:: this post is part of the ‘HOPE’ series. it includes bits + pieces of my journey with depression, anxiety + insomnia with the hope that it will illuminate, expose, + help. you can read “my story: behind the giggle” here ::
Looking back over my life, I realised that I’ve been depressed since I was in Year 10 (about 16 years old). Since that time, the symptoms flared up + died down during different seasons of life; the worst being earlier this year.
Most people think that depression is simply “feeling sad.” But it’s so not. I didn’t feel ‘sad’. I just felt… blerghk. As in flat. Every emotion blurred into a grey + there was no variation.
Depression is a mental illness because it messes with the chemicals in your brain. That’s why a depressed person can’t simply “be happy” or “snap out of it”. No matter how much you may want to “get happy”, you can’t.
It can be such an overlooked topic, but with one in three Australians suffering with it at any given time, chances are you’re directly or indirectly effected by it more than you realise. And that’s why it’s so very important to talk about it.
Here’s a little of my journey with my most recent bout of depression…
‘the setting of a great hope is like the setting of the sun. the brightness of our life is gone.’ - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
When I started to know something wasn’t right:
It could take me up to (or more than) 2-hours to decide what to wear.
Everyone annoyed + frustrated me.
Getting out of the bed was a major battle.
Everything was a struggle – having a shower, making lunch, going to the shops…
I could be in a room full of bestie’s laughing our heads off, but while giggling, the pit of my stomach wasn’t joyous like it used to be.
I stopped writing.
A leader asked me where I saw myself in 5-years. I saw nothing.
Some of my “Symptoms”
Feeling overwhelmed. Incredibly indecisive. Irritable. Frustrated. Fatigued. Muscles hurting. Withdrawing from social activities. Anxious. Finding it hard to go to sleep. Oversleeping in the morning. No motivation/losing interest in things I used to love (ie writing, baking..). Lack of concentration. Feeling hopeless.
And the funny thing about these ‘symptoms’ is that aside from making excuses not to go out and rejecting most social invitations, my friends and others had no idea what was actually going on inside me.
Some things I did [+ am currently doing]:
These are simply things I implemented in my life. Different things work for different people because we all have different needs. It’s like glasses – not everyone with poor eyesight wears the same prescriptive glasses.
Talk about it: Whether it’s with your doctor, psychologist, or counsellor. Talking to a professional is always a good idea. And then, talk to a handful of people in your world that you trust – friend, leader, parents – they’ll keep you in check.
Eating ‘healthy’: Experiment when it comes to food. I adore making my own muesli concoctions for breakfast. Vegetables + fruit are seriously your bestie. But come on, no need to neglect your bff brownie or cupcake. It’s all about moderation.
Sleeping: Getting into a good sleeping pattern helps more than you realise. Talk to your doctor or naturopath about sleeping pills (I did for a week, but kept forgetting to take them / realised but it was too late at night, so I’m pretty sure mine did nothing. Ha!)
Exercise: You don’t have to sign up for the gym, just go for a walk or run, regularly. It’s actually pretty amazing how good you feel after it.
Say yes to every social event: I did this for a little season, and heck, it helped. Surround yourself with people you love + who love you. It’s incredible how much it helps.
Look after yourself: Paint your nails, bake a cake, spend a Saturday watching your favourite TV show, buy yourself something pretty, read a book, drink some tea, visit a cute coffee shop, put on that song that makes you smile + dance around your bedroom… do things that you love to do. Learn to listen to your body + reward yourself. Delight in the little things.
And if you’re in a community, church, organisation, team, etc… stay involved. You’ll thank yourself for it in the future.
Taking anti-depressants can be such a taboo topic, especially within Christian circles. When I started the process, I didn’t take them. Two months into getting healthy, my doctor + psychologist advised me to take them because there was a dip in my progress. To be completely honest, I’m so glad I did. They’ve helped me see clearer enabling me to make better decisions.
I don’t intend to be on them forever, just for 6-months + then begins the process of coming off them. The main side effect I had was a major, major head ache for a good few days that made me sick + want to rip my brain out (no joke). But one morning I woke up + felt sparkly new. So worth it.
In one of Steven Furtick’s messages, he likens the treatment of depression to how you’d treat, for example, a plumbing incident. You can pray until the cows come home for the pipe to fix itself, or call the plumber to fix it + use his man made tools.
It’s the same with depression.
You can pray until the cows come home, but when you’re depressed you can’t pray because, well, you simply can’t. Taking anti-depressants doesn’t fix your depression, it simply lightens the load a little so you can stand a little taller, lift your head a little higher, think a little clearer, see a little further, walk a little faster, + feel a little warmer.
Anti-depressants aren’t for everyone. Some people become better by simply making daily changes + working through the things that triggered + led them to be depressed. But, if at some point your doctor suggets you take them, do what you feel is best + remember: you’re not a failure. You’re brave.
Today is “R U OK DAY?“
Ask the people around you if they’re okay. And then a week later, ask again. Don’t make it an annual question, because by then… it may be too late. And if you ask it with a smile, open body language, + genuine interest… your question may be what puts a door or window on the box that someone feels trapped in…
:: for more information / help on depression, look at beyondblue ::