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11 Truths About Depression That Everyone Should Understand

11 Truths About Depression That Everyone Should Understand

Experienced my first bout of depression in my early twenties makes me realized that one of the biggest challenges was getting those around me to understand what I was feeling (or not feeling) at the time. And now after getting recovered, I am able to make this list which would have been impossible in the midst of my illness.

This is not just about my own experience though. Rates of mental illness continue to rise. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating that one in four of the population will suffer from a mental disorder in their lifetime.

The key to the effective treatment of any illness is understanding it, and this begins at home. Whether it is a friend, partner, colleague or family member, having someone who understands depression can make a big difference. The following eleven truths are based on my own experience but I believe that they will resonate with others too. Please share them if they help to explain the unexplainable.

1. A little ‘gremlin’ lives in your ear.

Whether it’s forgetting to wish your friend good luck for an interview, or making a typo in an email, even the smallest mistake is just another box tick on the list of things that you can’t do right. Whilst a rational mind would say sorry to the friend, and forgive themselves, you have a little voice in your ear that tells you that it’s because you’re a bad friend, employee, or person, and that ‘you don’t deserve to be happy, ever!’

2. You work on a time delay.

Ever watch the news when the anchor is speaking to a reporter overseas? There is always that awkward delay before the anchor’s question reaches the earpiece of the reporter. A several second silence which seems to last an eternity on live TV.

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When you’re depressed that’s how every conversation feels. Your brain takes longer to process what has been said often leading to a time delay. Your slowing of speech becomes obvious to those around you which often leads to giving up all contributing in conversations altogether. Your greatest hope is that people will just stop including you, and you can carry on disappearing into the background.

3. You create your own invisibility cloak.

Move over Harry Potter, those with depression have their own magical creation which is far more impressive than the one Harry used to sneak around Hogwarts. Not only does it make you disappear, but it does it slowly, gradually, so that no one around you notices.

First, it makes you slowly withdraw from conversations, and avoid doing anything that will make you the centre of attention. To throw others off the scent, you respond normally generally telling people ‘I’m fine’, whilst slowly declining invitations to social events. One by one people stop inviting you and including you, and before you know it, abracadabra!―you’re invisible!

4. Your mind has hit stand-by.

When I was depressed I could go for days, often up to a week, and not remember what had happened. It’s like my brain was on standby, and although technically functioning and alive, it was not absorbing or remembering information. To those around you, you could even appear ‘normal’. This is because you are functioning on autopilot, saying, and doing the right things, but not really present.

5. The world becomes a horror movie.

At 23 years old, I became terrified to even board a bus on my own. Talking to a stranger became the equivalent of being chased down the street by a pack of giant spiders. Every day, around every corner, was a potential terrifying scenario. This lead to the point that the only time I felt safe was in my bed, under my duvet, and away from a world I no longer trusted.

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6. You look the same but you are not the same.

Who was that person who laughed so easily with their friends? What would that person say to the version of you now? The difference in the person that you are BD (before depression), and the person you are AD (after depression), can be monumental . You can’t remember the feeling of being truly happy, and worry that you will never feel this feel this way again.

7. You feel guilty. Like it is your fault that you’re ill.

It is an unfortunate symptom of depression, that those who are suffering feel guilty for having an illness.

Not only do you think that it is your fault for not being strong enough to resist your negative thoughts and feelings, but you feel bad that other people are having to worry about you when there is nothing physically wrong. The reactions of people who don’t understand can just make it worse, telling someone who is depressed to ‘cheer up, it’s not so bad’, or ‘snap out of it’, will only increase their feelings of guilt making them feel worse.

8. This can lead to self destruction.

Like the fight or flight reflex that humans share with the rest of the animal kingdom, when we are tired of fighting, we run instead.

Tired of feeling guilt, you pull away, convincing yourself that it is better for everyone if you are alone. This is when we enter self destruct mode, depriving ourselves of the help that we need, giving up on our commitments, and refusing to show any kindness to ourselves.

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9. You watch life through a glass wall.

As you sink further into depression you begin to feel like you are an observer looking on to a world that you are not a part of. Seeing normal situations and emotions play out, you begin to lose your connection with real life and retreat deeper into yourself. You understand what you should be feeling but you can’t feel it, like there is a glass partition between you and the rest of the world.

10. You don’t want to talk about it.

One of the most challenging symptoms of depression for those around you, is that you don’t want to talk about it. In truth, you don’t know what is wrong, and when people ask you, trying to explain it makes you feel foolish and guilty for wasting their time.

The benefit of hindsight allows you to see that things can, and do, change, but when you are in the middle of that valley you can’t see over the mountains to any kind of horizon.

11. You don’t feel sad. You don’t feel anything.

It is one of the biggest misconceptions of depression that it is extreme sadness. In my experience, depression is very different from sadness. It is the absence of feeling.

When you are sad you feel something. Sadness can be a release. Grieving over the loss of something helps you to come to terms with it, feel the emotion and move on. Depression is a loss of emotion, the very thing that makes us human. It is a state of limbo in which everything you have ever known no longer makes sense or has a purpose.

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I know I said 11, but I’m going to sneak one more in because it’s the most important…

12. It can and will pass.

Like even the fiercest of storms, with the right help and support, it will pass eventually. Although you may never be the same as you were before, you will be a new you, stronger and more self aware.

The biggest lesson that I ever learnt was to let people help me, even when it felt like the most unnatural thing to do.

Featured photo credit: Chobir Dokan via chobirdokan.com

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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