I am sorry if this post contains much more detail than you ever cared to know about me or if it makes you feel uncomfortable. I hope you will read through to the end and still like me after. It is a post I have been contemplating and discarding, trying to word and re-word. You've seen these posts on other blogs. They fall under the 'honest' category. It's a post that feels awkward and that I hope a friend would understand.
This week, all week, is Depression Awareness Week here in the UK. I believe that facing the fact that you might be depressed is a tough thing to do. Describing feelings and emotions that you yourself cannot really understand and that make your head spin while trying to find ways to ignore them is hard. I believe that depression holds a stigma and that many people probably think that somebody who is feeling so low all the time should just pull themselves together. It is not that easy!
I have been unhappy on and off for years, to the point that I felt unable to control my emotions and became irritated with everything and everybody. I had fierce mood swings. I planned outings and accepted dates so that I would have something to look forward to, and then I cancelled many an evening out with my husband or friends, because I felt that I had nothing to wear, that I would have nothing to say to them and that everybody would see me as the fat, clumsy, boring oaf that I on those occasions thought I was. I hated to be in social situations with people I did not know even more, because then I would have to appear interesting and self-assured in some way. Otherwise I was sure they would talk about me behind my back. I feared rejection. All I wanted was to be by myself, wrapped in a blanket and eating any amount of comfort food. I did not want to deal with people. I felt worthless, inadequate and without purpose. I simply did not want to do anything, because even the stuff I normally enjoyed felt like ginormous chores.
I was jealous of my friends, of strangers, of people I met that seemed effortlessly happy. I felt jealous of the friends I knew where seeing therapists, because I felt that my worries were too petty to go see one myself. I started feeling spiteful and angry. I tried to figure out what made me feel this way, thought of words that might explain my erratic behaviour to my husband. I got stuck in my own mind or started crying and getting mad when Marco would not understand or tried to tell me I would soon feel better. I felt lonely.
In fact, I still feel like this a lot. Only now there is a difference. I started therapy about a year ago to try and get to the core of my feelings. Each Thursday evening for almost a year I have been climbing up the stairs to my therapist's practice, knowing that an hour of crying and self-inspection and frustration lay ahead of me. It's the best and the worst time of my week. The best is knowing that this will help me feel better, that there is somebody who will listen without judgement and who will try to help. The worst is feeling like there is never a breakthrough, like I am always dragging out and chewing over the same stuff, and that I am just not able to stop those tears.
But you know something? Finally having somebody tell me that me feeling down and doubtful all the time was called depression, was called anxiety, was one of the happiest moments in my recent life. It is probably weird to say that, but I just felt that everything I was going through in my mind was suddenly justified, that I wasn't just an ungrateful, whiny pessimist. I felt that I now had something tangible, that I knew what I was dealing with and that there were ways to do that dealing.
I have not yet started to like myself much more, but I am learning a lot about the person I am, rather than pushing too hard to be the person I want to be. I have started taking a small dose of anti-depressants every day. That was a tough decision to make. But I felt like I wanted all the help I could get to push me out of my hole and into the light. The change that these pills have made is minimal, but palpable. I have moments now in which I feel a stillness, a calm in my head that lets me prepare for the next storm of self-doubt and misery. I feel less worried and have found more reasons to laugh. I can see the road that I want to take, and even if my steps are very, very small, I know that if I'm patient I will stop getting lost and eventually find my way.
Now, back to Depression Awareness Week. I hope that anybody who feels the way that I am feeling is aware that there are ways to control depression and will be able to get the same help I am getting. A lot of people probably are in worse state of minds. A lot of people may feel less sad. But no matter why you are unhappy, I think it is important to realize that your feelings are real and that there is nothing to be ashamed of. I also hope that people who do not struggle with persistent sadness, low self-esteem and hopelessness themselves are aware that the people who do are not trying to be difficult or looking for attention, and that they need loving support and understanding in order to get through their unhappiness and start feeling better.
I am obviously not an authority on depression and in no position to give advice, but I would like to share what I did to come to terms with this big dark shadow that I feel looming over me a lot of the time. The first step was to acknowledge that something did not feel quite right, but also to let yourself know that this feeling is okay and that you can take your time to figure out a way to combat it. Don't be hesitant to speak to your doctor about the way you feel. I waited a long time to do this because I was scared of not being taken seriously and was so relieved in the end when my doctor understood what was going on.
If you think you would like to see a therapist, find out if your doctor can recommend one or research local practitioners on the internet. Make sure that you are comfortable with the therapist you choose and discuss the way that they will help you. Some might just sit back and listen, some may ask questions, some may suggest exercises to help you overcome your depression. You have to feel comfortable with your therapist's approach and you should feel relaxed when talking to them. It took me three attempts until I found a therapist that I could be at ease with.
Now, when I feel down, I just try to listen to my heart and instincts and give myself the quiet time and solitude I need. My husband knows I need me-time on the bad days, and I have also let my friends know what I sometimes go through. I feel that being honest is a relief, because trying to keep your emotions a secret and attempting to function normally is really not that simple. I was surprised that some of my friends opened up in return and told me about periods in their lives when they were going through similar phases. That made me feel less alone.
What calms my mind is lying on the floor and actively listening to music, which fills my head and chases away any negative thoughts. I also try and be absolutely 'in the moment', for example when I make a pot of tea. I try to go through all the motions slowly, smelling the leaves, counting the spoons out, just waiting for the water to boil instead of doing something else in the meantime, igniting the match, lighting the tea light, inhaling the fragrant steam... All of that makes me feel like I am really treating myself to something good. It is hard to remember these things when all that's going on in your head is rage or sorrow, but by creating feel-good routines, I am sometimes able to avoid spiralling deeper into doubt and misery. I hope that one day I will know myself well enough to be able to control the way I feel as best as I can.
Thank you for listening.