We’ve all had it, now and in the past whether we knew about it or not, to varying degrees.
It can manifest itself in many ways, Mentally, Physically, Spiritually and Physiologically. And because of that, there are a myriad of ways in which the effects can take hold. Work, home, the environment and surprisingly leisure can cause or add to the pressure building up and as the human psyche can take a lot of abuse above normal levels depression can happen slowly over time which is the first problem, recognising it and trying to do something about it.
First of all but not universal in application, drugs are available which can reverse depression or abate the symptoms. They will be prescribed by your GP but I would go to see a specialist before that event so that you can get both a professional and experienced diagnosis and prognosis of your condition. This should absolutely be your first port of call, but it is in many ways the most difficult path to take, divulging your inner most secrets to a stranger. Also, for a great majority of sufferers, this option is the first step in recognising your depression to yourself and an admittance of weakness in your own personality. That is not an easy thing to do.
It is a stigma that goes un-catalogued, a realisation that you are not strong enough to cope when all around you seem to take on life and shrug off the difficulties with ease and laugh in the face of adversity. It's an embarrassment to show this weakness to your colleagues and there is an inane sense not to burden people with your seemingly unimportant problems. In other words, you bottle it up.
And as you bottle it up, the depression gets worse because you can’t get to the source of the aberration and whatever the reason or reasons for your depression they continue to add and take hold of your every thought and daily process.
Whether you begin with physical or physiological depression or even spiritual depression, the mind will take the brunt of it all. You can get out of the first two with comparative ease as they are both easily diagnosed, but mental ill health is far more intricate and as there are virtually no outward signs of depression (we are very good at hiding our depression from friends and family) only you can offer the insight to a professional in any meaningful way that is
needed for prognosis and help to diminish the symptoms, but of course, that visit has to happen in the first place.
So, what is depression?
The Mental Health Foundation describes it as....
“Depression is a common mental disorder that causes people to experience depressed mood, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, low energy, and poor concentration.”
Some or even all of these will manifest themselves in your everyday life and impose on your normality, reducing your functionality and subordinate your existence to others.
Signs and symptoms…
Tiredness and loss of energy. Sadness that doesn’t go away. Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem. Difficulty concentrating. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting.
Feeling anxious all the time. Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends.
Sleeping problems - difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual.
Very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness. Finding it hard to function at work/college/school. Loss of appetite. Loss of sex drive and/or sexual problems.
Physical aches and pains. Thinking about suicide and death. Self-harm.
What types are there?
Depression is described as mild when it has a limited negative effect on your daily life. For example, you may have difficulty concentrating at work or motivating yourself to do the things you normally enjoy.
Major depression interferes with an individual’s daily life - with eating, sleeping and other everyday activities. Some people may experience only one episode but it is more common to experience several episodes in a lifetime. It can lead to hospital admission, if the person is so unwell they are at risk of harm to themselves.
The mood swings in bi-polar disorder can be extreme - from highs, where the individual feels extremely elated and indestructible, to lows, where they may experience complete despair, lethargy and suicidal feelings. Sometimes people have very severe symptoms where they cannot make sense of their world and do things
that seem odd or illogical.
Many new mothers experience what are sometimes called “baby blues” a few days after the birth. These feelings of anxiety and lack of confidence are very distressing but in most cases last only a couple of weeks. Post-natal depression is more intense and lasts longer. It can leave new mothers feeling completely
overwhelmed, inadequate and unable to cope. They may have problems sleeping, panic attacks or an intense fear of dying. They may also experience negative feelings towards their child. It affects one in ten mothers and usually begins two to three weeks after the birth.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
SAD is associated with the start of winter and can last until spring when longer days bring more daylight. When it is mild, it is sometimes called ‘winter blues’. SAD can make the sufferer feel anxious, stressed and depressed. It may interfere with their moods and with their sleeping and eating patterns.
How do I get help?
Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and some forms of counselling and psychotherapy work well for depression, although you may have to wait to see a therapist on the NHS. You can pay to see someone privately and your GP may be able to recommend someone. Always check that any private therapist is registered with a professional body. There are several different kinds of talking therapy.
Your GP can advise you about which you might find most helpful.
Counselling gives people the chance to talk through everyday issues that may be causing depression and to develop strategies for resolving them.
Cognitive therapy (sometimes called cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT) addresses the way you think and how this can cause depression. It teaches you skills to identify patterns of behaviour and thinking that are causing you problems and change them.
Psychotherapy can be more intensive than counselling although people and organisations often use these terms interchangeably. It often looks at how past experience may be affecting your life now, so it may involve delving deeply into early experiences and key relationships.
This may take more time, although shorter, more focused ways of doing this have also been developed.
Interpersonal therapy focuses on how you relate and behave towards others. It helps you to build a better self-image and communicate more effectively with others.
In many cases your GP will recommend anti-depressants, either on their own or in combination with talking therapies. Anti-depressants do work for many people but inevitably they do have side effects. You can discuss these with your GP.
A word about Medication
Medication will not always be the first choice, especially if your depression is mild. There are a number of different types of antidepressants available. Your GP can explain which they believe is the best for you and why. What your doctor prescribes will depend on the type and severity of depression you have.
If you experience problems from your medicine or have any concerns, speak to your GP.
If one medication does not work you may be prescribed something else. However, it takes a few weeks before your medicine starts to work so you need to allow enough time to see if it is going to be effective. It is important that you take the medicine for the length of time recommended by your GP. If you come off your medicine too soon (even if you feel better) this can lead to a relapse where the depression returns. As a rough guide, you will usually have to remain on treatment for at least six to nine months and in many cases it could be longer.
You need to follow your GP’s advice when you are coming off your medicine as it can be harmful if this is done too quickly.
The Important Bits
Help links to Helplines to people who can help you or a loved one or someone you are concerned for.
Charity providing support if you've been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm)
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15-35.
Charity for sufferers of depression. Has a network of self-help groups.
Men's Health Forum
24/7 stress support for men by text, chat and email.
Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and OCD. Offers a course to help overcome your phobia/OCD.
Includes a helpline.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am-10pm)
Support for people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm)
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0845 120 3778 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (Mon-Fri,10am-5pm & 7-10pm. Weekends 2-5pm)
Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4pm)
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30-10.30pm)
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: http://www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents' helpline 0808 802 5544 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4pm)
The over-riding message for all of us it that... "We don't have to suffer alone".
There are people and organisations that can offer real world help and guide us towards a better future and life.
We don’t have to struggle with this condition and there are people on hand with the same feelings and experience that can share your anxiety and distress.
Talking about it is the first big step so if you are really nervous about opening up, then try praying to whatever you believe exists up there (even if you are an agnostic or atheist) in the privacy of your own home where no-one is listening, it's a basic way to begin the conversation and it sometimes helps to begin the process.
Coping with Depression
Overcoming Depression One Step at a Time
Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to take the steps that will help you to feel better. But while overcoming depression isn’t quick or easy, it’s far from impossible. You can’t just will yourself to “snap out of it,” but you do have more control than you realize—even if your depression is severe and stubbornly persistent. The key is to start small and build from there. Feeling better takes time, but you can get there by making positive choices for yourself each day.
How do you deal with depression?
Dealing with depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed can be hard. Sometimes, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like exercising or spending time with friends, can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action.
It’s the Catch-22 of depression recovery: The things that help the most are the things that are the most difficult to do. There is a big difference, however, between something that's difficult and something that's impossible. You may not have much energy, but by drawing on all your reserves, you should have enough to take a walk around the block or pick up the phone to call a loved one.
Taking the first step is always the hardest. But going for a walk or getting up and dancing to your favourite music, for example, is something you can do right now. And it can substantially boost your mood and energy for several hours—long enough to put a second recovery step into action, such as preparing a mood-boosting meal or arranging to meet an old friend. By taking the following small but positive steps day by day, you’ll soon lift the heavy fog of depression and find yourself feeling happier, healthier, and more hopeful again.
