Let’s talk about depression; my depression. If you know me well, then you know that I have depression. It’s not something I hide away from the world because I’m not ashamed of it. I know that it carries a stigma and most people don’t understand what it is. It’s more than just a low mood or feeling sad. It’s feeling sad, low or moody (usually intensely) for a long period of time (consistently for at least 2 weeks is a base point). Sometimes it even happens for no apparent reason. It’s a serious illness that is just gaining understanding from those who don’t suffer from it (and even for those who are). It not only impacts our mental health, but it will affect your physical health too.
Symptoms of depression can include:
– lack of energy
– difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
– inability to concerntrate
– loss of interest in hobbies, enjoyable activities and life in general
– And most importantly, a persisting low mood.
If you can recover by yourself, then good on you. If it goes away by itself then awesome. Talk to your family and friends about it and ask them to provide support. But if it doesn’t seem to be going away, and it’s really starting to affect your life, then I recommend seeking help and support from a professional. I know that there’s a negative stigma about admitting you have depression and seeing a psychologist because it might make you appear “weak” but I assure you, that’s not the truth at all.
If you can admit to yourself that you have a problem, that’s bravery. If you can be proactive and seek help, that’s courage. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re just being ignorant. They don’t understand it. Don’t listen to them because their ignorance will bring you down. Don’t let it. Be proud of yourself, that you’re going to fight the depression. Depression is like cancer. Sometimes it appears out of nowhere but it can be devastating. It can even kill you if you don’t seek help in time. So ignore the ignorant and be your own hero.
This won’t be everyone experience with depression, but I’d like to tell you about mine.
I’ve had depression for quite a long time. I think the first time I had it was in high school, about 14 years old. I was lucky and had a supportive boyfriend who helped me through it at the time. But the thing about depression is that it’s like herpes. It can come back at any time. And it did. About once a year, I would get a month where I would be down. I would be moody, I would lose interest in life, and I had to try really hard to get out of bed in the morning. It really wasn’t good for my academics, and I didn’t do as well as I’d hope. It also didn’t help that three of my grandparents passed away during that time, in ’09,’10 & ’12.
I was seeing the school counsellor at the time and she helped a lot, and it went away. But at the beginning of 2013, it came at me once again, and it really hasn’t left since.
If any of this is a surprise to anybody, then I’d like to tell you that for people of depression, we usually try to hide it in front of others. We’ll tell you that we’re fine, and we’ll smile. We’ll throw you off our scent and you wouldn’t think twice about whether we’re really okay or not. But inside, we’re struggling. Perhaps you can distract us for a while, but when we go home, we’ll be crying. We’ll cover ourselves with our blankets and suffer in silence. That’s what I did. I told everyone I was fine when I could. I smiled whenever it was required. And I tried my best to pretend everything was okay. I still do it. But it’s a lot harder to do now.
When it first hit me again in 2013, I made sure I saw a counsellor at university. It helped until it didn’t, and I was doing miserably at university. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t get motivated to do assignments, or to attend lectures and classes. I was self-destructing. But I was still telling myself that I could push through. I started off well but finished the first semester badly. So I got myself enrolled in the DLU program (Disabilty liason unit) on advice from my counsellor. But life was about to throw me a curveball and I had some personal issues, and the stress very nearly ruined me. See, the thing was that even though I knew I had a problem, I didn’t do anything about it because I didn’t want to burden my family with it so I didn’t seek extra help, or tell anyone how I was feeling except for my counsellor occasionally. So I kept with the snowball effect… and ended up really low. I was in such a terrible place, I was unable to do any work. I stopped caring. I started very destructive behavior and I am lucky I came out unscathed. But I was at a very bad place. I was stressed out, worried, depressed and trying my best to distract myself from it. But it didn’t work and I just broke.
I can’t describe it any other way. I would start crying randomly. I would cry myself to sleep. I was always crying and I kept myself in my room. I couldn’t handle even the simplest thing anymore and to top it off, I was dangerously close to failing. Because of my arrogance, I let myself fall so far down, that even now, I don’t know if I could recover. But it was a wake up call.
I applied for time off from university. I booked myself an appointment with a gp I knew would understand my depression. I got myself on medication and that in itself was a difficult journey. The thing with medication is that one size does not fit all and I had to trial at two different ones. One of them made me dizzy and moody. I gained at least 5 kg because my appetite had become voracious. My head spun whenever I was standing up for more than 30 minutes. It was a good thing I took time off, because if I had pushed myself to go to a lab in that condition, I probably would’ve collapsed over an animal part.
But the biggest thing I did was make an appointment with a psychologist.