What Depression Looks Like.

Last week while I was looking through my ideas journal and thinking of a post for this week, I settled on writing a post about depression and what it looks for me. I really wanted to paint a picture of my personal struggle with it because that is really all I can do. I often have the, ‘who I am?’ guilt about talking about things like this, I’m sure you have felt the same way. ‘Who am I to give advice on …’ I came to the conclusion though, that I am really the only person who could describe my own personal struggle because only I know the full story.

Then this week happened.

It has been a horrible week. There is no way round it, I have been so ill and so upset by being ill it has been difficult to stay positive. I have been suffering now for almost seven weeks with abdominal issues. I have been barely able to eat and a lot of the time when I do manage it, it comes back up. I have been dealing with increasingly more painful stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and fatigue ( I have literally fallen asleep on the toilet several times – very chic, I know) I have vomited blood and had periodic muscle and bone pain, my ribs hurt, my back hurts, my shins hurt. This has been 24/7 for going on seven weeks and I am getting to the point where it is starting to affect my mental well-being.

I didn’t want to blog, or really talk to people this week. Then this morning while I was lying on my sofa, I realised the post that I had planned on doing was so relevant to how I had been feeling this week, also I had made a commitment to myself and to anyone who wants to read my blog, to post at least once a week. So this post is going to be about depression and what that means in my life and I hope people can relate, I have also asked a professional counsellor a few FAQ’s in the hope that if my experience doesnt resonate with you, then maybe you can get som solace from those answers.

I first realised something was not right with me around twenty-five. Honestly up until that point I either didn’t want to admit that I was spiralling out of control, or I thought this was normal and everybody felt the same way. At its worst my depression resulted in self harming behaviour, physically and mentally. The physical side is such a strange experience, I work myself into such a state that I feel it’s the only way to prove to people I am really suffering, it’s almost like I don’t believe people will take me seriously without a physical injury. So I would harm myself and then instantly feel a sense of relief followed very quickly by a sense of panic, I suddenly can see the ramifications of what I have done, in a way I couldn’t until I had hurt myself. I am blind to consequences in that state until I have actually committed an act of self harm. After panic comes shame and fear of public shame and inevitably lies to prevent any consequences happening. Then the cycle starts again. The worse case of this was when for no reason I can remember I took a knife out of my kitchen, locked myself in my bathroom and lay on it, the blade went four inches into my stomach and all I felt at the time was a sense of accomplishment, that I had actually managed to do it. The worst part was while I was doing this I was already preparing a lie to tell everyone as to how this happened to me, without revealing it was self harm. I told people I had left the knife on the side while doing a craft project for my son, that he had picked up the knife and in the process of me taking the knife off him I had accidentally stabbed myself. That was my wake up call, when I saw how destructive and disgusting my lies had become that I would involve my own son in the cover up. It had stopped being about me wanting people to understand how much pain I was in and instead became about me getting attention in any way I could, I became ‘The Victim’ and I’m not proud to admit it but that’s where I happily lived for a while. I wasnt happy in the traditional sense but I was happy in my misery, it was easier for people to believe the lies than try to admit the truth. After my recovery from that though, which was remarkably quick  (I had somehow not hit anything, the knife had dodged every organ and just nicked my abdominal wall) I got scared for myself and my son. I believe you get warnings in life and that was mine.

I am very proud to say that for a very long time now, self harm is very much in the past for me and long may that continue. That attitude though still rears its ugly head from time to time, in fact not feeling special is one of my triggers because I have an external loci, meaning I often look to others for validation because I often feel no worth in myself. It is something I work very hard to change but such ingrained blueprints from traumatic or abusive childhoods take time to mend.

Today my depression looks quite different, it manifests in isolation, I simply don’t want to talk to people and I often feel anger if my phone rings or someone comes round to my house because I don’t want to deal with them and on a subconscious level I’m upset that they don’t realise this, even if rationally I know people cannot read minds and actually the fact that they call or visit means they care for me and are thinking about me. I think though depression can be very non sensical, the things you want to do most are often the things that are the most destructive for you.

I also self punish, so I let things get a little crazy and that puts me in a depression and there I can wallow in my safe victim space, I don’t realise I am doing it until I fix it and then I can see it for what it is, this is something else I work on by trying to be more aware and mindful of what is going on so I can prevent myself from going to those places.

I don’t shower as often, I don’t look after myself in the way I should and I let things I have worked on slip through my fingers. A lot of the extremes of this behaviour are gone now and it is al a lot more manageable because I understand my patterns and triggers but it can still happen in smaller ways and its my ongoing job to identify the times that I am slipping back into old patterns. This week has been particularly difficult with my health being so low and having been in and out of a&e and the Dr’s with no answers, which is why I thought it so important to get this all in my blog, as a place were I could understand it and myself better. I often find through writing or speaking out loud I suddenly understand things in  a way I didn’t when it was just in my head. I also wanted to break the cycle of letting things slide and keep my commitment to post once a week and be as honest as I could about my life experiences. Consistency can be a fickle bitch for me even if  really it is only repeating small actions regularly, it can be a real struggle.

Depression for me is something I have lived with and do live with and like anything in life it ebbs and flows. It’s up to me if I want to make a change or ask for help. That can also be the hardest part of mental illness actually, because you wouldn’t be expected to do your own open heart surgery or chemotherapy but with mental health most of the treatment has to be done by you.

