with depression.
7.8% of the U.K population meet the criteria for a diagnosis of depression.
Depression affects 1 in 6 of us.
4-10% of the U.K’s population will experience some form of depression in their lifetime.
I have suffered from depression since the age of 16. I have gone through the really deep dark depression periods. Today I can honestly say that it is a battle I struggle with on a daily basis. The only difference between depression at 22 and depression at 16, is I have a lot more knowledge and experience with it. I know what’s going to help and I know what’s not going to help. Don’t get me wrong, I have days that I can’t find the energy to even get out of bed. As the old saying goes, I have good days and bad days. This is my story that I don’t think I’ve ever completely told to anyone. I don’t even think my family know half of the things that I have gone through. Sometimes things need to be said and discussed and depression is one of those things.
As I said my depression started just before my 16th birthday. My parents weren’t long separated, my Dad was struggling, he was in and out of hospital, my relationship with my Mum at the time was non-existent, and I was trying to prepare for my GCSE’s all at the same time. At the beginning, I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning, some mornings I was afraid to even leave the house never mind go to school. I had been seeing a school counsellor, but for me that only helped temporarily, I looked forward to going for my hour session, I loved having the chance to tell them everything that was going on in my head, it was my chance to stop the racing thoughts swirling around that were just non-stop. But once that session was over, everything went back to the way it was. I ended up just not going to school some days. I worried about leaving my Dad on his own, I worried my school work wasn’t done or it wasn’t done right. I worried about money, about bills, everything I shouldn’t be worrying about basically.
That year I was forced to grow up, a lot. I was forced to become the adult at home. I did the cooking, the cleaning, the groceries, making sure bills were being paid on time. I had to tell my Dad when to go to bed and when to get up. At the age of 16, I felt more like 30. It was a very tough thing for me to deal with. But sadly I ignored the depression. I just told myself, push it down, I don’t have time to deal with myself, it will go away. Unfortunately, when you do those things it makes the whole situation worse which I would soon find out.
Around age 19/20 my panic attacks started. The first one I ever had, I had no idea what was going on, I thought I was going to die, I thought I was having a heart attack, I couldn’t physically stop myself from crying and my breathing was out of my control, I was so scared. After the first one, they began getting a lot more frequent, it started maybe every 3 days I would have a huge attack, then they were happening everyday, and at my worst, I was having three or four huge panic attacks a day. I wouldn’t leave the house, I physically could not bring myself to get out of my room.
My worst panic attack was the kick start that I needed, to realise how serious it was and that I really needed help if I wanted to live my life. I had just gotten basically as close as possible to my dream job. I was due to go in for an orientation sorta thing, get to know what I would be doing. I remember driving up the road and crying in the car. I couldn’t stop myself. When I got in, I hated every minute of it, the people, what I was doing, it was an awful experience. When I got home that evening, I just remember crying dowe the phone to my sister. I told her how much I hated it and I didn’t know if I could do it. The next day I had a Doctor’s appointment to see if they could do anything to help me. Of course I got the usually, referred to a counsellor and I was put on anti-depressants to help with the anxiety symptoms, and was told those tablets could take up to 6 weeks to work. That was not what I wanted or needed to hear. I felt defeated, I needed immediate relief from what I was feeling, and there was no possible way to get that. I got into the car and I cried, I just remember the feeling in the pit of my stomach. I sobbed my heart out, I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I was physically shaking, my chest was tight, it was a truly awful experience that I would not wish on my worst enemy. That day I cried for 8 hours straight. My muscles physically ached, there were no more tears to physically cry anymore. I had to make the decision to end that job, my family completely disagreed with me and I think they thought I took the cowards way out. But at that moment I had to do what was right for me, and the right thing was to leave that job. I had the support from my Sister and Dad and I felt that’s all I needed.
After that awful panic attack, I wanted things to get better so bad, but it just wasn’t happening, I was having trouble doing the most basic things like, getting changed out of my pyjamas or even going to the shower. I couldn’t sleep and all I did was eat my feelings. I could not for the life of me find the energy to do so. In the space of 3 months, I went down that deep hole that not many people are able to come out of. I don’t want to write this part but I feel that I need to because so many people go through this feeling and unfortunately a lot of people don’t make it back.
