How depression has affected me

Annual low mood and depression

My experiences of low mood and depression occur every year. In recent history this lowness has tended to come in autumn or winter as a form of ‘seasonal affective disorder’. It starts getting darker and it feels like a reflection of what’s going on inside you, in a sense.

Cold inside

The darkness gives you more of an excuse not to go out, and it’s so cold. And that’s what depression feels like – cold inside. Some days, even in summer, you just feel really cold.

Inertia, lethargy and lack of motivation

I can describe my depressed feelings as general self-absorption, with tunnel vision and exaggeration of my problems. I also have feelings of alienation, inertia, lethargy and complete lack of motivation to do anything. There is no desire to get out of bed in the mornings and just generally deal with day-to-day activity and mundane rigours of life.

Pointless

It all seems pointless. I don’t often feel suicidal, though – to me that is a very occasional extreme. It’s a kind of rage or anger, with the pain so intense that you just don’t want to be here. I’ve been tempted to self-harm, as an outlet, but my squeamishness stopped me. I’ll never commit suicide, because of my conditioning as a person. But if you could do it temporarily, sometimes I have felt I would.

Dislike other people

I get incredibly misanthropic, and have no desire to face people. I get really defensive, insular and irritable the whole time. The pressure of having to face people every day and pretend that everything is alright is laborious, so I avoid friends.

Sleep disruption

When you’re depressed, you just want to sleep the whole time because you don’t want to be you – you don’t want to have to think. But I’m an insomniac anyway, and when I’m depressed I get even worse – I don’t sleep at all.

Can’t concentrate or focus

Depression for me is also about an inability to concentrate on anything. You can’t focus. You’re not quite thinking. And even when you don’t want to focus, there’s a constant background of noise – like chatter – a lot of which is derogatory thoughts of yourself.

Depressed thinking habits

The thinking starts from being very self-aware and having to make sure that you’re doing okay before anyone criticises you. When there are other people around, I find the critical voices in my head are always there, so I don’t want to stay with people very long. Eventually, the inner chatter drives you to a point where you can’t hack it any more, so you just shut it out. You switch off and go numb.

Hopeless

Of course, we are alone in life – we came here alone and we’ll go alone. But over the period of your life you don’t want to feel that way. When I’m depressed, I lose faith, feeling like nothing or no one can change things, that there’s no system to life. And I wonder if I can deal with it. It gets to

Not happy with my course

One of the major plunges I had was when I started my computer science degree. I realised I didn’t like it, but carried on. I barely went to uni for the first two terms and avoided company.

Deepening depression

This proceeded to a deeper stage of going into a zombie-like state and numbing myself to the fact that I was in emotional pain. I ‘vegged out’ at home and blocked things out with crutches like television or food.

Anxiety and food issues

I also put on about a stone of weight which depleted my confidence even further. I had had anxiety problems and moderate to high levels of food abuse in the past. As a recovered bulimic I was wary not to make a habit of eating for emotional reasons, however I failed a few times and had a few bulimic relapses.

Not wanting anyone to know

By the time the second year ended, I failed and got really bad grades and did a re-sit. I didn’t tell anyone in my family. I put the letter under my bed and kept quiet about it. I’m quite a good fake. My sister would say – if you were ever going to do a Virginia Woolf and walk into a stream, you’d be normal right before; you’d be laughing.

Not wanting pity

I’d rather people think that I don’t like them anymore than look like someone who is depressed. I hate that. I don’t like people feeling sorry for me. I’ll just cut them off so they don’t know any information about me. People would perhaps notice that I wasn’t coming to classes anymore, but I’d just be generally hostile, so they’d just think I’d turned into a bitch.

Feeling isolated and claustrophobic

One thing I remember well is that claustrophobic feeling, like you’re in a coffin and there’s nowhere else to turn. I felt very isolated – very aware that in this life we are alone. I might have seemed quiet, but there was so much mental activity going on. You just want to shut the voices off, but instead you feel restricted in this narrow thing.

Watching movies back to back

No one can just strip their mind of thoughts for long periods of time, you can’t do that. But you need something to engage your mental faculties. So I would watch movies back to back, not really watching them, but just sitting there. It’s escapism, and something you can control, which seems comforting, because depression comes from a lack of control of the world.  It really is quite difficult for you to get out of that zone of trying to do anything else.

