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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 October 20, 2020

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future. Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

Bonus: Think Like a Rhino

More Tips for Procrastinators to Start Taking Action

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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