It was two weeks after christmas, I had been feeling this way for a few weeks at this point. I wanted to end things. I wanted to end the pain, the panic attacks, the depression, the fear. Everything, I just wanted it all to stop. I wanted to take my own life. Even as I write those words, I just think of what if I did that, the complete regret that I feel for have those feelings. It turns my stomach even thinking about it now. I had everything planned on how I was going to do it, I had written three separate notes, one for my Sister, one for my Mum and one for my Dad. I remember every word that I wrote on each one. I wanted to do it while no one was home, where no one could stop me or save me. I know now that I was completely selfish in that moment, but back then I couldn’t see it. I thank God, fate, or whoever it was that made me not do it that day, every single day of my life.
You’re probably thinking, what changed my mind. To this day I still don’t think she knows that she saved me. I have family that live right around the corner from me. My Grandmother and my Aunt. That day, it was an awful winter’s day, it was freezing out and raining. So I was surprised to see my Nanny walk through our front door. I remember her sitting down and making her usual small talk, and telling me and things that my family were up to. But she didn’t stop there, she began talking about my Granda that passed 16 years previously. I can’t remember what exactly what she said about him. But I could tell that even after they separated and after many years apart alive and dead, she still talked about him lovingly. She talked about lots of different things and I don’t know why, but something clicked in my head, I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t put my family through that. I knew that whenever I do die, I want people to talk about me, like my Nanny talks about my Granda, I want my family to have great stories about me and to tell people that I lived an amazing, fulfilled, exciting life. I know that sounds like a stupid thing to stop someone from making a huge decision like that. But it did and thank God it did. After she left, I went to the cupboard, I threw out all the old medicine and tablets that we had, I ripped up the letters that I had written, and threw them out so that no one would ever find them. I made the decision that day that I needed major help from my Doctor, not just some tablets that might work I needed definitive help that he knew and I knew would work. I said that day, that I needed to make my life worth living!!
That is my story!!
It breaks my heart when I hear that someone, no mater what their age has taken there own life. I know that feeling of having no other solution. I understand that you feel there is no other way to end the pain you are going through. I hate when people hear that sort of news and automatically assume that the person has done something “criminal” in their mind and has done this horrible thing to their family. That annoys me, because in that moment, you believe that it would be easier for your family to deal with that situation than having to help you in the situation that you feel you can’t get out of. The depression takes control of your mind, body, heart and soul.
I am glad that I realised that I have family and life experiences to live for. I was able to drag myself out of that deep black hole. Don’t get me wrong, it was not an easy thing to do, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my life. And I still struggle today, to stay away from that black hole. As I said before, I still get those days that I can’t get out of my bed or leave the house. I still suffer from panic attacks. In my case I think my depression will always be there. I believe that I will always have to work hard at overcoming it, I will probably need to remind myself on some occasions, that the pain does go away, even for a while, that taking my life is not the right solution. Things can be fixed.
Things That Helped Me
I have done a lot of research and experimentation to find that things that help keep me out of that hole. That is probably the advice that I would give anyone. Not every piece of information or examples that people and Doctors give you, are going to work for you. In some cases, you really have to search for what helps you basically stay sane and enables you to function as normal as you can.
I know every professional you’ve ever seen has probably told you that you need to meditate, and you roll your eyes each time. I know exactly how you feel, I used to do the exact thing, until I actually took it seriously and decided to really give it a go. I went through a lot of apps and videos, but none of them worked for me. I found a playlist that had very calming instrumental music and I would sit or lie down comfortably. I’d close my eyes and breathe. I focus on the music, I let my mind go blank, but don’t worry if you can’t stop your mind from wondering, it does take a lot of practice to completely stop your thoughts for 5-10 minutes. You have to learn to concentrate on your breathing and just relax. I try to meditate at least 3 times a week, 5-10 minutes out of my day just to breath and relax. Sometimes I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, I feel less tensed and more relaxed. It helps to pull you back for a minute, it allows you to control your mind, it helps you to decide what’s best for you. I empowers you to realise, “you are alive, you are breathing, you have a chance. You have people that love you, in that sense you are very rich and lucky.” Sometimes that happy feeling will only last a few hours before the mind begins to flood again. But it reminds you that you are in control. It pulls you back from going to that dark place and helps you to live as normal as possible which is our main goal!! To be able to function and live a normal life!
