- Mental Health
What You Need To Know About When Living With Depression
Understanding your pain.
Living with depression is debilitating and crippling, I would know since I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with on set mania episodes when I was 13. I am not a doctor or a therapist, but after 8 years of therapy, being hospitalized for suicidal tendencies and self-mutilation, and having written a book, I feel I have at least some valuable life experience to offer others suffering with similar disorders. If I can help one person make it through a day while suffering with this, I would be happy.
Most commonly, you find people saying, after being depressed for a few days, " I have depression." I would like to clear up one thing before I continue with this article. There is a difference between "feeling" depressed and suffering with depression. The first one is a normal human reaction to something unpleasant going on in their lives, that usually passes after a few days or weeks. The later is a disorder caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, that consumes the persons way of life. Though the biological cause of depression is still a large mystery to the Academic Community, the symptoms and signs are often all the same.
"Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods.
True clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with everyday life for weeks or longer."
Common signs of depression include:
Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
Dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
Very difficult to concentrate
Fatigue and lack of energy
Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and guilt
Becoming withdrawn or isolated
Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed
Thoughts of death or suicide
Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
Here would be an example of a day in the life of someone who is suffering with depression:
You find yourself waking up in the morning, feeling tired and numb, rolling over and dozing off again, only to wake up a short while later feeling the same, finally convincing yourself to get out bed only to make a cup of coffee then sit on your couch staring off into space. Having problems sleeping leaves you feeling horrible in the morning, unable to get the motivation to leave your bed, which starts your day off on a bad note.
Now after your cup or cups of coffee, hoping to get some energy you most likely contemplate staying home from work or school because the thought of leaving your house is so unbearable. You start to feel a surge of anxiety and dread wash over you, wishing you could just stay home all day, to hide away from everything and everyone. Inside though, you know you need to go, so you throw on what ever is acceptable and leave your house. You struggle to make it through the day, finding yourself unable to focus on the job at hand, barely doing enough to get through the day. You are so tired at this point you just want to cry, because you are fighting the urge to sleep. You tell yourself that the first thing you are going to do when you get home is take a nap.
Finally your work day is done, you cant wait to get home, to just sleep. You walk in your house and may notice it is a mess, maybe with dishes in the sink, piles of laundry to do, because you haven't had the strength or motivation to clean up lately. You may feel angry at yourself for letting your house get this way. So you through your car keys on the closest table and crawl into bed, only to then realize you haven't eaten all day, but you don't care, food doesn't sound good anyways, and again, the night filled with sleep troubles starts, and the routine unfolds into the next day.
Until you find this just doesn't end, it only get worse as time goes on.
If this sounds familiar, and you are thinking to yourself, this is my day, almost everyday. Than you my friend, most likely suffer with depression. If you are like me, when I was 14, I did not know how to cope with my internal pain, so I cut myself, using self- mutilation as a coping method. Though extremely dangerous and unhealthy, this is how I coped. I helped myself for the moment but caused more damage physically than helping myself mentally. I had to constantly hide the cuts and scars, and focusing so much time on preventing infections on my legs and arms.
"Self-harm, also known as self-injury, self-inflicted violence, self-injurious behavior, or self-mutilation, can be defined as the deliberate, direct injury of one's own body that causes tissue damage or leave marks for more than a few minutes and that is done in order to deal with an overwhelming or distressing situation." http://www.selfinjury.org/indexnet.html
There are many forms of self-mutilation out there, some include: Burning the skin, Cutting the skin, picking at scabs at wounds to preventing healing, punching or hurting body limbs, and even deliberately putting ones self in danger, trying to cause harm to the body. For some people, these extreme methods of coping are the only way to release emotions in a way that makes the sufferer feel a different pain, other than mental pain. Or at least, that's how I felt, and after talking to others, I found it was the same for them.
