First off, I am actually very lucky. I'm on the much much lower end of the depression spectrum compared to most people. A couple of times in a year, it flares up a bit, and it's like the chemicals inside my brain go a bit out of wack when it comes to coping with things and my emotions. The rest of the year, I am an incredibly happy little bunny. I have been known as 'Little miss optimist' and 'Lady cheery' in my time. I am inevitably the one offering solutions to problems with a side of cupcake and wishing on stars and generally acting like a Disney princess on a lot of sugar. In the times that I am sad (which I what I normally say, as the term 'Depression' never seemss quite right), I will rarely tell anyone, which is why very few people know I have the big D (yes, I just laughed at the innuendo there too). Most of the time I don't even realise it's happening until I'm deep into it and then I go 'Oooohhh, yeah-that's what that is!' I don't medicate, when I was at uni a really lovely doctor gave me great lifestyle and food advice to help as I wasn't up for taking anything strong and I find that stuff like eating nice food and getting light exercise and as much sunshine as possible tends to help. Even when I am suffering from a bout of it, I'm pretty functional and able to laugh and socialise with my friends and dates etc. What is pretty interesting to me though, is that, because I only developed depression later in life, I had read a lot of mentions to it in books and magazines, and seen it on films and tv, which I think is why I didn't recognise it when it happened to me-because it's actually different for everyone, which the media doesn't really show. So here's a little list of some things I discovered myself...
SHIT NO ONE TELLS YOU ABOUT DEPRESSION
- You're not necessarily sad
I'm going to be honest with you folks, the sad bit doesn't always turn up. Sometimes it does, and that sucks in its own special way, but a lot of time in my experience, depression is like the absence of emotion. Nothing affects you. It's like you're down a well, or as my dear friend says 'bubbled'. I tend to find that I veer from being utterly unable to feel or be affected by anything to being panicky and sad in one fell swoop-usually I won't even know what about. Which reminds me....
- There is rarely a reason for you being depressed
When they hear I'm depressed, usually the first thing they ask is 'Why?' More often than not, the answer is 'I have no freakin' idea!' Although situations can be the trigger for depressed phases, more often than not it's just your body chemistry being a twat. Women with depression often find that flare ups happen pre-period or around pregnancy, because hormones also play a huge part in it (but ask if we're sad because of our period and you will likely get a punch in the face). Despite this, sometimes it helps to rant about everything that sucks in your life and cry about it (note, most of the time I think my life is awesome and wonderful-when I'm depressed everything develops a really long shadow and my mind palace turns into a mind dungeon, where even the nice things are slime-covered. Metaphors for THE WIN). I actually did this a few nights ago with my parents (my mum has a terrifying ability to notice I'm on the edge of emotional freak out before even I do) and it really helps.
- Depression makes your sleep cycle freak out
One of my friends can't sleep when she's depressed. When mine flares up, I am constantly exhausted and tend to need naps, early nights and still can't function without caffeine. For me, the trick is to push through that and go on walks and do exercise classes. When I was first diagnosed, I would wake up in the middle of the night and have to clean my room or check my banking stuff. Now I just fall asleep everywhere-on buses, sofas, trains...it's pretty weird.
- It can make you super productive...or unable to do anything
One of the few ways I know to escape my depression is by making myself keep very busy (which ironically is how I sometimes wind up having a flare up) and because my brain doesn't want to think about the chemical chaos going on inside it, it's only too happy to allow itself to be distracted. So sometimes in the midst of depression I'm wildly productive, cleaning my room within an inch of its life, bleaching floors, doing so much admin my laptop smokes-and then at other times, the lethargy takes over and I have such small amounts of energy, even the thought of getting out of bed seems like the most impossible thing in the world. The latter is obviously far worse, because the more you feel like that, the harder it is to battle out of the murk. And given that I'm a freelancer, time not spent working is time that I don't get paid-not ideal to say the least. Interestingly, I've never found it's affected my ability to perform-even at my worst, I've been able to get up, go to rehearsal and do my best. I find that because I'm focussing on the character's issues rather than my own, I'm able to escape from it all for a while, or at times, use it to give the character more honesty. Which is one of the reasons that I think the prospect of schools removing drama from the syllabus is ridiculous, for some kids drama is a lifeline. Sadly our conservative government doesn't realise how important a wide range of classes truly is.
- You can sometimes go for a few years without a flare up
For a while after drama school, my depression didn't flare up at all. I had about a year and a half where I had normal emotions, normal reactions to things and I sort of thought I'd escaped it. When I was sad, it was normal levels of sadness. When I was stressed, it was normal levels of stress. It was fabulous! And then, without warning, one day it hit again. I felt so ashamed and sad that it was back that I hid it from everyone until it had passed. My ex didn't even know I had depression until the 4th year of us being together, mainly because I didn't tell him until we were living together and I had my first flare up in ages. This is a bit of a routine, the shame and the hiding. I think everyone normally sees me as so positive they could puke, so when I can't be like that I feel like I've let people down. And the guilt of being so unhappy when there's nothing really 'wrong' is killer. I've got a lot more used to it over the years, but I still have issues talking about it and vocalising how I'm feeling. I've never been particularly good at accepting help.
- Talking about it doesn't always help
Sometimes it does. Sometimes I really don't want to discuss it. Because it will make me think about it more. And actually, pretending it's a small child having a temper tantrum is sometimes the best way to cope with it. Don't get me wrong, at times a good talk is very much needed, but on days where I'm just about holding it together, I don't want to explain my feelings because I have too much to get on with to wallow in it. Which brings up another point...
- It's really hard not to wallow in it
Depression is like really warm, comfy quicksand. You know it's bad for you. You know the longer you're in it, the worse it's going to be for you in the long run, but it's so easy just to lay back and let it happen. One of the hardest parts for me in a flare up is not indulging myself, because it would be so easy just to stay in bed all day, lock my door and cry. When I'm feeling like this I keep reaaaally busy, so that I don't even have the choice to stay in all day. I know out of experience that if I give into it, it's much harder to lever myself out and into normality. But this has to be something that I do myself-if someone who doesn't know what it's like were to tell me to 'snap out of it' it would increase the guilt, worry and panic ten fold.
So yeah! Some stuff about depression and some of the crap that the books don't really talk about. The thing is Reader, it's completely different for everyone. I cannot stress how lucky I am that I only have to deal with this crap a couple of days or weeks in the year-I have friends that deal with it on a day to day basis and I can't imagine how hard it must be for them. I have friends who have manic depression, schizophrenia or bi-polar who you would never guess had it because they are incredibly good at hiding it.
Anyway, cheerio Reader! I hope you've learnt things from this little blog entry!