Depression is something I feel isn't talked about enough, and it should be because lack of it is leading to such ignorance in people when it comes to this illness.
First things first, depression isn't the same for everybody - it can be triggered by different things, it lasts different amounts of time, some cases will be worse than others and it will of course have different effects depending on the person who's suffering. Anything I write here is due to my own experiences, and stuff that I know, I'm not saying this applies to everyone.
How does depression start?
Depression doesn't have one specific cause, and it will be different for everyone. For me personally it started because of bullying and a horrific time at school. It can be because of stresses in your life, bereavement, money worries, etc. The type of personality you have can also be a factor; if you're overly self-critical, have low self esteem or are sensitive you're more likely to suffer from depression. Also, if someone in your family has suffered with the illness you're more likely to as well.
How do you feel when you're depressed?
I go through stages, to start off with I feel very panicky, anxious and angry with the world. I cry a hell of a lot, I have panic attacks and I just want to scream from the pain. The mental pain and the feeling of being so lost, hopeless and like you want to fade away is excruciating. This feeling normally lasts a day, and then I go onto feeling numb, empty, unbearably lonely, like all the happiness and hope has been drained from me and I can't ever imagine feeling happy again. It's so difficult to explain and understand unless you've been through it yourself, but please remember it's nothing like just feeling sad or unhappy.
Why do some people who are depressed seem happy a lot of the time?
Depression often isn't constant, or it is and people hide it well. I always describe it like this; I call depression a little evil monster inside of me, it's always in there but sometimes my body is strong and able to fight the depression monster off, or sometimes the depression monster is tired so hides away for a while, but when my body has had enough of fighting or when the monster decides it wants to awaken the depression takes over again. Not everything is as it seems, everyone is fighting their own personal battles.
How do you know if you're depressed?
A lot of people claim to be suffering with depression, when in reality they're not, they just feel a bit down. If you feel constantly hopeless, helpless, sad, tearful, guilty, anxious, have no motivation, have a change in weight, have thoughts of hurting yourself, your work at school/college/uni is getting worse, or you're irritable these are all signs of depression. If you think you do have depression it's important to talk to someone about it, whether that's a friend, a family member or a teacher, tell someone. Go to your GP and they can refer you to someone who can help you and start the process of helping you to live a depression free life, full of happiness, laughter, fulfilment and amazing achievements.
Why do some people with depression not get help?
There can be several reasons for this. Often it's because accepting you need help means accepting you have a problem, and accepting you have a problem is a huge and scary thing to do. Sometimes people think going to see a doctor is a sign of weakness, or they think they'll be judged (which you won't). Also, with me I thought that I couldn't be helped so there was no point. When you're depressed you have no motivation and you feel totally helpless. It's not about not wanting to feel happy, and saying to someone 'just go and get help' is absurd and not that simple. I also felt scared, I was worried that they wouldn't be able to help me, and in my mind that made total sense and it terrified me.
How can you help someone who's depressed?
Being friends with someone who suffers with depression or having someone in the family who does is a huge task (I know I must be pain and a half). Be patient with them, be understanding. Never assume they're just being grumpy, miserable, oversensitive or that they're putting it on. When I feel depressed I like to be on my own most of the time, but knowing that people care is something I always want as well. There's nothing worse than feeling that low, and knowing people know you're going through this and you get no messages of support or anyone asking if you're alright…it'll just make you feel incredibly lonely and like no-one cares that you're feeling so down…which I know they do, deep down, but at the time I just feel angry and hurt. Also, NEVER say to someone with depression "oh just cheer up".
What helps when you feel depressed?
I've found that exercise helps me. Not when I actually am going through a spell of depression because it's the last thing I want to do then, but I have noticed since I started exercising my depression comes on less often and my mood is generally more positive. I was told for years how exercise can help, but always ignored it/dismissed it, but if you're suffering from depression I urge you to give it a go.
Try yoga, it's calming but can also give you a real workout! Going for walks is something else I enjoy, being in the countryside with my two doggies is the best - and seeing them happy always puts a smile on my face. Try and focus on things you have to look forward to, sometimes this can be pointless (I know it is with me) because you feel so unmotivated and like you'll never be happy again, but it's always worth a go. Remember that the feeling of depression WILL pass, you won't always feel like this. And if you're feeling okay to talk to someone do it, and never be afraid of crying.
I really hope this helped some people understand the clinical illness depression more. I wish so much it was more openly talked about. There's so much education and chat about physical illnesses but not enough about mental illnesses, when they are just as life effecting and just as serious.
If you're suffering with depression, know someone who is, are worried you might be depressed or just want more information have a look at the links below.
NHS - http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Depression/Pages/Introduction.aspx
Samaritans - http://www.samaritans.org
Mind - http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/depression/