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Understanding and Living With Depression

Updated on October 5, 2016
Understanding Depression
Understanding Depression

I suffer from long-term depression. It first made itself known to me during my pregnancy, some twenty-two years ago, when I experienced twenty-four hour morning (are you kidding?) sickness for over six months, which slowly ate away at my mental well-being to the extent that I felt both dehumanized and trapped by the condition. I can describe the feeling now as being in a dark tunnel, seeking out the light at the end but not being able to see nor reach it.

I used to call out to God for help in my despair, to loved ones that had passed on, always hoping that they would somehow hear my cries and appear to me in my hour of need - somehow the spiritual world seemed kinder to me then than the mortal one. I'd look at the television and feel envious of the people on the screen - how could everything be so normal outside of me- myself and my ailment? It was as though the world had changed color, had lost its vibrancy and everything in it had somehow become tainted with my pain.

Feeling so ill during pregnancy was, of course, something I couldn’t have foreseen or done anything to prevent I'm told but, at the time, I felt as though I was being punished for some terrible sin I had committed earlier in life. What made it worse was the 'oh so kind' dismissal of “It’s only pregnancy”. Somehow that compounded things into an almost tangible package of misery that I felt I had to burden alone, albeit nicely wrapped up in my guilt! After all, there were people with real illnesses out there and, of course, mine would end in nine months wouldn’t it?

I tell this tale to you because none of us know if or when depression will happen to us and, when it does, we all too often feel that we are the only ones experiencing the depths of its intrusion. We find it hard to empathize with those close to us whose lives it also affects and, if we do, the realization simply adds to our own guilt-ridden misery. I’m aware that I’m not sugar coating this article, which may be construed as a mistake by some readers, but it’s one I’m prepared to take if it helps in understanding that, as a sufferer of depression, you are certainly not alone or, as a friend or loved one of someone who is suffering, then endeavoring to sweeten the situation with phrases such as "come on now, things aren’t that bad" or, even worse, "pull yourself together" in the hope of lightening their mood is prone to do more harm than good. It’s rather like telling someone in a wheelchair to “walk a few steps instead of just sitting there”. Just because we can’t see depression, doesn’t mean that it isn’t holding someone down.

There’s no easy way to cope with depression - I wish I could say that there was. I can only speak from my own experiences of the condition and of a routine that works for me and that, hopefully, may be of help to you, or someone you care for.

Firstly, and I say this wholeheartedly, do NOT be afraid to see a doctor. They may not always give you the listening time you feel you need but sometimes (controversial as this may be to write) a prescription can work wonders. In my case, Prozac was quite literally a life-saver, as I had reached rock bottom. Long term depression can have many deep troughs and I was definitely in one when I conceded to seek medical help. Within a few days, I began to feel better! By this I mean more in control and, surprisingly, more positive. It’s strange, but I just woke up one morning feeling mentally lighter and, suddenly, getting out of my bed wasn’t such a chore. I’m told, by the way, that Prozac and other similar serotonin promoting medications can take several weeks to work, so don’t expect overnight miracles if you’re prescribed them.

Another word of warning: please don’t try to take medical matters into your own hands by ordering prozac (or other antidepressants) online. It may not be the right medication for you and sometimes other interventions, such as counseling, are required to get you out of the slump, so make that appointment please!

Secondly, and this is so important: Allow yourself to feel miserable! This may sound absurd. After all, if we allow ourselves to concede to our condition then how can we beat it? The simple answer here is that sometimes we just can’t. If you’re a long-time sufferer then you’ll know that constantly fighting our depression is exhausting and can all too often intensify our feelings of worthlessness and despair. So, instead of battling, not only your depression but your guilt too, try this. Admit to yourself and to others that you feel depressed. Don’t struggle with it. Accept it as part of who you are right now. Don’t be afraid to indulge yourself with whatever might take the edge off ever so slightly. Think of all those things in life that have brought comfort and immerse yourself in them. For example, if rice pudding is something you associate with comfort and recovery then make a rice pudding for yourself to enjoy - the simple activity of making it will provide a therapy in itself. If watching a particular movie has always made you feel good then put it on whilst you eat your rice pudding, and so on. You are allowing yourself to be a patient and you are, in effect, nursing yourself back to health. You have just become your own best therapist by listening to your mind and your body and letting them lead the way to your recovery.

If you’re a friend or a loved one, then you can provide valuable support simply by not continually pushing, but by keeping a watchful and loving eye on the sufferer and letting them know that you are happy to help with their recovery in whatever way is best for them. This second stem of self-help, coupled with medical expertise (as mentioned above) can, over time, significantly diminish, if not completely remove, the symptoms of depression.

