June 8, 2017

Blogger Nicole

I don't know what's worse: not being able to stop crying or feeling completely numb and emotionless. I watch my friends get essays and tests back. I watch their faces light up as they realise they did better than expected. While I look at mine completely emotionless. It doesn't matter if I got an A or a U, I feel nothing.

When asked by my therapist to rate my pleasure rating for all the things I've done in a week, it doesn't matter if I've done the most mundane of tasks or if I've done something exciting. My pleasure rating remains the same: zero.

People have this stereotype of someone with depression. They imagine someone who is unable to leave their bed for days on end. They picture someone with scruffy hair and dressed in dirty clothes. That image of someone sat curled up with their head in their hands has been ingrained within us as the image of depression. While yes, this is very true for some, it isn't the case for everyone.

For some like myself, we appear 'normal' (whatever that is?), high functioning, contributing members of society on the surface. But underneath there's a much darker and complex problem going on. One which doesn't always manifest itself in the way you might think.

During some days, I may be in the pits of despair, where I feel like I'll never be happy again. Half an hour later, I could be bouncing off the walls. My brain feels like its buzzing, almost as if the skull is the hive and my mind is a swarm of bees. Periods of hyperactivity, elevation and intense excitement are not uncommon with people with depression. Rushes of creativity, impulse behaviour and a lack of inhibitions. These extreme mood swings are often an untalked about symptom of depression because they don't fit in with this 'one size fits all' culture surrounding depression we currently have.

Everyone's mood fluctuates throughout the day – it's normal. No one remains in a constant emotional state but what if you had no control over it? Imagine being so hyper and happy one minute, then half an hour later sobbing your eyes out over nothing. This instability destroys relationships and friendships. Who wants to be friends with someone who is as unpredictable as the British weather?

This is the time where I often will isolate myself from others. People have this preconceived 'one size fits all' idea of what suffering from depression is like. If you don't fit into this narrow-minded stereotype, you are labelled as being attention seeking and difficult. It's exhausting putting on a play every day to blend in with everyone else while internally you're going through World War three, day after day after day. Suddenly, isolating yourself from everyone around you doesn't seem like such a bad idea?

I can't explain to you the pain loneliness causes. I can't tell you what it feels like to have your friends blank you. Ignore you. The pain of having your problems dismissed as just being a stressed, depressed, typical teenager or how it feels to know your teachers are aware you're struggling but instead of asking how you are, they pretend you don't exist. Because hey at least you got to class, that automatically makes your depression ten times better than someone at home in bed, right?

Stop. Look around you. If you are sat in a public place, I guarantee that at least one person near you who has or currently is struggling with depression. You wouldn't know it. Because just like most mental illnesses, depression is invisible. Not everyone with depression fits the one size fits all stereotype.

Those who laugh the hardest often hurt the hardest. Just pause and think about all the people you think have it all. The people who are always laughing and joking, who are the life and soul of every situation. Bare in mind: you have no idea what's happening behind closed doors.

It's a daily occurrence hearing people use depression as an adjective. People claiming they are depressed over the most trivial of things. Little do they know what it feels like to have this crippling illness. Most of the time, it's not the illness that's the hardest thing to deal with, it's the stigma and misconceptions of those who surround you.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not blind to the media coverage and work that's being done to tackle the stigma around depression. It's great at first glance, but is it just as harmful to portray this 'one size fits all' stereotype of depression than it is to not talk about it at all?

For all the people who do get up in the morning, who get themselves to work because they know they have a family to feed. For all those students who get themselves to school or college because they know they have to, but live their day out with this ache in their body and emptiness in their chest. To sit down in the evening knowing deep down they are barely managing to get by.

No words can describe the pain major depressive disorder causes enough to do it justice. I can't explain what it's like to cry and cry yet when asked what's wrong you simply don't know. I can't explain what it's like to be ignored because people think you're attention seeking, as you are not in a permanent depressive state.

No matter how much people think they understand depression, they really don't. If you do one thing today, pause and ask your loved one how they REALLY feel because that conversation may save a life. Never take what you see at face value. Ever.

You can follow Nicole on her blog, A Beautiful Chaos, or on Twitter, @beaut1fulchaos_

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