“ I think I’m depressed”
“What makes you say that?”
“Well, I am sad all of the time, I don’t want to do sh*t, and this isn’t like me”
This is a conversation I had with myself a few years ago. Yeah, this was one of those conversations you have in your head, but some of questions you answer out loud. For months I knew something wasn’t right because I’d been feeling down. I’d have periods that I felt OK, but my overall mood for months was sad. Outside of being sad, I just wasn’t feeling like myself. I was irritable, and always tired (more than usual). I would either overeat, or not eat at all and I had difficulty focusing on my job. For months I felt like I couldn’t get a grip on my life and I began to feel the affects. I gained weight, I quit pursuing my Master’s degree, lost my desire to go out with friends and I eventually got fired for my low performance.
What brought on my depression?: The short and simple answer is I was trying to handle all that life was throwing at me on my own. (This is my opinion before therapy) What I learned in therapy was all that I had been through led me to believe certain things about myself. In addition to learning how to ask for help, I had to unlearn a lot of shit, and learn a new way to look at myself and how I responded to life.
What made me seek professional help?: I knew I should have already reached out to get help when I was at my desk crying for the second day in a row, and I didn’t know why. A grown woman crying at 930 am at her desk, and I was unsure why-yeah that was my eye opening moment. (Thank God, my cubicle was in the corner of the office)
What I learned and I want people to understand about depression is this: A person with depression doesn’t look a certain way. I knew women, myself included, that didn’t miss a beat with their outward appearance despite how they felt on the inside. People with depression will hide certain behaviors from friends and family, behind closed doors is the only time the “mask” comes off. This is why conversations about mental health with our friends and family are important. Start the conversation by discussing mental health topics in the news, ask how someone is handling recent events, or ask even share your own story. (You’d be surprised how often people will open up once the fear of judgement is gone)
What was the point of therapy if I am still going to struggle with Depression? I am more aware of my feelings and emotions. The most valuable thing I learned from my last therapist was self acceptance and self love followed. I have become OK with admitting what I need, OK with asking for it (if I need to) and making time for myself with no guilt. So even though I still struggle, I am able to better manage it-most days. If I cannot manage it, I go back to therapy. Once I stay in one place longer than a few years, I will keep the same therapist..lol
What took me so long to get help?: I thought I could shake it off. I thought I was just stressed about recent events so I exercised, I forced myself into social situations, and I prayed for direction. I didn’t want to go to therapy-again. Not that my first experience with a therapist was bad, I just didn’t want to accept I needed help. I was too independent (yes too independent is a real thing)
Do I still struggle some days? Yes. I don’t always manage the bad days very well, but I do have an increased awareness and that helps.
Have I ever taken medication? No, but I think about trying it.
Is progress is being made when it comes to depression and the stigma of mental illness? Yes and no. There is increased conversation about mental health and mental illness. I says yes because It’s on social media, popular tv shows incorporate it into story lines even celebrities are sharing their own journeys on this once taboo topic. Even though many employers are increasing mental health awareness, the insurance they provide has limited coverage for therapy or it is really expensive. I know many therapist who have gone cash only because the insurance companies offer low rates, take a long time to pay or are just inefficient to deal with. So it is great the stigma is shifting, but real progress won’t be made until people have access to the necessary resources.
My advice for anyone struggling with Depression or who thinks they are: Make getting help a priority. Take the time to find out what your employer covers. Find a therapist in your area. Ask about their cash rate if you don’t have insurance. I also suggest getting a journal. Writing out how you feel, what happened that day, your dreams, or your fears is therapeutic and you can even take that to your therapist. Finally tell someone you trust you have been struggling. You don’t have to do into details, but telling someone that you trust that you haven’t been feeling yourself may encourage them to check on you or they may help you get help.
What else should people know about depression? NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health) list the following areas in which people with depression notice major changes:
Sleep: Sleeping more than normal or difficulty in falling asleep
Appetite: Decreased or increased appetite leading to significant weight loss or weight gain
Poor concentration: The inability to make decisions is a result of not being able to focus on a single topic or task long enough.
Loss of energy: This is different than just being sleepy, this is a reduction in mental and physical speed. Responses to things going on around you are much slower than normal.
Lack of interest: This can be seen in not wanting to do certain activities or no longer enjoying those activities.
Low self-esteem: Excessive feelings guilt and hopelessness or extreme feelings of insecurity or worthlessness. These feelings can lead to thoughts of suicide.
-Hopeless or guilt: There is a feeling that things will not improve, or taking the blame for certain events and not forgiving oneself.
-Movement changes: These changes include they way a person responds to certain events. The responses may be very nonchalant or very agitated.
If you have struggled with depression, what advice would you give to someone else struggling? What would do you wish people knew about depression? Thoughts on the post? Email me at Christina@speakawaythestigma.org