Understanding depression: it can be a difficult thing to talk about

Christina, a Time to Change bloggerWhen you talk about being depressed, you often see people giving you this look, like they're not quite sure what to do or say and they might want to run away. You can see them scanning the horizon for all possible egress routes. You feel like maybe you should stop talking.

I understand that it's a difficult thing to talk about, especially if you have no experience of it. It takes a pretty special type of person to look you in the eye and say 'right, okay, I don't know what this is like but this conversation doesn't scare me and I'm going to be here for you'.

I've encountered a few of these people. Having them stand by me when I've been going through the worst bouts of depression has made all the difference in the world. And I can't thank them enough. But then, there are people who don’t understand, and don’t know how to be around you because they don’t know how to deal with you, and perhaps they feel inadequate.

People who don’t understand can be quite cruel. It’s easy to be afraid that people won’t be supportive of you, and some won’t – but so many people will. And the more this gets talked about, the more talking about mental illness will become normal.

some of the most painful and some of the most wonderful responses to me: the depressive

So I'm going to talk about some of the most painful and some of the most wonderful responses to me: the depressive (not to be confused with me: the photographer or me: the friend or me: the professional or any of the other parts of me. Depression is just one part).

When I was first diagnosed with clinical depression, aged 17, my best friend's mum told her she should stay away from me. To give her credit, she didn't listen. But this, my first encounter with the stigma attached to mental illness, was a big shock. Perhaps she thought that her daughter was going to catch it from me. Or that having depression meant that I was going to go on a crazy rampage, turning up at their house tearing my hair out and screaming in the street.

I thought of depression as something that wasn't real

To be fair, I wasn't the easiest person to deal with at that age. I didn't really understand what was going on inside my brain and I didn't feel I had any control over it. I tried to talk about it at school once and another friend told me to shut up because it wasn't like I had any real problems and I was insulting people who were actually ill with something real.

For quite a long time after that, I thought of depression as something that wasn't real. And every time I had a low episode, or a panic attack, or couldn't stop crying, or felt so horribly bad for no real reason, or self harmed, I just assumed I was going crazy, because it wasn't real, right? So why was I being like this? My resulting moodswings and high maintenance behaviour probably wasn't very nice to deal with. But I remember a friend sitting with me all night one dark, winter Friday night, in my dark bedroom, while I just lay there and cried. And another friend taking me for a drive in her new car and saying 'look, I don't understand this but I'm worried about you'.

Last year, I had a pretty massive breakdown

Last year, I had a pretty massive breakdown. It was not fun, it took me a long time to recover and sometimes I think that perhaps I'm still not quite over it (although I'm a LOT stronger now and the new range of tools I have in my arsenal to help me tackle my depression as a result of it are brilliant - some good came out of it, I'm absolutely sure).

At the beginning I was a total mess. I lay on the sofa a lot, weeping into a cushion. I missed my own birthday party. All I wanted to do was stare into space and wear a giant jumper and eat crisps. My friends went to the restaurant we'd booked - why shouldn't they? - and afterwards a couple of them came to see me.

looked me straight in the eye and said supportive things and gave me my birthday present

It was brave of them. I must have looked like a disaster area, and my company was not exactly what you would call top notch. They didn't care and they weren't scared. They marched into the living room and clustered around the sofa I was huddled on, and looked me straight in the eye and said supportive things and gave me my birthday present, and the best part of it all - they handed me a supermarket carrier bag. It was full to the brim with crisps. And the message was clear - 'lying around eating crisps isn't ideal and it's not what we'd do with our Saturday night. But we're here for you and if this is what you've gotta do right now, we're going to help you do it'.

Other friends, during that period in my life, took me for short walks around the block, brought me flowers, sat quietly with me watching TV, told me they were there for me. Some of 'em got annoyed and told me to pull myself together because I was letting everyone down. Some people just ignored me completely. In the end I learned to block out those reactions and just get on with what I had to do to get better. And that's the message, really. It doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks. But it would help a whole lot if people would understand mental illness a little better. After all, we all have a brain. We all have mental well-being. Some of us need to work on its upkeep a little more than others. The best thing we can do for each other is understand and help out where we can.

Make eye contact, bring them crisps, give them a quick ring

So, if you know someone who's having mental health problems, don't ignore them completely. Make eye contact, bring them crisps, give them a quick ring, listen to them. And tell them this: it's going to be okay. It's going to be okay. Until they are strong enough to say it to themselves.

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Comments

Hurtling headlong towards a

Hurtling headlong towards a bout of depression. I know the signs. I can't talk to anyone openly about it. I can't go to doctor because job applications ask for information. Haven't got any friends because I cut myself off when I feel like this. Want help but don't know what to ask for.

