I have severe depression and it’s the worst thing I’ve ever had. I’d trade it in for some physically painful illness any day of the week. Not many of my friends know about it and even though I’ve recently been hospitalised with it, my boss and colleagues don’t know about it either. That’s one of the worst things about depression, not really being able to talk about it. You feel embarrassed, guilty and unqualified to suffer from it. I’m embarrassed right now just writing about it. Everyone feels sad and shit about things sometimes and they get over it. But when you’re depressed you don’t get over it. You can’t do anything about it. You act as though everything is fine and then you go home after work, go straight to bed and ignore phone calls and texts from people who care about you because you just don’t see the point. You either cry uncontrollably or you feel totally numb. Things you used to enjoy are just nothing to you now – TV programmes, the pub, making a delicious tagliatelle, whatever, it’s just a pile a crap to you now. Or you actually make a concentrated effort to go out and socialise with friends, determined to shake off what you think is indulgent self-pity but it’s like you’re in a sort of bubble – you physically cannot enjoy yourself or feel happy. That’s how I felt anyway and although depression can affect people in various ways, I’m sure others can relate to this.
So what did I do? Well I ignored it for years. I don’t recommend that, it’s shit and doesn’t solve anything. You just end up alienating people and making stupid decisions, like not applying for an awesome-sounding job or screaming at your boyfriend for no reason whatsoever. Then I went to the GP and mumbled something about feeling a bit sad, took some antidepressants for a couple of weeks and decided they weren’t working. I stopped them and didn’t go back to the doctor for another 4 years. I don’t recommend that either. It’s easy to quit things when you’re depressed and when you’ve felt that crap for that long, you want instant results. Obviously.
What is a recommended course of action is going to your GP and being totally honest about how you feel. Don’t feel embarrassed. I know everyone says that about every disgusting, weird, embarrassing ailment under the sun because “doctors have seen it all before” but it’s true. They have. And be totally honest with your GP too. If you spend every night crying yourself to sleep for no reason, say so. If you’ve stopped eating altogether or have started eating bags of sugar instead of regular meals, say so. If you want to throw yourself off a bridge, say so. It sounds mental but it’s much better to pass your worries onto a professional who knows what to do and, most importantly, will believe you. Then you can hopefully feel a little bit happier knowing you’ve started a journey that will hopefully end with you feeling happier and not doing destructive things anyone.
Don’t expect instant results though and be prepared to go back to your GP regularly. If you are prescribed anti-depressants they might work brilliantly and you can take them until you feel better and your doctor feels you don’t need them anymore. You might get prescribed anti-depressants that don’t work all that well for you and you’ll have to go back and try another type. There are many different anti-depressants that work in various ways, so don’t feel disheartened if the first ones you try don’t work amazingly or give you crap side effects. You’ll get the right ones for you.
If you are offered therapy with a psychiatrist I suggest trying it. Having someone to speak to about everything you feel, knowing they have to listen to you and can’t tell you you’re an idiot is great. Your doctor can also sort you out with online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which is also a great way to explore why you think about things the way that you do and how you can look at things in a more positive way. And you don’t have to awkwardly take time off work to do it either. Mental well-being can be achieved sitting in your pants in your living room eating jelly babies. Hurrah.
Try not to ignore your friends and family when they call or text or email. It’s really easy to just think “oh for fuck sake, you don’t really care and anyway I’m too sad to talk to you so just piss off”. It took me a while to actually be honest and say to people, “You know what? I’m not really ok. I feel quite shit just now. Can we talk tomorrow? Also, thanks for caring and not thinking I’m a selfish prick. Will hopefully be back on form soon”. And don’t feel like all hope is lost if you have a day where you feel like you’ve got back to square one with crying, depressing thoughts and hopelessness. Be strong, don’t give up on the progress you’re making and ride it out. Remember the jelly babies.
At its worst, depression ruins lives. It breaks up relationships and friendships, causes people to lose their jobs, their homes and their sanity. But for most people, it can be treated. It’s tough, but don’t be scared. Speak to someone and get that lovely brain of yours feeling good again. Then one day you can hopefully look back and say to someone, “At one point I didn’t speak to another human being for a month, ate only frozen fish fingers and cried in the dark by myself every night. Isn’t that shit? I never would have thought I would’ve gotten over that, but I did. I’m awesome”. There’s nothing that can’t be fixed.
Much love and thanks to all who have supported me during this exceptionally shit time, even when I’ve not turned up to stuff or ignored you completely, like a dick. You know who you are. Especially you, B.
Now, go and read something funny. Like this.