Why I am writing about depression
I am at a point where I can calmly (and factually) reflect on my own experiences, in a way that can potentially help others.
I have written about mental health issues a handful of times since 2017 – when I first realised I was struggling with ‘something’. I ran the Sydney Half Marathon that year to raise funds for mental health.
While I recognised something was up, I didn’t take quite enough notice. Instead I favoured to keep living as I was living; FAST.
Skip forward to 2020: In January I went through a ‘lightbulb situation’ where I realised ‘Ok. Something else is going on here’. I understood it was time to get a grasp on what was happening. I needed to investigate ways to look after myself better going forward.
This lightbulb situ meant I did some deep-diving into times, people and events from my past. I needed to give myself a rounded view of why some situations have the ability to knock the stuffing out of me.
As I pieced my puzzle together, I realised there was ‘much more to this than just a bad day’. It was uncomfortable reviewing things that had gone wrong over the years. But it was also enlightening. I took stock. Looked back, educated myself and mapped out a positive ‘moving forward’ campaign.
Depression is more common than you may realise.
I can name at least 12 friends straight off the bat who deal with their ‘own version’ of depression in some way. These are only the ones I know about! Ages range between early 20’s to late 40’s. With a pretty even split between those in couples / married vs. singles.
All work full time and on the outside ‘have their shit together’. On the whole they are all ‘normal’ – just like me and you.
Depression might have been ‘a myth’ until it hit you
You might read this and think ‘I’ve never had it’. While I hope this is the majority of readers, I know there’s going to be a few of you out there who can most definitely vibe with me on this.
I have experienced bouts of depression since I was 19 – it has taken me 15 years to realise this fact. While I have lived my amazing, busy, successful and wildly adventurous life – there have been at least 20 occasions over the years that I can clearly remember right now – when I have mentally tuned out. Sometimes for months at a time.
All these years, I’ve continued living my days as best I can. Often the ‘struggle’ has indeed been extremely real.
My realisation is part of why I decided to share this with you. Sometimes you just need to wake up and smell the coffee. Stop ignoring all the signs. Take a moment to reflect. You may well find things start to piece together and make a lot of sense.
… Once you know what’s going on, you have the best chance of taking care of yourself going forward. The only way is up right? It has to be!
Does this sound familiar?
The coping mechanism: We are primed to cope. To do our best. To be our best. In reality being, doing and FEELING our BEST 24/7 is out of the question.
”How are you?”. How many times have you fibbed ”I’m fine” and not felt it just to take the easy option in a convo?
How many times have you deflected the question back to the person asking as quickly as possible to relieve your inner heat? ”Good thanks – how you going?”. Thank U, Next.
It’s normal to cover up because we don’t want to worry people / waste their time or cause concern when we’re not YOLO’ing it up.
Imagine every time a work friend asked how your weekend was and you said ‘To be honest Linda, I am going through a hardcore wave of depression right now. I spent most of the weekend in bed eating junk food and trying to pull myself out of the black hole. But all good dahhhling – I’m in work and I’m good! Really I am”. You are highly unlikely to divulge such touchy info. Normal days can be hard when you’re going through a phase. Sometimes it feels best to crack on.
If any of this hits home with you – we all have days like that. We really do! How you can prevent them coming is what matters most.
Depression is an ever-growing topic
Growing up, my only reference to depression was one family member who suffered with it. But all I knew was that they slept a lot. That was pretty much it.
Nobody spoke of it, it wasn’t in the news, it wasn’t online (nor was I, I was little). Depression wasn’t a ‘thing’. We, the people, didn’t really know what ‘it’ was.
Luckily for us now; we are more aware of what depression entails. How it can feel. What effect it can have on our lives and what we can do to help combat it. It is not a taboo topic.
While it’s not something I go around spending my days talking about, I am glad I can share this post with you. We all have the power to look in the mirror and know we can try to make a difference to our future. We can’t hide.
We need to face (and gain an understanding of) our issues in order to move forward.
Drilling into my own version of depression
Fun fact: Experiencing depression isn’t all doom and gloom! Handled in the right way, lots of positives can come from it too.
- Passion projects – Feeling rubbish can make you super creative. Taking time out to do things that keep you busy (and engaged) will always help
- Work – Your career is a solid path to focus on when you’re feeling blue. Kicking goals lifts you!
- Friends – Opening up to your closest friends makes your bonds stronger
- Family – It can be scary to tell them but it’s also vital to let loved ones know, so that they can help you
- Fitness – Pushing yourself into fitness might be hard when you don’t want to get out of bed (!!!) but if you manage it, only good things will come!
- Rising up – Depression gives you inner strength you might not realise you had. With every bout comes the point where you pull yourself out of it
- Learning / educating yourself – If you seek to find answers and advice about what you go through, you broaden your mind and understanding of what’s going on in yourself and the wider world too
- Understanding, appreciating others – Living with depression can make you much more considerate and caring for others. We never know what people are going through. It can make you a more gentle, kinder person.
My version of depression can come in various forms (hitting me all together / few of the below / one at a time). Please note: this is not a current situation – this is reflective. However, no matter when it’s happened, the patterns have always been similar;
- Not springing out of bed looking forward to the day – This is a clear signal that I feel off
- Getting up late as possible – This means getting ready as late as possible for my day ahead too – putting me on the back foot for the whole day
- Going to bed super early – Sometimes straight from work, ‘feeling exhausted’
- Laying in bed for extended periods of time – Deep in a negative-thought cycle
- Extended time mindlessly scrolling social media – Facebook > Instagram > Facebook > Instagram > repeat.