Coping with depression: Reach out and stay connected.
Getting support plays an essential role in overcoming depression. On your own, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy perspective and sustain the effort required to beat depression. At the same time, the very nature of depression makes it difficult to reach out for help. When you’re depressed, the tendency is to
withdraw and isolate so that connecting to even close family members and friends can be tough.
You may feel too exhausted to talk, ashamed at your situation, or guilty for neglecting certain relationships. But this is just the depression talking. Staying connected to other people and taking part in social activities will make a world of difference in your mood and outlook. Reaching out is not a sign of weakness and it won’t mean you’re a burden to others. Your loved ones care about you and want to help. And if you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to, it’s never too late to build new friendships.
In order to overcome depression, you have to do things that relax and energize you. This includes following a healthy lifestyle, learning how to better manage stress, setting limits on what you’re able to do, and scheduling fun activities into your day.
While you can’t force yourself to have fun or experience pleasure, you can push yourself to do things, even when you don’t feel like it. You might be surprised at how much better you feel once you’re out in the world. Even if your depression doesn’t lift immediately, you’ll gradually feel more upbeat and energetic as
you make time for fun activities.
Pick up a former hobby or a sport you used to like. Express yourself creatively through music, art, or writing. Go out with friends. Take a day trip to a museum, the mountains, or the park.
Support your health
Aim for eight hours of sleep. Depression typically involves sleep problems; whether you’re sleeping too little or too much, your mood suffers. Get on a better sleep schedule by learning healthy sleep habits.
Keep stress in check. Not only does stress prolong and worsen depression, but it can also trigger it. Figure out all the things in your life that stress you out, such as work overload, money problems, or unsupportive relationships, and find ways to relieve the pressure and regain control.
Practice relaxation techniques. A daily relaxation practice can help relieve symptoms of depression, reduce stress, and boost feelings of joy and well-being. Try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.
Exercise is something you can do right now to boost your mood.
Your fatigue will improve if you stick with it. Starting to exercise can be difficult when you’re depressed and feeling exhausted. But research shows that your energy levels will improve if you keep with it. Exercise will help you to feel energized and less fatigued, not more.
Find exercises that are continuous and rhythmic. The most benefits for depression come from rhythmic exercise:— such as walking, weight training, swimming, martial arts, or dancing—where you move both your arms and legs.
Add a mindfulness element, especially if your depression is rooted in unresolved trauma or fed by obsessive, negative thoughts. Focus on how your body feels as you move — such as the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, or the feeling of the wind on your skin, or the rhythm of your breathing.
Pair up with an exercise partner. Not only does working out with others enable you to spend time socializing, it can also help to keep you motivated. Try joining a running club, taking a water aerobics or dance class, seeking out tennis partners, or enrolling in a soccer or volleyball league.
Take a dog for a walk. If don’t own a dog, you can volunteer to walk homeless dogs for an animal shelter or rescue group. You’ll not only be helping yourself but also be helping to socialize and exercise the dogs, making them more adoptable.
Eat a healthy, depression-fighting diet.
What you eat has a direct impact on the way you feel. Reduce your intake of foods that can adversely affect your brain and mood, such as caffeine, alcohol, trans fats, and foods with high levels of chemical preservatives or hormones (such as certain meats).
Don’t skip meals. Going too long between meals can make you feel irritable and tired, so aim to eat something at least every three to four hours.
Minimize sugar and refined carbs. You may crave sugary snacks, baked goods, or comfort foods such as pasta or French fries, but these “feel-good” foods quickly lead to a crash in mood and energy. Aim to cut out as much of these foods as possible.
Boost your B vitamins.
Deficiencies in B vitamins such as folic acid and B-12 can trigger depression. To get more, take a B-complex vitamin supplement or eat more citrus fruit, leafy greens, beans, chicken, and eggs.