I don’t think people realise the real benefits of exercise. It isn’t just to help you loose weight or to be fit, but it helps to keep both your body and mind healthy! Another thing that I believe people forget, is that you don’t need to go to the gym everyday for a workout. Exercising can be as simply as going for a nice nature walk (to get out of the house and to embrace the beautiful things that nature produces and can make you really appreciate life), do some yoga, take your dog for a walk. Just get your body moving in some way. The idea is to get those happy hormones into the brain. Plus it lets you get out of your head for at least 20 minutes. It gets you out into the fresh air and out of the safe bubble of your house!
Eat Well and Drink Plenty of Water
If we keep our body healthy, feed and water it correctly. We are nurturing our body, we are helping ourselves to stay alive, we are helping our body to produce the hormones that our brain’s need to help clear some of the fog!
This is the most important thing for me personally. If I didn’t have my books, I would certainly fall down the “rabbit hole”. Reading lets me leave me reality behind, it allows me to forget for a few hours. I can enter a whole other world where I don’t have to think or worry about what’s going on in my life. It is truly unbelievable what the mind can do! We can read a bunch of words made from the same 26 letters and imagine a whole new world in our mind as were read them. I feel some people underestimate the magic power that a book can hold for someone. I personally, when I’m having a really shit day or even shit week, I will re-read my favourite books, be it Harry Potter or a Lynda La Plante Series book, because I know it will take me to a different world and give me a break from my own reality.
Listen to Music
Music, like reading, for me has magical healing powers. Sometimes putting on your favourite artist, album or playlist can do wonders. I find it’s very like meditation. If you take that time out to listen to music, focus on the sound, the lyrics and breath with it. Or sing as loud as you can and dance like no one is watching. Free yourself, think about the music and you can clear your mind for a while. When I am on my own, I am usually cleaning or driving, I will stick my music on really loud and sing until I loose my voice. I don’t care that my voice cannot carry a note, all I care about it that music help relieve my stress, so I do it as much as I can.
Write It Out / Talk It Out
The most important thing that I have learnt is you need to write everything down or talk it through with someone. You need to get all those feelings and emotions out. Bottling all those up is probably the worst thing you can do. I have definitely learnt that the hard way! You might think why? I understand that hesitance, why would you wan to burden someone else with your issues. You are in no way burdening anyone. You are talking things through and you never know, someone might actually have a solution for you that you would never have thought of. Never thing you are less than. Plus you’ll find out 9 times out of 10, someone is always willing to be there for you and help.
Again, like with everything, you need to find what helps you! This is just a brief example of what I have learnt and discovered that these things help me to survive. Not all the time, some things will work better in certain situations. I have found with depression you really have to find yourself, you need to study your ways and really concentrate on how to make yourself better. It took me a long time to realise that my happiness is up to me and no one else. That it is my job!!
I also understand, that some people might not have access to the things that might help them, but I think people forget about the different charities that you can contact for help also. These are just a few out the ones you can reach out to in the UK and Northern Ireland
- Samaritans– https://www.samaritans.org/
- Heads Together – https://www.headstogether.org.uk/
- Mind – https://www.mind.org.uk/
If you are reading this, and you are going through exactly what I went through, listen to me!! You are alive. You are worth it. You are loved. You are cared about. You are not less than. The pain will go away, I promise, in time it will disappear. You have a life worth living. You are a strong person that can get through this!! I believe in you!! Don’t let the depression win, you are meant for greatness, believe in yourself! You are not alone.