Throughout history, and even more so within the last few decades, the word “depression” has reached just about every person on this planet. At the very least we hear or read about the subject once a month! Countless numbers of celebrities are reported to have depression in media, and we hear about friends and family members having depression in social media too! However on a sad note we ourselves are experiencing depression far more often in today’s busy and less emotionally focused world than ever before.
Up until this point many of us would say phrases such as “this is depressing” or “I’m feeling depressed today”. There were indeed occasions when people meant that literally. But on many other occasions it was expressed in a way which caused us to downplay the ailment of depression, and to make us confuse the subject with typical daily stress, being slightly upset or moments of brief disappointment.
Depression is an illness which is very likely to affect every person at least once in their lifetime, and some unfortunate people are experiencing depression chronically. It’s not a pleasant or comfortable illness to have at all. I myself experience chronic anxiety which is in truth very different to depression (even though the two conditions can be equally painful within different areas).
There have been a couple of occasions in my lifetime so far when I have experienced a bout of depression. From my anxiety disorder I’m very familiar with sensations of “over the top” fight or flight responses and feeling intense panic over possible worst case scenario situations. Yet depression is a rather different kind of feeling.
The best way in which I can describe the sensation of depression is that it feels very much the same as being unwell with a nasty flu, except that the headache, nausea and physical aches are equivalently replaced with difficult emotions, as well as fatigue from lack of sleep. Those emotions involved include sadness, disappointment and hopelessness. While we have depression we feel too tired and unwell to keep up with our daily routines (including going to work, cleaning up our living environment, washing ourselves, changing our clothes or even getting out of bed in the morning).
We also have less motivation to leave the house or interact with other people. However a person who is naturally a more social person than myself could possibly find themselves becoming more emotionally clingy than usual. Additionally a person can become overly reliant upon something else that offers them a sensation of comfort or escape.
I always dread the possibility of becoming depressed because it feels terrible, to say the least. In fact while we are experiencing depression we impatiently wait for our situation to become easier emotionally, and coupled with our feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness it can cause a person to end their life as a way of escaping this pain.
Though thankfully in this day and age I’ve found that depression is much easier for us to move through in comparison to how things were a few decades ago. This is if we become aware of the ways in which we ourselves can be helped (as each and every person is unique) and also if we put in the effort to help ourselves.
From experiencing depression in the mid 2000s (when I was at school) and again in the past year, I’ve been able to see how much easier it is for me now. On both occasions I did have a good therapist who gave me very helpful exercises to work with. However due to enormous advancements of technology (compared to a couple decades ago) I’m now able to carry through on those exercises with much more ease. For instance, only a few days ago I expressed to my mother that sleepless nights are much more comfortable now because I have a huge selection of (good) TV shows or movies to watch on streaming sites; and there are close friends and family members on the other side of the world in different time zones who can cheer me up and keep me company via social media.
Prior to those technologies sleepless nights gave me a strange sensation that I was the only person alive on a deserted planet. The dark and dead silence gave my mind more opportunity to sink into the depression. So yes, that does mean that even though I lose motivation to communicate with people during depression, deep down I do still require company in order to feel better! It’s strange how our mind is so multi-layered!
As well as technology helping me at nighttime, it helps me with both my anxiety and depression during the day. For example, whenever I’m depressed I don’t ever feel like leaving the house or doing anything outside of my comfort zone. The pressure of having to disregard those feelings makes me less able to heal myself. Yet nowadays I can easily take my iPad (with my favourite games) and Nintendo Switch handset out with me, and this gives me the comfortable feeling that I can do the same things as I do at home while I’m outside in stressful environments.
I will conclude this blog by mentioning some of the best personal advice given to me by therapists. Depression must never be treated in the same way as minor stress, and we must therefore have self-compassion for not being able to quickly “get over it”. Once we acknowledge the illness we’re suffering from, it then becomes much easier for us to use exercises to heal ourselves.
Initially when I heard that piece of advice I was concerned that I would merely fall into self-pity if I followed it. However, I ended up discovering that the largest part of what causes my depression is a feeling of being pressured; and colloquially “beating myself up” whenever I experience a feeling of being imperfect and from not understanding that there is nothing abnormal about finding depression painful. In my own personal case, after that hurdle gets addressed and acknowledged, the rest of the problem reveals itself to be very minor and very easy to work through.
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