Thirdly, there eventually comes a time when you need to give yourself that push! The push that will get you back into the world again, little by little - bit by bit! For me it began with a stroll around the garden picking some flowers for the house. For a friend of mine it started with a walk down the lane to have her hair styled. It can be as big or as small as it needs to be, providing that it’s a definitive first step towards ‘getting back your life’. Regardless of size however, it has to be something that’s hard for you to do, or it simply won’t be worthwhile. After all, doing the easy thing would be to stay in with those movies and rice puddings but life goes on and, when the cobwebs have cleared a little, then it’s time to brush them away and walk forward.

Baby steps are to be commended. Try a trip to the corner shop as a first challenge, a short journey in the car or a walk around the block. Whatever you do, the most important thing of all is that you get washed and dressed and get out there. One of the biggest blocks to recovery in depression is its ability to separate us from society and to make us feel like hiding away from it. Face the world again and your depression will take yet another step backwards whilst you step further forwards.

Every day is a new challenge and should be treated as such. Remember to reward yourself for each new step you take and not to punish yourself for those that couldn’t be taken. After all, tomorrow is a new day with new possibilities. And, just knowing that you’re not alone in the darkness can make all the difference - the difference between being blinded by your depression and being able to see ahead once more as you walk towards the light with those who love you by your side.


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    • drgratton profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Jake I can only apologize for having taken so long to respond to your great feedback for the article and I'm glad you found it to be of help. Personally, having so much support from great social media friends like you has been a therapy in itself. Thank you again darling.

    • gsidley profile image

      Dr. Gary L. Sidley 

      6 years ago from Lancashire, England

      Interesting hub drgratton.

      I particularly like the message about allowing yourself to be miserable. Often we can depress ourselves further by beating ourselves up for feeling down.

      Good luck with your ongoing battle with recurrent depression.

    • Jake Kern profile image

      Jake Kern 

      7 years ago from Minnesota

      This is being saved to show to a LOT of people. I've dealt with depression & suicidal ideation for 3 decades. (I also deal with clinical Anxiety & Agoraphobia.) Fortunately, I've experienced enough that I can honestly say that I am safe, but it doesn't take the pain of that temptation away. Your transparency with your experience will help a LOT of people. Some thoughts about your specific points:

      1. YES! Ask for help! The first step IS to talk to your doctor. Sometimes the Prozac works (it was a disaster for me) and sometimes it's something else. Because mental chemistry plays a big role, take a look at your nutrition & exercise.

      2. "Allow yourself to feel miserable." Most people have no idea the amount of wisdom in this, and it goes against the commonly held views of having a positive mental attitude. My psychiatrist had leukemia, and he was 6 years past his expiration date. He was a walking miracle. However, not all days were good. I remember something he said that changed my life: "It's OK to have a bad day now & again." Suddenly I didn't have to feel bad for feeling bad! Also, I was able to let go this idea that I had to somehow make up for bad days. Some days stink. BUT, I now also had the freedom to know that just because it was a bad DAY, it didn't mean it had to be a bad WEEK / MONTH / YEAR.

      3. "Give yourself that push." This is so much more than, "Just DECIDE to be happy." I wanna choke people who say that to me. However, after years of simply being miserable, I finally started to experience improvement after the moment I made the decision that I wanted to get better. It was NOT a decision to just be happy. It meant that I had a lot of work ahead of me but that I was willing to DO it so that I finally could get better.

      I still have a long way to go, but I look at how far I have come, and for the first time in my life, I have Hope. That's the big message that I try to share with others who experience depression. There IS hope.

      Thank you for this amazing dialog. It's GOOD to see the common sense & honesty you have shared, and the conversation in the following comments has been excellent, too. Blessings.

    • drgratton profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hello Luke,

      Thank you for your comment and I am so sorry to hear about your daughter's mis-diagnosis. I am certainly not advocating a 'prozac for all' approach to depression treatment. On the contrary, I believe that medication of any sort should only be considered under the careful advisement of a GP and after exhausting other forms of intermediary treatment such as counselling. Just having someone 'take the time to listen to us' can sometimes be all that's needed. I wish you and your daughter all the best for the future. Keep strong and know that you are not alone.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      hi there - i disagree with promoting prozac - this drug was incorrectly prescribed for my daughter by a GP and was the trigger that eventually pushed her into a psychotic phase ... we now know that she is schizophrenic.

      i have suffered from severe depression for the majority of my adult life, i've never gone to see a doctor about it either because a) i don't feel comfortable talking about deeply personal issues with strangers and b) most GP's or specialist psychiatrists over-medicate and I do not believe that 'happy' drugs have long-term benefits - ultimately, they compound the problem.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      10 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I agree with Anti-Valentine's comment as a fellow sufferer of depression. I am fortunate that I never get it as bad as I used to and that I don't mind being on my own a lot. I find that often being on my own when depressed is far better that being around people because I can see how much happier they are and it makes me feel worse!

