Something I have noticed people including myself struggle with is describing the feeling of severe depression. How do you describe a giraffe to a creature that has always lived in the ocean. “It has four legs…”, you start before the fish interrupts “what are legs?”. “They come out of the body and hold you upright…”, again an interruption of “why don’t they just swim?”. “OK, there is this force called gravity…”. You get the idea. I know it’s a little extreme but imagine, as I have to, that all you have felt in your life is sad!
Now I’m not playing the feeling of sad down. I hate being sad. But sadness and depression are two very different things. When my Mum died I was devastated. I was very sad and was grieving. But this felt very different to when I’m depressed. I fact, sometimes depression can make me sad. Trying to explain this to someone who has not had depression is to say the least, kind of impossible.
From my experience there has only been a few occasions that depression has been described brilliantly. One is the Black Dog video by The World Health Organisation (you can find this on YouTube). Others include descriptions by comedians who have suffered from depression or actors such as Jared Padalecki who promoted #AlwaysKeepFighting depression campaign. But do I understand and like these because I have and do suffer from depression?
My way of explaining depression is a little different. It may just be me but here goes.
Imagine a deep droning noise in your head, not really load or unbearable. But you can recognise it’s there. This is the start of your depression. At first the noise is low, quiet but still causing you to be a little irritable and angry. Now as the days go on it gets a little loader and things you could normally hear clearly become muffled. The irritability gets worse and loads places like nightclubs make it worse. People talking to you or being to load makes it worse so you start to avoid those situations. A few more days pass and the noise is constant, noticeable over everything else and you can’t control it. All you want to do is cover your head and avoid the noisy world. You feel angry, really irritated but now a new feeling arrives, one of exhaustion. But its not over, the noise gets loader still and brings with it another surprise. It’s the feeling of giving up on everything you know, the feeling of being numb and lifeless. The noise never stops.
The noise may get quieter and sometimes you may even feel it’s gone. The luckiest may have a one off noise for a few months while others it’s a ticking time bomb waiting the gain its volume again. It’s the loudest silence you will ever hear and for those who have it for life, just have to learn to manage it through medication, therapy, lifestyle and all of the mentioned.
Once I saw a doctor who said “you just need to do some exercise and get off these antidepressants”. I strange thing was he never checked my diagnosis or asked what exercise I do. I love cycling and train all year round. The day I saw him I had done a 100 cycle the day before.
I was also told to “man up” once and to “get over myself”. Someone even said “Cheer up a bit it’s not all bad”. I’m still waiting for the day they need a doctor and lose a limb so I can say “so you have lost a limb, just grow it back”.
There was a poet who normally I found to be very interesting until one day he released a video stating that anyone depressed should watch his video as it would “change their lives”. I watched the video and felt like slapping him up the side of the head. He compared people with depression to feeling a bit sad. He actually said “here is a cloud, but it passes you by. Like the sadness your feeling”. Oh yeah why didn’t I think of that. “I’m cured”.
Check out the Black Dog video and remember that depression is different for every person. There is no cure or magic or natural remedy that will make it go away. For some it will be a temporary illness. For others like me it is a lifelong fight that will have ups and downs like any illness. Make sure you have a support structure and have a code word for when you are suffering from symptoms, mine is “I’m feeling Heady”, so your support around you can know how you are feeling and help.
Keep strong and always listen to your doctors (unless they are useless and think mental illness isn’t real).