Hello, if you would like

<p>Hello, if you would like someone to talk to about what you're going through, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness run confidential infolines that can advise you and may be able to highlight places to get support in your local area. You can find contact details for them on their websites here:&nbsp;http://www.mind.org.uk/help/advice_lines and here:&nbsp;http://www.rethink.org/how_we_can_help/our_advice_information/index.html</p><p>&nbsp;</p>

Change the name. I get

Change the name. I get depressed sometime virtualy every day but thankfully and hopefully I do not get Depression. I have a very hard time distinguishing between a moody teen a slacking adult or someone with real depression. I have to make a conscious effort to stop thinking Pull yourself together Man up , get a grip and get on with it. Change the name. Preferably something latin that we can still pronounce that will get a Pavlovian response of sympathy not unsympathetic disdain . All the best Take care Dave

'Real' Depression

I agree Dave. Even friends who understand, and know I live with clinical depression as a disability, tend to remark 'oh we all get like that'. I didn't tell one today who said something like that (well meaning) that I this afternoon I washed my (long) hair for the first time in a week, that I haven't been out the house in two weeks, that brushing my teeth happens only once every three or four days if I'm not going outside, that getting out of bed feels like being made of lead and being imprisoned in your own head and body, lying there having empty 'I want to cease to exist' thoughts, (all of this for no apparent external life reason btw) and I haven't been getting up until 1pm most days. When I'm out there I am all flamed up, nicely dressed, pretty and you would never guess. But clinical depression is very real, very dangerous (given the thoughts we have and the social isolation, self imposed or otherwise) and it is not the same as feeling a bit down for a few days. Thank you for making the point :)

Wow, it's like I wrote that..

Wow, it's like I wrote that.. I feel the complete same. Today's my birthday and I can't bring myself to get out of bed. I'm hiding from my family and I want to go back to sleep until this day is over. It's so nice to read that someone understands, yesterday my Mum told me 'you have nothing to be depressed about you need to pull yourself together and stop feeling sorry for yourself all the time'. It's safe to say that is the first and last time I will try to speak to her about it. It's difficult when people don't understand, I am lucky enough to have one friend that understands completely, she will just listen and not judge. It's scary to share thoughts because I don't want anyone to think you're 'crazy' but sometimes it all gets too much in my head and kind of falls out. Hoping one day I'll wake up and it will all be gone or at least I will be. Sick of being a burden to myself and others.

Support

Hi Abby, thanks for your comment. Sorry to hear that things aren't going well for you right now. It's important to remember that you are not alone, and there is lots of support out there. Here are some links you might find useful: https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/what-are-mental-health-problems/help-support-services Best, Crystal at TTC

Awww this was written so

Awww this was written so well. I'm glad to read you're getting better, it's never easy but the coping tools are great. Thanks for sharing, it was a pleasure to read.

This is an awesome blog

This is an awesome blog, I'm going to make sure more people see it because I had all those reactions too. It's so hard when you don't even understand yourself why you're thinking and doing the things you're doing, without someone else demanding that you explain yourself and then telling you it's all in your head. Of course it is all in our head, but it doesn't make it any less real! I'm constantly reading, learning new techniques and most of all, telling people truthfully whenever it comes back, so they know why I need my space or why I can't leave them alone for 5 minutes :) Good for you, you will get stronger and stronger and thanks for writing all this. x

thankyou for being brave

thankyou for being brave and sharing your story it sounds like your friends love you !!!

This is weird cause I'm

This is weird cause I'm totally like this, I'm only 15 and I just thought it was hormones I guess? I haven't been diagnosed with depression or anything cause I don't really want to ask for help I guess

your blessed with great friends

You're truly lucky that you've got such amazing friends that have helped you out. It definitely makes all the difference. A lot of people do unfortunately see it as an 'unreal' problem, I guess people just don't get educated about depression enough from a young age, however they are exposed to mental health stigma from a young age via media, older people passing on such views etc. Wish people could get educated about mental health in primary school too so that they wouldn't be so scared of it... Nobody understood my depression, friends, family or partner, which used to frustrate me a lot and turned me into a very nasty person to be around. A result,and I socially isolated myself for a while, however did huge amounts of hours at work, so that I didn't have to face anybody in my personal life. I've managed to come out of it slightly with the help of my counsellor, and tried to explain depression to my friends and family and they keep telling me that I just need to look at the bright side and stop being so miserable for no reason. I've tried to educate them, but then again, when people don't see it as a 'real' illness it's very difficult. I now don't even bother telling them anymore when I go through another episode, as I know they will see me as 'weak' or 'attention seeking' again. However, I know it's real, and I will try my best to get out of it, even if I have to do it on my own.

Depression: the invisible illness

Having read some, of the other blogs I find myself writing a bit about my experience with depression and anxiety.

This made me cry

This is a part of depression that exactly is happening with me.. Just to talk about it is so so so stressful.. Really not everyone understand it. I told to one of my teacher that I suffer depression after she asked me a a few times whats the matter going on with me and she just snapped out..stopped talking to me. that really hurted me badly.. Thankfully have a few friends (online) who supports me atleast to remind me am not alone facing so and should fight with this, even though I have felt suicidal quite a lot times but am too scared to do anything. Hopefully I can relive my life again.

Hello, it can really help to

Hello, it can really help to talk to someone your trust (such as a friend, family member or your local GP) about how you're feeling. The Samaritans are also always there 24/7 to listen whenever you would like to talk to someone. You can contact them on 08457 90 90 90 or email jo@samaritans.org or visit your local branch if you'd like to talk to someone face to face: http://www.samaritans.org/branches

Blog

Such an interesting article. I've just become a Samaritans listening volunteer and I was interested in your last paragraph where you said that people should say "everything will be okay". We're not allowed to say that because we can't assume that everything WILL be okay. I'd be interested to know you're thoughts.

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