      I agree with Mighty Mom too that alcohol can make it all worse. I speak from experience on that.

    • drgratton profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you for the recommendation CJStone. Such a great title - I will certainly take a look.

    • CJStone profile image

      Christopher James Stone 

      10 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Here is a really wonderful book about depression: Sunbathing in the Rain by Gwyneth Lewis.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 

      10 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Great Hub, and as someone who also suffers from depression and is on Prozac, I can totally identify with what you are going through. The frustrating thing is that many people don't see it, and can't understand why I am not working, can still smile and have a joke and yet am on benefits. They don't understand that my memory is badly effected by the depression, and that I get panic attacks if I even look at the job section in the newspapers. The Prozac has helped a lot, but I still get the depression to a degree, plus the memory problems.

    • Anti-Valentine profile image


      10 years ago from My lair

      I find one thing that I've read over and over and experienced myself is that many people don't like to be around depressed types, and that's hard to live with. You have to get used to being on your own.

    • drgratton profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from United Kingdom

      Mighty Mom, so sorry I didn't answer your question. My depression has stayed with me all these years and I endure an ongoing battle - albeit somewhat abated since my learning how to cope and live with my condition - hence my latest hub.

    • drgratton profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you for your comments Mighty Mom and you make some excellent points here with which I wholeheartedly agree.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      10 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi DRGratton, You didn't say whether your depression abated after you gave birth. I am glad at least your morning sickness did!

      This is a very helpful hub for anyone suffering from depression or for those in their lives. Your admonition about well-meaning people telling you to "just buck up" strikes close to my heart. I've heard those very words.

      A couple of additions from my own experience:

      1. You may not recognize your symptoms as "depression." As the Cymbalta ads point out -- depression can be mostly physical, with random aches and pains overshadowing the mood, even.

      2. I would suggest starting with your primary care physician, but... depression is a chemical imbalance of the brain. It requires a brain professional. I know for me I went through a lot of trial and error with different anti-depressants being prescribed by my regular doctor and also my ob/gyn. That's years of extra suffering that didn't have to happen. I know it's hard to advocate for yourself when you are suffering from a mental health issue. But a competent psychiatrist (MD of the brain) can make a huge difference.

      3. Rice pudding and other comfort foods/rituals are wonderful. Be aware tho, that if you are drowning your depression in alcohol (even if this might seem like the right thing to make you feel better) you are really pouring gasoline on the flames. Alcohol is a depressant and you do not want to add chemical dependence to your depression.

      Thanks for allowing me to speak out on this. I'm right there with you on speaking out so that this "soul stifling illness" is not suffered alone, in silence.

    • drgratton profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from United Kingdom

      Depression is something that needs to be spoken (and indeed written) about more and you are so right when you say that society's taboos often prevent us from getting to, or at least facing, the individual source of the condition. I sincerely hope that my article can shed just a little light on a soul stifling illness that is all too often burdened alone. I am very appreciative of your kind words of support and knowledge. THANK YOU.

    • Denny Lyon profile image

      Denny Lyon 

      10 years ago from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA

      Goodness! This is a wonderful AND excellent article! There should be no apologies here for such honesty and caring for the other person who may be suffering as you are endeavoring to show them a way through to a healthier place of balance.

      Have several friends who have suffered from bipolar depression for decades since they were teenagers so I know of what you speak. One is a fabulous poet but not enough self-confidence to promote her work. What a shame because she is so very talented in how she writes the truth of life.

      Most sensitive and artistic people have suffered some level of sadness to deep depression that lasts for years. A lot can't be allieviated by drugs because it really is a spiritual problem - the inability to let go of toxic people in their lives who are just wearing them down (often close family members).

      You spoke about guilt - definitely the way manipulative people hold others down and they end up sinking into terrible depression because of it. Society has these taboos that one is not allowed to speak the whole truth about abusive people especially when they are people in positions of authority: religion, parents, leaders.

      You are also so very right about the trite suggestions people who are not suffering such a tough life test throw out there to the sufferer. I wince every time I hear one. Generally, I just gently ask, "How can I help?" or "How can I be of assistance for the next 15 minutes?" I found if I keep it short they tend not to feel overwhelmed by too much committment or feeling vulnerable or burdening.

      Delighted to know you have been finding your way through to balance for yourself. You also hit the nail on the head about how important it is to find and create small coping skills for yourself to get back into society a little at a time.

      Great article and you should be commended for the courage to do so! Thank you!


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