I’ve had very clear signs of depression since my early teens but it took me until the age of 30 to pluck up the courage to seek help from my GP. Despite having a good relationship with my family and friends, it’s never an easy subject to broach, regardless of how close we are. I still don’t especially enjoy talking about it with anyone in person, which is part of the reason why blogs are great! It’s easiest to talk about with those who’ve experienced it themselves, but I would love it if it were easy to talk to everyone about depression.
People often think depression is a choice to be pessimistic or lazy or simply a negative personality trait. It needs to be understood and recognised as a genuine illness. I didn’t understand this myself until recently. I’ve googled ‘what’s the difference between depression and laziness?’ I’ve become exasperated with myself for not being as productive as others. This cruel and false judgement exacerbates the feeling of guilt and makes the depression itself worse.
My wish is for people to open their minds and think about the effect their words might have on someone. People with depression typically think differently to those without it. What a non-sufferer regards as encouragement, an innocent question, or polite conversation, might be perceived as interrogation by those affected.
I was always told I was bright and I ‘should’ be doing something more than library work but I really didn’t know what. I qualified as a nutritional therapist aged 30 and saw it as my sole chance to do something ‘proper’. But I was absolutely petrified, totally overwhelmed and stuck in a destructive procrastination/guilt cycle. People asked me whether I’d set up my nutrition practice. When I answered ‘no’, they’d say ‘You can do it, you’re just under-estimating yourself!’ What I REALLY wanted someone to say is ‘If you can’t do it, that’s also acceptable!’
All these supposedly ‘inspirational’ messages through the media: ‘Follow your dreams!’, ‘achieve anything you want!’ ‘just think positively!’ can be so damaging and often do the opposite of inspiring people. What about telling people it’s okay not to climb a mountain, get a first-class degree, write a best-selling novel or win a gold medal? More seemingly mediocre achievements are incredibly worthwhile if they’re significant to you personally.
Currently, I feel confident and positive about my life and future. I've not been diagnosed with bipolar disorder but I've had periods of depression and hypomania (low-level mania). The phase where I come out of a depressive episode and start enjoying the things I used to do again is always great and I feel so good that I don't think the depression will ever come back. What’s upsetting is, looking back through my life, I've seen it recur so many times and I don't think I've ever been 2 years without being depressed (that I can remember). Knowing that it may come back is a depressing thought so I wrote myself a letter (or blog!) to ensure I can prepare for it as well as possible.
What bothers me the most about my depressive episodes is the binge-eating and weight gain (the fact that I qualified as a nutritional therapist increases this guilt!) and the constant debilitating (and incorrect) thought that everyone is superior to me. I might not be able to stop the depression from recurring but I can manage it as best as I can.
Those with depression generally aren’t confident in their own decisions and are affected strongly by what others think and say. People shouldn’t feel they’re walking on eggshells and that they can’t say anything for fear of upsetting someone but we could all benefit from being more open-minded.