The Real Meaning of Depression
I remember it was nearly Christmas, and I had yet to put up any decorations. However, instead of feeling excited about getting out the tinsel and baubles, I thought: ‘What’s the point of going to all the effort of getting them out of the loft, putting them up, only to then have to go to all the trouble of taking them down again in a couple of week’s time’. Little did I know that this was the start of my depression, and I would soon have these same feelings of apathy towards everything in life. That was five years ago, and although I’m still on antidepressants I do get the occasional relapse. I want to try to explain what it feels like, for me personally, because the word ‘depression’ is very misleading. Whilst the first thing I notice is a ‘lump in the throat’, as if I need to cry, I’m NOT sad and there are NO tears. Next comes the loss of all emotions, as if my life battery is being drained, and this is really quite frightening. In the past I tried watching very funny films, to stimulate some laughter – but nothing, not even a smile. Okay, how about really sad thoughts? Once again, nothing. No laughter, no tears. No anger, hate, joy... all emotions gone. And without emotions there’s no raison d’etre. I can’t get excited about a future event, or feel regret for a past misdemeanour. It’s not that I don’t care during my depression, it’s just that my body won’t respond to anything. It’s as if my mind and body are two separate entities. Intellectually I know that this is going to be a problem socially – I won’t be able to engage with people, as my automatic response system to all the different types of social stimuli have shut down. I’m a walking zombie. Then the tiredness sets in. So now my body doesn’t have the will to do things, nor it seems the energy. Mentally, I’m still the same, but I’ve turned into Mr Spock from Star Trek. And contrary to his character, you can’t operate on logic alone. I can still think rationally, but It’s as if I’m suffering emotional constipation, or that my emotions have become blocked and are starting to form an emotion-filled boil that desperately needs lancing! It’s actually physically painful, and you just want to find a way of relieving it. I've tried pleading with my body, shouting at it, hitting it, on one occasion cutting it, in the hope that this would somehow jumpstart it back into action. I had thoughts about smashing a jewellery shop window – would the following commotion and police sirens get my body to respond, just a little bit. But no, nothing worked. The cut hurt and made a mess, but it didn’t make me cry. And fortunately I knew that the broken shop window would leave me with a criminal record, but little emotional relief. I’ve learned that all I can do is wait it out. Like a captain in the cockpit waiting for all systems to reboot. I have learned that if I mentally fight it, the depression can last for weeks or months. So, I just accept it, and treat it like any other illness – get plenty of rest, snuggle up with my soul mate, Lucy (my dog!), clear my mind of all thoughts, and try to relax. By doing this I know that sooner, rather than later, my body will eventually come back online. After just a few days my body and mind will once again be in sync. And that’s a huge relief for everyone! Katie, Manchester
THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF LOVE
Confidence has always been something that I have struggled with, and still do to this very day. From meeting new people to public speaking, confidence is key in many different situations. After I did NCS (National Citizens Service), when I was put on a four-week course with complete strangers, I realised that perhaps being confident wasn’t so difficult after all. As I gained confidence through NCS, I realised that the key is self-love. I think many of us struggle with being confident because of the fear of judgement by others. However, I realised that if you love yourself then who really cares what others think? Self-appreciation is not only crucial for confidence, but it also makes you a more positive and happier person. By loving yourself, you learn to love the small things in life and thus become more content. Last year was a real roller coaster for me. I went through some of the best times, to hitting some of my lowest. However, keeping positive and putting a smile on my face helped me to get through it all. Having said this, it’s still a lot easier said than done, especially during some of the hardest times. But remember that even if you’re going through some of the roughest times, if you love yourself then you’ve got something to look forward to in life. You have you. And that is why self-appreciation is so important because when you take away your materialistic things, your friends, your family, your hobbies, all you’re left with is you. And nobody can take that away from you. Not your teachers, not your boss, not even your parents. So learn to love yourself. Isabella, London.
