A Black Dog Named Depression

Depression is your body saying “Fuck You, I don’t want to be this character any more. It’s too much for me” You should think of the word DEPRESSED as DEEP REST. Your body needs deep rest from the character that you’ve been trying to play

Jim Carrey

Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad and helpless for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.

Some people think depression is trivial and not a genuine health condition. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a real illness with real symptoms, but being a mental health issue, it’s difficult to recognise. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a serious condition of which, thankfully, awareness is increasing. It is also treatable. There are still some, however, who refuse to accept its severity and potentially devastating consequences. They play it down by telling sufferers to “snap out of it” or “pull yourself together”. This is about as helpful as treating a broken bone with a band-aid plaster.

The best way to treat this disease is through talking. Anti-depressants don’t work. They simply numb you, while the underlying causes of your illness go unchallenged. When you’re living with the black dog that is depression, talking and opening up about your illness is the scariest thing imaginable, yet it’s the only way to overcome it and regain control of your life. All sorts of questions go through your head, as you weigh up whether to tell someone else;

  • What will they think of me if I tell them? Will they see me as weak and pathetic?
  • Will they understand?
  • What if they no longer want to know me after I told them?
  • What if they tell others, and I become a laughing stock?

Experience has taught me that these fears couldn’t be further from the truth, and people will surprise you with how caring and supportive they can be once you open up to them. You just need to think carefully about who it is that you are confiding in, and be sure that you can rely on their confidence.

Depression doesn’t distinguish between social status, race or age. It really can happen to anyone. I’ve suffered with this debilitating illness on and off for a while, but had never really done much about it. Just ride it out when it strikes, then brush it under the carpet and move on. Until last year, when it nearly cost me my life. I don’t suffer from drug or alcohol addiction, in fact I am teetotal by choice. My childhood was one filled with love and happiness, and I have performed well academically and later, professionally. I am one of life’s lucky people, and last year, I was preparing to marry my fiancee and buy a house together.

It should have been the happiest time of my life, but I was in turmoil. I felt overwhelmed. Demands were being placed on my time, and I had to forego the things which I wanted to do, and which made me happy. I was expected to behave in certain ways, and pretty much become a different person according to the company I was with. My focus was on keeping other people happy and tending to their needs, all the while neglecting my own. I barely slept, exercised or ate and was under constant attack by the grey matter between my ears. As my mental health deteriorated, so did my physical health and immune system, so that a simple flu led to pneumonia, sepsis and a fortnight fighting for my life in hospital.

I survived, but the road to recovery was a long and painful one. I finally accepted that I was suffering from mental health issues and asked for help. The friends and family in whom I confided were an amazing source of support and encouragement, but it was counselling that made all the difference.

Psychologists come only second in scariness to dentists. Still, I was determined to cure myself of this terrible disease once and for all, so I faced my fears and started counselling.

This was the best gift I could have given myself. Working with a psychologist forced me to confront my fears and insecurities, but also determine who I am. Not who society, family or friends expect me to be. I worked to understand what I hold important in my life, and what I need in order to be happy. I also worked to understand who I really am and what it is that I want from life.

All of this served to help me become more self-aware and more confident. As a result, I am able to identify the triggers that used to start me on an downward spiral, and tackle them before they take hold and cause me any harm. I have re-evaluated who I spend time with and what I spend my time doing, ridding my life of negative people and their influences. It caused a lot of problems, as some people reacted very badly to me taking control of my mental health and my life. As soon as I realised that they weren’t angry at me as a person, but that they were angry because I was no longer conforming to their expectations, I cut them off and felt instantly relieved.

I now live my life as I want. I still treat all others with kindness and respect, and strive to become the very best version of myself BUT I am careful about who I spend my time with, and what I spend my time doing. Is it making me happy? Is it helping me to grow as a person, or professionally? I no longer dance to the tune of others, and I have never been happier. Of course, I adapt and compromise wherever necessary, but I will never again sacrifice what I hold dear just so that others might accept me.

I’m not playing down depression, or saying that tackling it is easy. I’m not saying, either, that it’s just caused by trying to live up to the expectation of others. There are many causes, and mine was trying to live up to the expectations of others while neglecting myself. I only hope that this will help to increase awareness of the condition, and give others the strength to seek help.

Depression is one of the biggest killers of young people, but it’s treatable. We just need to find the courage to speak to someone. Most of all, though, we need to find the courage to be ourselves and live our own lives. Marketers and social media outlets bombard us with messages constantly about how we should live our lives and we feel compelled to pay attention. After all, we don’t want to miss out and be left behind. This becomes a problem, though, when we set aside our own values, forget who we are and become someone else just so that we can be accepted by others.

If you want to achieve anything in life, you need to pay close attention to your mental health. Like a bonsai tree, it can be very delicate and in need to of time and attention. Take good care of your little grey cells and they will take very good care of you on your journey through life.

 

It’s better to walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction

Malcolm X

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