That’s what depression looks like for me at its worst and its everyday, I will have it for the rest of my life and I can only hope as I grow I will learn more about it and myself so that I can really blossom into the woman I want to be and instead of it looming on my bad days I can just say, ‘I know you are here today, that’s ok, I’ll just pop you in my pocket, surround myself with love and positive people until you are ready to leave’ Until I reach that place on my zig zag path I will endeavour to remind myself that recovery is not a straight line and when I am feeling particularly low, not to try to rush my recovery. Most importantly though I will try to remember to be kind to myself.

I really hope people can relate to even a small portion of this and understand they’re not alone and they can get better. If anyone has any questions, or simply wants to share their struggle, I would be honoured to have them in the comments section.It would be lovely if we could help each other.

As mentioned earlier, here are five FAQ’s.

*DISCLAIMER* I have been asked to answer some questions based on my experience as a Person-Centred counsellor. I am not medically trained and do not offer diagnosis but will answer these questions to the best of my ability based on my training as a counsellor and 5/6 years experience of working in the field.
1. What do I do if I think someone I love is depressed?
If you think someone you love is depressed perhaps you could offer them your support and talk to them about it. There is often a stigma surrounding mental health but this subject does not have to remain a taboo/ elephant in the room.
Help can be found through the GP or local/ private counselling agencies. GPs may offer to prescribe anti-depressant medication (if required and wanted) and/ or to refer the affected person to any local talking therapy available to you.
It is important to remember that no matter how concerned you are for somebody – if they are legally an adult and have mental capacity – it is their choice whether to decide to get help or not, unless they are stating that they are seriously considering doing serious damage to themselves.
You may also need support at this time if caring for/ supporting a loved one going through depression or any other illnesses, counselling or carers support meetings may be available to you also and remember to take care of yourself too.
The ‘black dog books’ are a good resource for those both experiencing depression firsthand and living with someone who is depressed. They are accessible, easy to read and informative.
I Had a Black Dog – Matthew Johnstone
Living With a Black Dog – Matthew Johnstone.
These can be found on Amazon or most book shops.
2. Why can’t they just snap out of it?
Depression is a mental illness – it is not someone feeling a little ‘low’ or having a bad day but is something much more entrenched and long-lasting.
Asking someone to ‘snap out of’ depression is going to do about as much good as telling someone to stop having a chest infection, it simply does not work that way.
3. I have a great life, so why do I feel like this?
This is something I often hear in one form or another. It is possible to be happy with some or most forms of your life and yet still feel unhappy in other ways. It is my belief that it is so entrenched in our culture to “pull our socks up” and “get on with things” to dismiss our own feelings and that it is almost frowned upon to voice or feel the things we are unhappy with if there are also positive things in our lives.
I believe that it is possible to both be grateful for the wonderful things in our lives and yet to also acknowledge that there are aspects of lives that we feel unhappy/ sad/ angry about too.
In some cases, there may be issues from the past that we think are gone but remain unresolved and so have an impact on our present day lives without us realising. This is where talking therapy may be useful to explore, understand and ultimately deal with/ accept and move on from/ learn how to live with these issues.
4. I’m scared to ask for help in case people won’t believe me or send me to hospital. What do I do?
It is normal to feel scared of asking for help if this is your first experience of mental health services and you don’t know what is involved.
People who work in the mental health sector are usually highly trained and deal with these issues all of the time, it is their job to take your concerns seriously.
You will only be sent into hospital if there is significant reason to be concerned about serious harm to yourself or others, in this case specialist treatment will allow you to get the help that you need at this time.
If you are not deemed at risk to yourself or others, you would not usually be admitted into hospital but services will be able to help you to get the relevant help needed at this time.
If you are uncertain about accessing help such as your GP or local counselling agencies, perhaps charities like MIND (http://www.mind.org.uk/) and Rethink Mental Illness (https://www.rethink.org/) may be able to help you get some support and advice first before considering taking those steps.
5. I have suicidal thoughts that scare me, what do I do?
Suicidal thoughts may very well be extremely scary, especially if this is the first time you are experiencing them or you have been experiencing them for a long time and are afraid of telling anybody.
Firstly, having Suicidal thoughts does not always necessarily mean that you intend to go through with the act of killing yourself, talking about it can help.
Usually, your first point of call is your GP go and talk to them about this and they can advise you further.
There should also be a local Crisis Team to help in the event of emergency, you may be able to ask your GP about this or they may refer you to them. Alternatively, perhaps yourself or a loved one could use an internet search engine to find the local number for your nearest crisis team.
It may also be helpful to reach out to a loved one and share how you are feeling, people with suicidal thoughts often feel isolated and hopeless as though they can see no other way out of their current difficulties, having someone to talk to and to help them see that they are not alone and that there are other options can be very helpful.
Of course, there is also the Samaritans who offer support and advice for coping with suicidal thoughts and ideation, you can contact them online or by phone on the details below.
116 123 (UK).
I really hope this can help in whatever way, for people suffering or supporting people suffering with mental health issues. Please remember, you can only do what you can do right now, take it one step at a time and try to be kind to yourself.
x

3 thoughts on “What Depression Looks Like.

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