Boost your mood with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids play an essential role in stabilizing mood.
The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna, and some cold-water fish oil supplements.
Get a daily dose of sunlight.
Sunlight can help boost serotonin levels and improve your mood. Whenever possible, get outside during daylight hours and expose yourself to the sun for at least 15 minutes a day. Remove sunglasses (but never stare directly at the sun) and use sunscreen as needed.
Take a walk on your lunch break, have your coffee outside, enjoy an al fresco meal, or spend time gardening.
Double up on the benefits of sunlight by exercising outside. Try hiking, walking in a local park, or playing golf or tennis with a friend. Increase the amount of natural light in your home and workplace by opening blinds and drapes and sitting near windows. If you live somewhere with little winter sunshine, try using a light therapy box.
Dealing with the winter blues.
For some people, the reduced daylight hours of winter lead to a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD can make you feel like a completely different person to who you are in the summer: hopeless, sad, tense, or stressed, with no interest in friends or activities you normally love. No matter how hopeless you feel, though, there are plenty of things you can do to keep your mood stable throughout the year.
Challenge negative thinking.
Do you feel like you’re powerless or weak? That bad things happen and there’s not much you can do about it?
That your situation is hopeless? Depression puts a negative spin on everything, including the way you see yourself and your expectations for the future.
When these types of thoughts overwhelm you, it’s important to remember that this is a symptom of your depression and these irrational, pessimistic attitudes—known as cognitive distortions—aren’t realistic. When you really examine them they don’t hold up. But even so, they can be tough to give up. You can’t break out of this
pessimistic mind frame by telling yourself to “just think positive.” Often, it’s part of a lifelong pattern of thinking that’s become so automatic you’re not even completely aware of it. Rather, the trick is to identify the type of negative thoughts that are fuelling your depression and replace them with a more balanced way of thinking.
Negative, unrealistic ways of thinking that fuel depression.
All or nothing thinking – Looking at things in black-or-white categories, with no middle ground. (“If I fall short of perfection, I’m a total failure.”)
Overgeneralisation – Generalizing from a single negative experience, expecting it to hold true forever. (“I can’t do anything right.”)
The mental filter – Ignoring positive events and focusing on the negative. Noticing the one thing that went wrong, rather than all the things that went right.
Diminishing the positive – Coming up with reasons why positive events don’t count. (“She said she had a good time on our date, but I think she was just being nice.”)
Jumping to conclusions – Making negative interpretations without actual evidence. You act like a mind reader (“He must think I’m pathetic”) or a fortune teller (“I’ll be stuck in this dead-end job forever.”)
Emotional reasoning – Believing that the way you feel reflects reality. (“I feel like such a loser. I really am no good!”)
'Shoulds' and 'Should Nots' – Holding yourself to a strict list of what you should and shouldn’t do, and beating yourself up if you don’t live up to your rules.
Labelling – Classifying yourself based on mistakes and perceived shortcomings. (“I’m a failure; an idiot; a loser.”)
Put your thoughts on the witness stand.
Once you identify the destructive thoughts patterns that contribute to your depression, you can start to challenge them with questions such as:
“What’s the evidence that this thought is true? Not true?”
“What would I tell a friend who had this thought?”
“Is there another way of looking at the situation or an alternate explanation?”
“How might I look at this situation if I didn’t have depression?”
As you cross-examine your negative thoughts, you may be surprised at how quickly they crumble. In the process, you’ll develop a more balanced perspective and help to relieve your depression.
Some websites that offer comprehensive explanations about depression are available online, one that has looked both in depth and helpful without being too complicated is here: https://thiswayup.org.au/how-do-you-feel/sad/
This site offers a self test as a guide to recognising certain features of depression and could help you see to what degree you are depressed or just heavily saddened: https://depression.org.nz/is-it-depression-anxiety/self-test/
As has been said, you are not alone even though you feel isolated, branch out, speak out and let the light destroy the darkness and lift the shroud of despair.##