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Depression – a guest post

Clinical depression is a serious mental illness. I don’t think anyone sane would argue the point. And despite widespread acknowledgement and sympathy for sufferers, there remains for most  people a very real lack of understanding of this illness. If you are lucky enough never to have suffered through an episode of clinical depression, it is incredibly hard to understand exactly how it can affect one.

Before I launch any further into my diatribe, it is important to draw a distinction between someone who is mildly depressed and someone who is suffering from true clinical depression. Here’s how wikipedia defines it: “… a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive and persistent low mood that is accompanied by low self-esteem and by a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. The term “depression” is used in a number of different ways. It is often used to mean this syndrome but may refer to other mood disorders or simply to a low mood. [Clinical Depression] is a disabling condition that adversely affects a person’s family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health”

As someone who has and is dealing with this illness, I believe I have some insight into the thought processes associated with these feelings and my hope is that by sharing some of them, people may become more sensitive to the signs from loved-ones and friends around them who may be silently suffering through similar situations.

Firstly, it is important to understand that a depressed person is absolutely incapable of “snapping out of it”. It’s hard to explain, but your mind keeps circling back to feelings of hopelessness and as
much as you tell yourself to think positive and be happy, there’s another voice that keeps asking “Why?”. In fact the logic is perfectly sound, which is perhaps why it’s so hard to dismiss. You think to yourself “Today was full of misery and each moment was a struggle. Yesterday was the same – why would tomorrow or next week or even next year be any different?”.

Another key aspect is self-imposed isolation. You know you’re depressed. You become sensitive to the fact that your constant negativity is annoying to people. Honestly, who wants to spend time
with someone who is always gloomy and feeling down? And so you begin to withdraw from people. Better to suffer in silence than to tell a friend who’s probably heard it all before a hundred times and who will no doubt mouth the same platitudes that people do in these situations. Well-intentioned sure, but you’ve heard it before, and you know it doesn’t help.

Soon, your self-esteem is gone. The cycle has come full circle and you start to believe the things your head keeps telling you. You’re a miserable, useless git with nothing to offer anyone and no hope of ever finding joy again. It seems pointless to try. The effort required to get up and make food becomes too much. You can no longer see the point in doing anything, since nothing relieves the pain and misery you feel. Getting out of bed seems pointless. Eating seems equally pointless.

The scary thing that most people don’t realise is that for males aged 20-34 the second most common cause of death (after accidental causes) is suicide. For men 35 – 40 it’s the 3rd most common cause after cancer and heart disease. Many of these suicides seem to come out of the blue, because the clinically depressed are excellent at hiding their condition. Or perhaps society is just bad at recognising the signs.

So if you notice a friend or loved-one starting to withdraw socially or if they start posting status updates like “Someone please shoot me, lol” or making seemingly offhand remarks about suicide or depression, it might be a good idea to look a little deeper and find out if they’re ok. You never know what people are really going through.

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Chris 7 September 2015, 2:11 pm

    This is a guest post by David Kritzinger – a worthy topic covered by someone more suitable than I.

  • Chris 7 September 2015, 2:16 pm

    Someone suffering from depression has a tendency to rebuff attempts to help. How then does someone who genuinely wants to help offer their assistance without being overbearing? Certainly, abstaining from creating unnecessary expectations is a start, but beyond that?

    • Octavo 7 September 2015, 2:56 pm

      I think the most important thing is to realise some boundaries deserve respect, but not all. Bringing up their depression and trying to talk them through it is seldom appreciated. If it was as easy to fix as talking it through with a friend, no one would have this illness.

      On the other hand, forcing them to socialise with you is something I would actually recommend. When you’re feeling down, you don’t want to see people or talk to them because you don’t want people to see you like that and you simply cannot deal with yet another pep talk, but being forced to do something else to take your mind off things can be incredibly helpful and give you a huge lift, even if it is only for a couple of hours.

      My recommendation to anyone with a friend or loved-one who is going through this: If you know they’re in a dark place and having a hard time right now and are rebuffing your invitations to socialise, then just show up at their door. Just rock up with some pizza or a home-cooked lasagne or something (seriously depressed people often aren’t eating regularly, because food – meh) and a movie to watch. Don’t force them to talk, just sit down, have a meal and watch a movie with them. I guarentee that if you SMS first, or call, you’ll get rebuffed. Don’t allow this to happen. Just show up and force their minds to do something other than poison themselves for a while.

      It also really helps for the depro person to understand – listen someone does care about me. Cares enough to ignore my protestations and instead of judging or trying to fix the problem, just wants to be there for me.

  • Elmari 7 September 2015, 3:34 pm

    This is the honest to God truth: Firstly, it is important to understand that a depressed person is absolutely incapable of “snapping out of it”. It’s hard to explain, but your mind keeps circling back to feelings of hopelessness and as
    much as you tell yourself to think positive and be happy, there’s another voice that keeps asking “Why?”.
    Depression is a sly and intelligent disease and it is a master at the art of war with the self and its esteem.
    An excellent post. Thank you!

    • Octavo 8 September 2015, 6:58 am

      I’m glad you liked it Elmari. It’s been rattling around in my head for a while now.

  • pebo 8 September 2015, 2:51 pm

    As someone who lost a father to suicide a few years ago, I can totally relate. I too used to suffer from depression and still suffer from anxiety, but I still don’t have any answers. It most certainly wasn’t medication, which I believe might help mask the symptoms but doesn’t deal with the root cause and heal someone, in fact I think it might make the depression worse in the long run (in my opinion). Thanks for this post, as horrible as it is to know others suffer too, it’s comforting at the same time.

    • Octavo 9 September 2015, 9:38 am

      Hi Pebo,

      I’m sorry to hear about you Dad. I too tried anti-depressants for quite a while. While I found they lifted my mood and allowed me to function again, I began to feel that they also weren’t allowing me to experience life. It was like the volume had been turned down on everything. I wasn’t sad anymore, but I wasn’t happy either. I weaned myself off them and struggled for a while, but overall am happy with my decision. I think anti-depressants are useful for the worst of the illness, when you are at serious risk of suicide, but I couldn’t live on them.

      • pebo 10 September 2015, 3:19 pm

        Thanks Octavo. I agree. I’m currently on a very low dose of anti-depressants myself because right now it’s necessary to help prevent anxiety attacks, but it’s only temporary. I won’t allow myself to remain on pharmaceutical drugs permanently because in the long run they do more harm than good. I’ve read that an increase of Vitamin B, C and Lecithin can combat depression for good, but I have yet to try it myself. It does make sense to rather fill your body with nutrients rather than synthetic drugs, afterall our cells are made up of nutrients not drugs. Hope that helps. 🙂 http://www.doctoryourself.com/depression.html

      • Graeme 10 September 2015, 4:54 pm

        Vit B3 (Niacin) in particular is extremely powerful [and natural] and has a heap of clinical studies available. It tends to have a particularly uncomfortable (I kinda enjoyed it) side-effect though, so also investigate Niacinamide.

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