Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Why Being Depressed Makes Me Happy.

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.

© Text & Photos - Annika - All The Live Long Day (unless otherwise stated).


  1. Dear Annika,

    We are so fortunate that you would share your experience so honestly with us! I can identify with many of the feelings that you describe. I'm sorry to know that you've had these hard times, but I'm also so glad that you've gotten help with them. I saw a therapist years ago and it was a huge help to me at a really rough time.

    I sometimes struggle to push myself to socialize like you describe as well. At times when it feels like too much, it has actually been nice to have made positive connections with other nice folks who have blogs. Visiting your blog and reading your tweets always make me smile!

    Thanks for sharing such a brave post with us!

  2. *hugs* thank you for sharing this, annika. i feel the same way you do in a lot of ways. i remember how relieving it was to hear "you're in the middle of a depression" paired with "here's what you/we can do to make it better" at the clinic a couple years ago. since then i've learned to be good to myself, listen to myself and give myself what i need a lot more than i used to. i was pleasantly surprised also about all of my friend's and family's reaction. i thought of myself as "having to be" the strong one like i've always been and never expected people to open their arms like they did for me to fall into and be weak. it's so awesome to be able and tell friends that i just "don't feel like xyz" and feel that it's okay and a valid reason to say no. real strength is admitting to be weak. kudos to you for that! and i'm glad you're feeling better. also i'm gonna try that laying on the floor listening to music some time - it sounds awesome! :)

  3. wow, thank you so much for having the courage to be so open. i know your post will really encourage and support so many people who stumble across it.... i too totally relate to everything you say and have been on the very same journey, living for many years with chronic unhappiness not understanding why and not feeling im worthy of therapy ect...i started therapy this January, which has been hard but very powerful. i thought it would be a magic wand, but of course it isn't, but it is helping me unpick all the knots inside and understand myself more. i also have just started a course of antidepressants which will help the therapy (i was worried about taking them thinking it would stop my feelings in therapy but aparently research shows a course of therapy + antidepressants is more powerful than either on their own). brave people we are! keep going on this funny journey of life, sharing, connecting, trying to make some sense and meaning and beauty in it all... xxxx

    1. I have been in therapy for seven years and on anti-depressants for five. It is not an easy battle, and of course everyone has a different experience. But I can tell you that in spite of the side-effects of the medication, I am glad I started to take them and also that I believe medication helps but therapy is the true key. For some reason I thought medication would be an absolute magic wand and that I'd feel entirely better, but it is just a piece of the puzzle. I wish you luck, and will hop over and give your blog a peak!

      xx, C

  4. Thank you so much for sharing. Ive been seeing a therapist for 18 months now. I never know whether to look forward to these sessions or to dread them because although it's lovely to get things off my chest I also feel guitly and pathetic that I keep going over the same old ground without feeling that I am making much progress. It's so reassuring to know that someone else feels the same.

    1. Thank you for leaving your comment. I do get so frustrated when I get stuck in the mess that is my thoughts. I sometimes feel like shaking myself, shouting: 'We've been over this! Get on with things!' But it is comforting to know that other people have these moments, too.

  5. Great post, very honest & interesting. I wish you the best :)

    1. Thank you very much. I appreciate your comment!

  6. My dear Annika,

    You are a brave and beautiful person! I always admired your strength and sharing your personal thoughts and journey just reconfirms what a wonderful, loving and caring person you are!

    I love you and miss you,

  7. Your first few paragraphs described me perfectly when I had my first experience with depression and anxiety. I go to therapy twice a week and totally agree that it is the most terrible wonderful thing out there.

    Thank you for sharing and being honest, sometimes I feel like I'm the only one, but we are in this together!

    x, C

  8. You are brave, beautiful, and inspiring. Thank you for sharing your journey. Wishing you the breakthrough you deserve. You are not alone. Big hugs, Carla

  9. what a brave post! i'm glad you felt comfortable enough to share with your readers/friends. this, to me, is what makes blogging so appealing. we get to know the blogger on an honest,true, heartfelt level. the ups, the downs. the good, the not-so-good. i really struggle with this idea that certain people are happy all the time. i get down on myself when i feel frustrated, down or sad a large amount of the time. i am the kind of person who is very sensitive and affected by my environment. i react emotionally and ruminate a lot. it is very important for people like us to have supports--especially when our thinking patterns get us into trouble. there is really something to be said for that focused time with someone who is only there for your best interest. they have no bias other than wanting to support you. as i'm sure you've read on my blog, i've been seeing my therapist for many, many years. i am super fortunate to have found him. i still find myself in low moods, with anxiety and fears, but i know when i see him once a month, i will somehow feel a little more "on track"...he reminds me to watch my mood and it helps remind me that i'm often close to dipping low and to really keep an eye on it. it's like someone is looking out for me. by now, i can almost predict what he would say to me and utilize it in my day-to-day.

    if you ever need to a chat or a check-in, let me know! i'm only one email away.

    <3 Amy

  10. This is amazing Annika, it takes so much courage to share your problems, and it is inspiring to those of us who maybe have similar issues, but are too scared to talk about them.

  11. this is hard stuff to go through, and really hard stuff to share, so thank you for sharing with us. I too have gone through various periods of depression (weeks, or months, even years) and felt like when I got honest with myself, started seeing a counsellor and got on a low dose of medication it didn't suddenly make me 'happy' but just brought the bottom of the lows up to a more manageable level. I grew up in a place where there were more mental health practitioners in my parents circle than hardly anything else (california) so it was really normalised, but sometimes in the UK I feel like an idiot admitting that I need the help (in contrast to a recent trip to new york where every other conversation begins with 'my therapist says...')

    In any case, just wanted to say how much I appreciate the openness and empathise with the struggle.

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write about your experience. I am really trying to be open about my situation, because first of all I do not enjoy having secrets, and second of all I would love for depression to be treated normally and people not being scared to acknowledge it. It is always shocking to find out that somebody goes through the same kind of stuff as you without ever talking about it and being able to support each other.

  12. Annika,

    Totally get this post! Thanks for sharing it :)

    The hardest part for me was admitting I had depression and then making the decision to sort of..."rely" on a pill to remove whatever chemical inbalance that I had going on. It's been amazing how much more like "ME" I feel again.

    Best wishes to you- what a tough journey it is.

    Eat Cake

  13. I meant to reply to this post sooner but I felt like whatever I'd say wouldn't be as brave or as wise as what you've posted. Thanks for sharing this post Annika. I think it's natural that everyone feels this way now and then and it doesn't mean that you are a lesser person or that you've failed. Who knows...that happy person that we so envy of, could also have some issues! I like that you're taking time out and learning to love yourself again and also creating some routine and purpose in your everyday life. I think it's these little things that will help us get back on our feet. Be calm, think calm and if you ever need to whinge to someone (other than Marco), you can email me too:) xoxo


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