So after all this information of what depression looks and feels like, this is what I offer in advice, on how to make it through a day using healthy techniques to cope. I found Therapy to be helpful, with only one Therapist out of the 7-10 Therapist I went to. I do suggest seeing a Therapist at least once a week. Keep trying to find different Therapist until you find that one, who makes you feel better when you leave their office.
Sometimes having a person who is knowledgeable in the disorder and who will listen to you and force you to look at things from a different perspective is more helpful than you can imagine.If you do not feel comfortable talking to someone than keep a journal. This is the best advice anyone can give you. I kept a journal for 5+ years, which I ended up using to writing my book "Confession's of a Shattered Mind". This enabled me to turn my daily writings, into a book to help others see into my disorder, through my eyes. I found that in rereading what I had written every couple of months, I was able to understand myself more, and I began noticing certain triggers that would ignite my pain. For instance, I noticed that I always wrote how I liked to be alone, that it made me "happy" to be by myself, yet that's when some of the darkest entries were written, and I would be more suicidal in those times. If it were not for keeping a journal everyday I may not have ever noticed that particular trigger.
Another good thing with writing, is the fact that you can release your thoughts into a safe place, occupying your mind for as long as you want. You may think to yourself you have nothing to say or to write about, but as soon as you sit there with your pen to the paper, feelings will start flowing and you just write it down. Pretty soon poems, drawing and entries will flood the page. Trust me, try to write every night or at least once a day, you will soon notice it beginning to help you.
Doing any type of physical activity is another helpful method, I took kick-boxing and beat the crap out of my instructor and every punching bag within 10 feet of me, by the time I left I didn't feel so angry at the world, I had pretty good scabs on my knuckles (even with wearing gloves) but I felt so much better. If you can't afford lessons somewhere, a good couch cushion works just as I good. ( I do this all the time) it is normal to have pent up aggression, but releasing it in a healthy way is key to healing. If you punch a wall, and create lasting damage to your hand and the house, in the long run this does more harm than good. beating up a cushion, releases the anger, but hurts no one. Any type physical activity is important.
Showers and baths are also a surprisingly helpful relaxation tool. Buying some essential oils like Lavender, Peppermint, Chamomile or countless others, and adding a few drop to your bath or on your loofah has a calming effect. The mixture of hot water, aromatherapy and being in a quiet place creates a meditative like state. Aromatherapy has shown significant signs of calming the mind and body. Being able to relax for even 15 minutes does wonders for your well-being, adding this at night before you go to bed will help you sleep.
Music, is the worlds most wonderful creation. I have found, that for me, When I am angry I put on some KoRn and I scream with them, When I am sad I will put on some Evanescence and drift of into her words, When I am happy I listen to some OneRepublic and smile. Music is a way to relate, a way to connect to our soul. When in doubt, get lost in your music. It always helps.
Finally, another poisonous trap for most of us, is when you constantly surround yourself with people who constantly put you down, and drag you into their problems, you need to cut them lose. You need to focus on yourself and become number one in your life. You are suffering enough inside, trying to deal with your own misery. You need support and people who will eat a gallon of ice cream with you, not people who make you angry and upset all the time. If you have to drop off the face of the earth for a little while to get away from these people, then do it. Your suffering and problems wont ever become manageable until you make changes in your life.
Depression, rarely ever fully goes away, but you can learn how to manage it, how to live with it, and make it only a small part of your life, not your entire life. You need to be honest with people, tell them what is going on with you. They will not understand your actions, and the reasons behind acting the way you do unless you make them aware of what is going on. They may assume your constant need to be alone is because you don't like them, or your mood swings and anger is uncalled for. No one can be there for you unless you make them aware of it. This in another good way to find out who actually cares for you and who doesn't. Keep yourself active and talk to a doctor, even if its just your practitioner, see what options you have in dealing with is, educate yourself. This is a very common problem, there are a lot of people suffering, but only you can find your way to light your darkness.
Helpful books about depression: http://psychcentral.com/lib/2008/recommended-books-on-depression/
And of course, you can search for my true story in Confessions of a Shattered Mind - Erin Elizabeth