TIME FOR CHANGE
I have only ever had OCD and depression. I have not committed a crime or killed anyone. So why have I been judged and discriminated against? I have been told the same thing for over 20 years: “Do not tell anyone". Why not? Mental health issues change your life, and society has so many stigmatised notions it is like a double battle, swords in both hands fighting your way to better health. My family, who are great and have been my one stability throughout the last 23 years, said tell no-one – so how does a scared 13-year-old explain very odd behaviour and weekly trips to a psychologist, thereby missing school every Tuesday afternoon. People at school asked if I was pregnant! However, I told them nothing. But why were we telling people nothing? “Because they won't understand." And it’s amazing how many different people have “not understood". Doctors, nurses, employers, colleagues, all making judgments about me based on an admission that I have experienced mental illness in the past. However, the biggest problem I have had to face, due to my mental health, is the feeling of loneliness. When I took an overdose at 17 my friend said: “Typical drama queen" and immediately fell out with me. Not only was I severely depressed and suicidal now I was also very alone. At the end of my degree I was hospitalised voluntarily for two weeks. Only three of my many friends visited, but I understand it was hard for them. If you have been to a psychiatric ward you will know that you don't see many get well cards, balloons, flowers, grapes. People do not know what to say and therefore they say nothing. So now, 23 year’s later, I work in mental health – I want to change the culture we live in. I want people to be able to talk openly about their mental health without having to worry about how other people will respond or how others will judge them. That’s also why, when I heard about the launch if this fantastic new magazine, MindSet, I just had to contribute! I know how devasted people can feel, and ashamed, when opening up about their mental health, and not getting a good response. That is what motivates me to do what I do now. I want to change the world, which is a cliche I know, but I hope there will be a day when people won't experience discrimination and that can only be done by dispelling the myths and changing people's attitudes. And with a magazine like this, giving people the chance to open up, and challenge misconceptions, that day can only come sooner. Megan, Stockport
FACING YOUR FEARS
After years of suffering with severe anxiety, which had lost me my job, my friends and finally my identity, I decided enough was enough. This was my first major step – deciding to do something about it. The second step for me, was not a visit to the doctor, he was only concerned with giving me pills; my next rung on the ladder was to find out why I felt like I did – I wanted answers, and I wouldn’t get them from pills. Eventually, through research and reading and finding someone who understood the subject, I found a lot of those answers. Just to have an explanation and to realise that I was not alone, was enough for me to change a cycle. A cycle of self-pity, complete bewilderment and constant worry and fear of what was wrong with me. I now believed I could get better – and as a result I’ve never looked back. I realised early on that I had fallen into a lot of bad habits, avoidance being one of them and that hiding away was not the way forward. I remember the first thing I did was join a Yoga class. I must have put off going 10 times in the week before I went! The thought of going into a room of strangers, feeling dreadful, anxious, panicky, strange, all the symptoms I felt at the time terrified me. But I could either hide away or take the first step towards a new life. So I went, and yes I felt awful at times, but something happened – I got into the class and for a minute or two forgot about how I felt and just got on. I finished the class and went home elated. I had floated past all the negative suggestions not to go. In a healthy body, feeling fear is a natural response to danger, and prepares you to fight or take flight. But I began to realise that my feelings of fear and anxiety weren’t based on anything that could really hurt me – at a Yoga class there is nothing to fear, no need to run, (even though my body was making me feel I should!). This is when I realised I had to ignore my primal instincts, take a deep breath, and just go and take what comes – after all, what was the worst that could happen ? So this was the next stage of my recovery – beginning to live my life again, without anxiety ruling what I did and the decisions I made. I admit that I sometimes felt overwhelmed in the early stages and wanted to run or go home, but I never did and this is where the real victories came. I did it, I felt really awful, and over-whelmed, but I stayed. I am not saying it was easy at times, but I knew how important it was. To feel more normal, I had to pack in as much normal living as possible. I didn’t try not to think about myself, if the attention was on me then I had to let it be, and not get frustrated with the way it was making me feel. Over time I realised I had other things to bother with and not just myself – to be honest, in the end I got bored with the subject of ‘me’ and over the years actually started to develop a ‘whatever’ attitude! But to reach this stage, the support I had from my mother and partner was vital – they were people I could trust, who would not judge me or tell me to pull myself together. I think it ‘s important for anyone who is suffering from anxiety, to have the support of those closest to them – they may not always understand, but if they can just give you the time and show you they care, this will help reduce the stress to rush recovery, as well as reduce any guilt about not being the person you feel you ought to be. The truth is, my recovery was a very up and down affair, but so worth it to be the person I now am. My life is so different and every day is a gift; and I believe that gift is there for everyone. Anxiety and the symptoms that go with it are just feelings, never see it as anything else – it can only hold you back if you let it.