Why me?

Being a sensitive person

I think my vulnerability to depression is because I am a particularly sensitive person. I work on a very emotional level and I’m quite an intuitive person. I think people who are affected by depression are just more in tune with their feelings. I tend to pick up on the emotions around me as well.

Roots in childhood

I say it stems from my childhood. Growing up, I just felt confused the whole time. I didn’t understand what was going on, and a lot of the relationships around me were very dissatisfactory. With that whole thing of ‘children should be seen and not heard’, I just felt all the time that I didn’t want to be a problem.

Feeling nameless and faceless

I grew up in a house with a lot of people around. The house was a bit like a rat race. It’s really bad for your self-esteem feeling like just a nameless, faceless person. It might be the same for people who grow up in extended communities or who go to boarding school.

Living a double life

This meant that if I had a problem, there was nobody to talk to, and I ended up coming across to my family as a liar. If they asked how school was going and I wasn’t happy about school, I’d say it was fine and sweep it under the carpet. My mother only found out about me failing a year a whole two years after it happened. So you end up like living a double life.

Feeling misunderstood

The more you’re in contact with people and feel misunderstood, the bigger the gulf between you and them. That’s where the depression kicks in, because you give up and you think there’s no point.

Not blaming anyone

It’s nothing personal me saying relationships are dissatisfactory. It’s just that we’re all restricted by our own ideas of what love is. So if you’re a mother, you might be a good person but you might not be a good mother because you haven’t thought to think what the other person might want. If you are not loving somebody the way they want you to, or what their idea of love is, you’re speaking a different language and it’s almost futile.

It’s not simple

So that was part of the situation. Everyone’s got a story and something in your family background might prompt depression. Hearing my family background you probably would think – yeah, you should be messed up. But it depends – people deal with different things in different ways, so they could turn out perfectly ‘normal’. And I think I am normal…

Everyone has the potential for depression

I think we all have a tendency to have difficulties ‘dealing’ at some point and sometimes when we don’t have anybody to speak to about it, it gets worse. We magnify things, or blow them out of proportion. It’s an illusion and you waste so many years of your childhood on it. It’s not productive, but at the same time it’s a hurdle you can’t get out of.

Frustration with how the world is

It’s partly the frustration about the whole make up of things and how everything is so random and arbitrary, just one big head f***. The helplessness that we aren’t in control after all – I’m aware that we can’t be, but I’m human, I have problems dealing with that sometimes!

Being a perfectionist

Depression stems from different things in different people but mine is exacerbated by the fact that I’m a perfectionist and people-pleaser. It’s like there’s this inner voice constantly criticising me, and I tend to descend into a downward spiral of frustration and self-loathing.

What’s helped

Warmer weather

I recovered from this spell eventually. The warmer weather helped. It’s like a therapy – you have to indulge yourself a little bit and the weather is a natural way of pampering yourself, because it’s nice outside.

Outside pressures

Outside pressure also helped, with the exams looming. Because you haven’t shared this with anyone, there’s still the pressure of trying to keep up normality with people, so you have to go to school. The one time every few weeks when I had to show up, I’d see someone and smile at them and think – I have to snap out of it. You can’t keep up the lies any more of avoiding people anyway.

Remembering goals and ambitions

Also, even if you’re depressed, like any normal person you also have something to live for – dreams and ambitions of your own, your own personality. For me, if I’m depressed, I get even more depressed that I’m not doing my work, that I’m not as good a student as I should be. Realising this helps me to focus on one of the causes of the depression that I can control. You push yourself to re-establish your identity

Setting up a reverse spiral

Then, having been forced to put in some effort, when you see a result, you can’t be so hard on yourself. At least you’re up a notch in the way of your emotions. Then if you’re up a notch, it gives you a reason to celebrate. So you do something nice for a few hours, and come out realising you actually had fun.  You want to repeat that, so you end up doing a course of three things that make you happy. And before you know it, the voices aren’t there, and you aren’t so depressed.

