Depression is a serious mental illness that can interfere with a person’s life. It can cause long-lasting and severe feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest in activities.
It can also cause physical symptoms of pain, appetite changes, and sleep problems.
“I was in so much pain that I really didn’t want to face the world.. I really just felt like the easy way out would be to just go away, disappear”
– Halle Berry
(The Ophrah Winfrey Show)
I think the toughest part about dealing with depression is that it has a way of making me feel really really alone. Like I’m drowning in a sea of thoughts and memories while everyone else is swimming. And because I think I’m alone, and because I think no one can see me when somebody asks me how I’m doing, you say: I’m Okay!
I might not look okay, I might not sound okay. But I still think that all I can say to them is that I’m okay. Because otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense.
There are a lot of things that I don’t understand about depression, or that I wish were different. For starters, I feel drained of all vitality. Like I’m watching the color in my life evaporate. And that’s a really REALLY scary and helpless feeling. I can feel the blood drain from my cheeks and my chest tighten when demented thoughts of pain and helplessness visit me again and again. And in my mind, it’s only something I can see. So again I say, I’m okay! Thanks for asking!
I feel like fake every time I do that. It’s like I’m lying. But then again, do I really want to burden another person with my sob story? Not again.
I realized that my I’ve-got-it-together act was a facade a couple of years ago when I was in college. I realized that I felt the need to keep it together so that nobody knows how scared and empty I feel inside. This was such a contradicting thought, cause I remember for many many years all I really wanted was to have people in my life who see me for with all shortcomings and care about me anyway.
I thought they thought I was a lost cause. I thought they thought I was exhausting, and that my troubles were overbearing. Which is why I thought it best to keep my depressive thoughts to myself. And that was probably not a good idea.
After a long-standing struggle with my self, I decided to seek help.
I was a nerd in school. I loved studying my way out of everything.
And for some reason, I was convinced that I could study my way out of depression.
Many people mistakenly believe that being depressed is a choice, or that they need to have a positive attitude. Friends and loved ones often get frustrated or don’t understand why a person can’t “snap out of it.” They may even say that the person has nothing to be depressed about.
Depression is a real mental illness. Those who have depression cannot simply decide to stop feeling depressed. Unlike typical sadness or worry, depression feels all-consuming and hopeless.
Symptoms of depression include feelings of sadness that last most of the day, stretch into weeks, and interfere with daily life. Depression, which typically begins to manifest around age 18, is a serious illness that requires swift diagnosis and treatment; depression is a leading cause of suicide among adults.
Common symptoms of major depressive disorder (the most common type of depression) in adults include the following when sustained for two weeks or more:
- Loss of interest in activities
- Change in appetite
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping more than usual
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Agitation or irritability with co-workers and family
- Feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, guilt or inadequacy
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions at work
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
- Unexplained aches and pains
Major depression is not a normal part of aging. It is a serious condition that, unfortunately, some adults are reluctant to discuss with their physicians. If you notice any of the following daily manifestations of depression, make an appointment with your primary care doctor right away.
Symptoms at Home
- You notice your pants are getting very tight (or very loose), indicating a sustained change in appetite
- Cleaning the kitchen used to take an hour; now it takes all day, indicating a serious lack of energy
- No matter how early you go to bed, you never feel rested or eager to get up in the mornings
- You wake up in the middle of the night, and can’t get back to sleep
- Everything seems dull, and without vitality
- It takes a Herculean effort to get off the couch and take care of errand
Symptoms at Work
- You get a promotion, but still, feel unsatisfied
- The smallest decision — like what to order for lunch — paralyzes you for hours
- Your co-workers didn’t invite you out after work, and now you feel like an outcast
- Even when you’re working hard, you feel like you could get in trouble at any moment
- You feel so antsy and agitated, it’s hard to be at your desk for eight hours
- You have broken down crying more than once this week at work
How to Treat Depression
According to studies, 80 to 90 percent of people with depression experienced significant improvement when undergoing treatment. For people with severe depression, this treatment may comprise a combination of psychotherapy and medication.
Therapy is an essential component of any treatment plan. Depression can alter the way people think, and therapy can help correct that, allow people to recognize distorted thinking patterns, and help them return to a more normal way of being.
Treating Depression with Medication
Antidepressants work slowly. Most patients see no benefit for the first 10 to 14 days. During that period, the onset of side effects like nausea, weight gain, insomnia, and other unpleasant symptoms tempt many people to stop taking the medication. But it’s important for patients to stick it out, and take a long-term view. After two weeks, irritability and daily crying spells typically fade. However, it may take another 8 to 10 weeks for a patient to realize the full benefit of an antidepressant. Therefore, medication should only be stopped under a physician’s supervision.
Treating Depression with Therapy
Two main types of therapy have proven effective in treating major depression: cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT). CBT aims to restructure negative patterns of thinking. During CBT, a psychotherapist or therapist helps patients learn to recognize and change unhealthy or faulty cognition patterns, especially in times of stress. IPT for depression emphasizes the connections between symptoms and a patient’s interpersonal relationships. It is commonly recommended for children and adolescents with depression, but many adults use it to improve social functioning and personality issues.
Treating Depression with Lifestyle Changes
Patients with mild depression may experience improved symptoms with lifestyle adjustments that include the following:
- At least seven hours a night
- At least 30 minutes spent outdoors daily
- Relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation
- Regular testing of hormone levels
- Mindfulness, yoga, and meditation designed to focus on the moment and alleviate stress
- Daily exercise
- Music therapy
- Reduced carbohydrate intake
- A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats
- Reduced caffeine, which can suppress serotonin levels in the brain
- Dietary supplement like saffron, B-vitamins, 5-HTP, L-Theanine, SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) or St. John’s wort, taken with a physician’s approval
- Acupuncture treatments
Journaling, or keeping a mood diary, helps some patients to highlight patterns of negative thinking, notice when good things happen, and stay motivated to make progress. Journal entries help remind some people that things do get better after a negative event. Writing once a week is a good initial goal, increasing frequency to once a day if the diary helps.
Experts in depression agree: No patient should struggle on his own with dark moods. People who surround themselves with a positive support network, who educate themselves about depression, and who seek out advice tend to respond best to treatment over the long haul.
So, I don’t think I need to reiterate it- but depression is a serious condition that a person could be suffering from a couple of months to a couple of years.
Therapy combined with exercise and medication can provide life-changing relief in a matter of weeks, months or years. But the most important thing you remember is to test yourself and seek help.