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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 February 18, 2019

13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

Why is this so critically important to you?

The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

  • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
  • The man facing the judge.
  • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
  • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
  • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
  • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

2. Accept Your Fear

Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

And here’s what can be done.

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3. Get Some Perspective

I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

  • Are you really at risk?
  • Will this kill you?
  • Which leads us on to..
  • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

4. Hold a Hand

As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

Ask yourself:

  • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
  • Could that really happen?
  • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
  • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

8. Assume the Worse

If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

  • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
  • Think about how they feel about champagne?
  • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

11. Go with Fear

When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

13. Own Your Fear

Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

More Resources About Fighting Fear

Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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