Looking back, I think depression first kicked in for me as a teenager but I had no idea what it was then. For many years I stumbled along self-medicating and probably in denial. I didn’t know where to begin unravelling all the confusion that swam around inside my head, I didn’t want to tell anyone how dark my thoughts were and I didn’t know where to begin getting help.
I wish I had known then what I know now, it could have avoided years of heartache.
Now, I manage my depression. It’s medically defined as ‘clinical depression’ or ‘major depressive disorder’. It comes and goes. There are weeks or even months that pass and it doesn’t even cross my mind; I’m happy, focused and in-the-moment. But when it descends it makes everything difficult. I’ve now designed my life so that I can be kind to myself when carrying the fog rather than trying to pretend to the world that I’m ok.
Managing major depressive disorder can be incredibly hard work. It’s taken me many years to spot the signs of the fog descending and force myself to follow a self-care plan during those times.
Dark spells pass – and that in itself is one of the most important things to remember if you’re living with depression or someone close to you is.
There are days when I have no energy; I struggle to get out of bed. I have no interest in human connection. Those are days where I avoid people and turn to my dog for company!
It’s defined as being a “persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life”. That sounds about right.
Some people never have a bout of depression, some have it once in their life, and others manage it on an ongoing basis, as it’s a recurring theme so they proactively try to avoid crashes.
Once you have had one episode you are at a higher risk of having another.
It can occur from one generation to the next in families but that’s not always the case. It can also affect someone with no family history of the illness.
While depression is more commonly reported among women, men are less likely to seek help or even talk about their experiences.
What to look for:
- Biological, psychological and social sources of distress.
- Research suggests these factors may cause changes in brain function.
- A persistent feeling of sadness that you just can’t shake.
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
- Changes in sleep, appetite, energy level, concentration or thoughts of suicide.
- Substance abuse can be a cause or a result of depression.
- Life triggers can often be around loss. So, losing a job, a loved one, divorce or separation for example or loneliness. Also major life changes such as retirement or job change.
What to do:
- Go to see your GP.
- Your GP will help you understand what’s causing your altered brain activity.
- Your GP may suggest medication, therapy or both.
- Many people are hesitant about taking medication. It’s a personal choice. There is growing research that suggests taking medication can actually normalise brain changes that can be experienced with depression.
- There’s no blood test or x-ray. Your doctor may however, run blood tests to help detect any other medical problems that they want to rule out before diagnosis (such as thyroid issues that can cause some similar problems).