A year ago, I was one of those people who, if someone was stressed or depressed, would probably have thought: “What do they have to be depressed about?”
Now, having experienced depression first hand, I can see just how harmful those words can be, and yet I’ve no doubt much of the time they’re not said with any sort of malice. It’s an honest question from someone who doesn’t understand. Unless you’ve experienced this yourself how could you possibly understand it. I barely understand it myself and I know what it is.
My depression was triggered following a difficult period at work and it took quite some time for me to realise that I was experiencing stress and depression. I knew something wasn’t right, but I wasn’t initially sure why I was stressed. Then I realised it was about ‘control’, or, more accurately, a ‘lack of control’ in my current job.
I had a return to work interview with my manager following a few days of absence with stress. I thought long and hard about whether to be honest about why I was off sick, but decided I should be able to talk about it. Unfortunately for me that experience was a negative one. It would be difficult for me to fully explain just how much this affected me, but at that time I needed some support and to feel that someone cared and got neither.
My symptoms have included being sad to the point where it has actually felt like grief, a physical pain, lots of tears, frustration, feeling alone, problems sleeping, feeling worthless and having no purpose and feeling exhausted. And my confidence and self-esteem hit rock bottom.
I was at my worst between August 2017 and January 2018 (although it’s all such a blur). I went from not caring if I existed or not, to wanting to not exist, through to becoming very preoccupied with researching what I could do to not exist. I was in so much pain I just wanted it to end.
Then of course there’s the guilt, as on the face of it: ‘What have I got to be depressed about?”
No-one has died, I have a lovely family, and others would say that I have a good job that pays well. But something’s wrong. Having previously been someone who would have thought “they need to just snap out of it”, I now realise it really isn’t that simple. If I could I would, no-one would choose to feel this way.
Now that I’m feeling a little better I’ve finally managed to talk about this (a little) with some trusted colleagues. Mainly because they’ve disclosed that they have also been unwell and so I feel I can trust them not to judge me. I’ve struggled to confide in people as I think they’ll either not believe or understand me, or they’ll see me as weak. I also don’t want to be a burden or to upset people. So when people have asked “how are you?”, I always say ‘”I’m fine”.
I read something recently which was written by someone who has experienced depression. They spoke about the fact that if you’re depressed, you’re not necessarily crying and wailing 24/7. There are moments of genuine happiness and then there are moments when you appear to be happy.
Some of us put on a mask in order to get through the day, and therefore some people would be shocked to know that we are suffering from depression. “They’ve managed to come to work” and “they’re smiling and joking”. We smile and joke because we want to appear ‘normal’ and we don’t want anyone to know we’re suffering. Although at the same time we’d love people to understand that we are suffering and we need support! Keeping it to yourself is exhausting.
Explaining how you feel to a GP is difficult as they can’t see any physical symptoms. And because of this, we start to wonder if we are depressed or whether we’re just a fraud!