Creative writing

I’m a songwriter and this helped me to recover immensely. The song writing as well as writing poetry and free prose was incredibly cathartic. It’s a way of pouring out your feelings. In some ways, the negative emotions fuelled my creativity.

Activity and exercise

I found the strength to resume my previously active exercise regime. I jogged outdoors, swam, went to the gym, and so on. This helped me to connect my physical wellbeing with my emotional wellbeing. If my metabolism is good and I’ve done a lot of cardio, I’m slightly more upbeat as a person.

Talking to a friend

A support network of family and friends is important. I had only one person I could talk to, my best friend, and she was brilliant.  Just feeling loved and like you’re not alone really helps.

Having a belief system

Avoiding self-harm comes partly from being able to re-connect with a belief system. I grew up a Muslim. I won’t say I am a Muslim, but I have that in me. It’s more to do with your ideas of what life is and why we’re all here and the way everything is all connected in a sense. So no matter how depressed I get, I feel the whole tapestry of life thing and you’re just a little tiny, minute thing, so you really do need to get over yourself.

Analysing myself

Deeply examining myself and rediscovering my self worth also helped. I didn’t seek any professional help this time, though I’ve had some counselling in the past. I’m very private and fairly confident of my self-analytical capabilities, so I knew I’d find the strength to fix myself in the long run. I did eventually and ten months later I was pretty much at equilibrium.

Preventing relapse

To combat a relapse of depression I’ve been taking new classes. Learning something new is very rewarding, and studying philosophy is keeping me enlightened and mentally active.

What I’ve learnt

Being sensitive is a two-sided coin

If you’re particularly sensitive and emotional, you have a tendency to be depressed, but you also have some talent and creativity. It’s like a double-sided coin in a sense. So that talent and creativity can also be used as a way out of the depression.

Find your creative side

Something that you enjoy or are talented at is ideal for truly engaging with yourself in a positive way to counteract the negativity of depression. Something that helps you to forget yourself and your situation even for a moment, especially creative things like artwork, painting, sculpture, dance, reading, or music.

Mental stimulation

Engaging the curious and psychologically active part of my mind has helped me and this might apply for others. In particular courses on subjects like philosophy, anthropology, psychology or even more mystical subjects like astrology might be useful.

Look for inspiration

As cheesy as it may seem, reading inspirational writing works. I mean inspirational stories about people who’ve come through adversity, for example. I spent a lot of time in libraries reading stuff about people I admired or just about what it takes to be successful. I was looking for answers. It’s comforting to see how others have gone through the same trials and tribulations and have come into the driving seat of their own lives.

How not to help someone

If somebody’s depressed and you think they don’t have much grounds to be, you can express that when they have recovered. In the midst of it, you’re going to bring up a wall by saying – I think you’re being a drama queen. You can’t tell people what to feel, you don’t know what they’re going through.

Help by trying to understand

What a friend can do is take 5 seconds out of their time to come to you as a person on your terms, as opposed to using their own life experience to describe what should happen. Everyone’s different. At least try and see it the way I see it.

Being caring is enough

You need someone to listen and preferably engage themselves in your problems. Even if they don’t have much advice to give, just the fact that they care and are sympathetic is good enough. They should be firm and discouraging of self-indulgence, and gently coax you back to your happier state and lift your spirits.

Learnt to set my own standards

It’s really bad for your self-esteem thinking – I’ve worked so hard to get this degree and this life and I’m not that special at the end of the day. If for a second, you’re envious of someone else or because of their life, you’re getting depressed, you’re not living your life as fully as you should. Mediocrity is what you make it. If you’ve done your very best that you possibly could do, even if you’ve only got �1,000 to your name and you’re 25 and you don’t have a car, or whatever, it doesn’t matter.

Made me stronger

I am almost glad of that time in retrospect, because it made me a stronger, more introspective, independent person. I never want to go through those experiences again and wouldn’t wish them on anyone, but this tendency to get low is a part of me and feel I am better for it. I certainly appreciate life more.

Become your own best friend

I’ve learnt that it is vital to have a stupid amount of self-acceptance. Depression makes you more protective of yourself. It forces you to become your own best friend. I think it’s a very positive thing and it’s taught me loads.

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