Depression can effect us in many ways. We may feel constantly tired or irritable even after resting. We often lose our temper and snap at those around us. Morning times can be hard, lying in bed dreading the moment when we have to get up and face the day. Persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness can lead to a sense of hopelessness about the future. Deep down we feel nothing will change. Our lives seem to shrink as we lose interest in doing the things we used to enjoy. Aches, pains or stomach upsets with no obvious cause often go hand in hand with depression. We may seek comfort in food or alcohol and often become increasingly isolated from those around us.
Depression is one of the most common conditions in the world. It is estimated that it effects more than 100 million people worldwide. It is seen in all cultures and all segments of society. Understanding how common it is to experience depression can be helpful as people who are depressed often feel alone and are sometimes stigmatised by society. This can lead to us hiding the truth about how we feel. Putting on a mask to make those around us think we are okay can take a lot of energy and can lead to exhaustion which can make us feel even worse.
It can be hard to maintain a normal life when we are experiencing depression. It seems as if nobody else can understand how we are feeling. Often we just want to be alone to hide under our bedclothes where we can rest and have peace. This can lead to strain in our relationships and difficulties in our work life. The demands placed on us by partners, friends, children and our jobs can seem just too much. People around us may become concerned or pressure us to “just cheer up”. Much of the time we feel a sense of guilt and worthlessness for not being able to cope.
Many of us think that we know about depression. However, there are some less well known facts about this condition that may help to increase our awareness and understanding.
1. Depression is not simply about feeling sad. It often involves a complex combination of emotions. A person who is depressed is often also experiencing feelings such as anxiety, fear, anger, grief, exhaustion or trauma. It can be helpful to recognise and acknowledge all the feelings we are having rather than focusing only on our sadness and low mood.
2. Depression is often rooted in the past. It’s natural to look at our current situation and lifestyle when trying to understand our feelings. However, depression can sometimes arise when there are unresolved issues in our past. Experiencing a traumatic event, living in an unsafe/unhappy environment, loss or feeling abandoned or criticised as a child are some examples of experiences which may lead to feelings of depression. An event in our current life might trigger painful feelings that we have buried and this can sometimes lead to depression.
3. Small things can have a big impact. A bad day at work, a negative comment from a friend or an argument with your partner may seem like common enough occurrences. However, when we are depressed even small things can have a big effect on us. It is important to remember that depression can make it a struggle to get through everyday life. Any additional stresses can sometimes seem just too much and may be overwhelming. So small things do matter. A kind comment, an offer to be there to listen or a reassurance that they are loved no matter what can also have a big impact on someone who is feeling depressed.
4. Depression can effect us on a physical level. When we are feeling low for a prolonged period we often experience aches, pains or upset stomachs. Many people may assume that this is somehow “all in the head”. However research does demonstrate that depression has a negative effect on our immune system. Therefore we are more likely to contract illnesses or infections when feeling low. Studies have also shown that depression appears to have a noticeable impact on brain functioning and metabolism.
5. It has nothing to do with weakness. People sometimes assume that depressed people have just “given up” and sometimes portray this condition as weakness. This is certainly not true. People with depression find the strength everyday to struggle through the tasks most of us take for granted. Many people experience depression without others even being aware of it. Hiding how we feel is a common way of avoiding the sense of stigma or judgment. Whether we choose to speak about what we are going through or whether we choose to keep our feeling to ourselves, it takes a lot of strength to live with depression.
There is no doubt that life can be a challenge when we are coping with persistent low mood. However, it’s important to remember that many people who have experienced depression go on to make a full recovery. While this condition is painful, it is rarely permanent. It is helpful to remember that reaching out to those around us for help and support and talking about how we feel is an important step towards becoming well.
I am always happy to talk about how life can be better.
Make a change today.
Have a great week, Jane
Newbridge, Co. Kildare
Portlaoise, Co. Laois