- Missing morning training sessions
- Missing evening training sessions
- Eating bad foods – Having no regard whatsoever for what havoc they are about to wreak on the fit-bod that I have been crafting for years
- Spending money on bad food like there’s no repercussion – Pizza, takeaways, MacDonald’s, chocolate, cans of coke
- Losing my ‘voice’ – When I feel off I rarely write.
- Going offline – In recent years I have gone through stages where I will take myself completely offline in favour of not wanting to communicate with others
- Going out / spending time with others and ‘not wanting to be there’ – Then coming home early and feeling equally empty anyway
- Feeling lost, lonely – Often reflecting on the past, in negative-thought cycles of what if’s and why’s
Depressive phases ain’t pretty! Unfortunately, you can often bring them on yourself!
- Repeated behaviour – If you mess up once, fair dinkum. If you repeatedly do something that results in your digression into a phase then you need to realise what you are bringing onto yourself
- Drink, drugs, smoking – None of these will help you if you have bouts of depression. If you do any / all of the above you are on a road to nowhere
- Upsetting others – Yes, it’s hard to tell others of your troubles and going back through everything can be truly uncomfortable and downright awful BUT you have to be brave and push through it if you need help (people cannot read your mind)
- Communication break-downs with family / friends – This can happen all too often when you live on the other side of the world, or even nearby but you’re busy with work etc. It’s important to keep consistent contact with everyone who matters to you, no matter what time zone or distance apart they may be
- Going to the doctors can be rough – I personally have no issue whatsoever with this but I fully understand that many might find it embarrassing/ shameful/ near impossible to do. Think of it like this; you work your body out in the gym, therefore you can work your mind out in a therapy session too. It’s paramount to get your mind fit!
Triggers to take onboard
- Worried friends / family – If people close to you keep asking what’s up or suggest you go to the doctors etc this comes from a place of love. Listen to them, they know you, they know what’s good for you – they love you!
- Turning anxiety into depression – If you get anxious with every-day things (going out alone, work stress, crowded spaces etc) take note. Work out how you can help yourself before minor episodes of anxiety grow into something bigger
- Death – Of course if you go through something awful and lose someone you won’t feel right, this is completely normal and expected. You cannot be expected to ‘be fine’ during traumatic times
- A break up – In my experience, this kind of loss can be one of the worst you ever go through. If this happens don’t expect to feel ‘normal’ as you transition through to single life without someone you loved
- Health – If you get ill out of nowhere you can expect this to effect your frame of mind too, again this is normal
- Work stress – If your job is spiralling and you can’t keep up, please confide in a senior team member. If the issues can’t be fixed, seriously consider looking for another job. It’s not worth it. Believe me. I’ve been there.
- Being bullied – If you are being bullied at work, or maybe in your social circle, quietly take note of what’s going on. Report it / confide in a friend you trust and remove yourself from the problem if possible. Again; it’s not worth it. I’ve been there before, in a previous job. Adult bullying is horrendous and negatively impacts your whole life.
If you want help
There are various steps you can take to look out for yourself. You must think about you, like you are looking after a friend:
- Your GP – Last time I went to my GP she asked me what caused my downturn. I told her it was relationship-related and she said ”You’re not the only one, this is very common in women of all ages”. She gave me a number for a therapist whom I can call for an appointment whenever suits me. Visiting your GP and seeking extra help is extremely normal. Don’t feel embarrassed. Just go.
- Therapy – As mentioned earlier. Getting your ‘mind fit’ is 110% worthwhile. If you need help, there are so many people out there who are both qualified and impartial. Ask your GP for recommendations or look online for someone in your area.
- Online – The web is full of information to guide you on what may be troubling you.
- Books – Self help books are everywhere and reading is so good for you!
- Charities – These are some of my fave charities / movements dedicated to helping you Living.org, One Wave is All it Takes and Kick On Charity
- The gym – Get fit, feel fit! If you have no idea where to start sign up with a personal trainer. They will help you from day one
- Join a club full of your kind of people – I recently found The 440 and love it! Find your jam. It will give you something to look forward to
- The sea – Go for a dip. The sea has magical healing powers! Just being in it will give you some form of relief
- Your nearest bit of open space – Think parks, beaches, coastal walks, farm tracks etc. Fresh air really will do you wonders
The future – Actioning your ‘Save myself’ plan
When you accept / realise there may be more to ‘another bad day’ than meets the eye you can work out a ‘save myself’ plan. Once I understood there was a bigger picture at play it opened the gates to my future.
How could I look after myself better to ensure I didn’t bring on a downturn? How could I treat myself like I would treat my little sisters / best friends if they were going through something?
There’s no shame in feeling out of sorts but there is stupidity in ignoring it forever and cracking on with nights out, parties, wine after work, spending time with people who make you feel uncomfortable etc.
If you continue to do things that are not good for you physically or mentally they will catch up on you one day. Maybe you are reading this because they already have. I am writing this because they already did!
Whatever life-stage you are in right now, remember you ALWAYS have the chance to change shit up! I started pulling back on my nights out when I started a new job in 2017. I knew I couldn’t do that job to the best of my ability if I was foggy from a heavy weekend.
Since that time, I have gone through various ‘I’m not going out’ ‘If I go out I’ll just have a couple’ trial runs. But I never fully gave up that part of me, because being sociable and mixing in with friends old (and new) is a big part of who I am.
2020 bowls round and I finally made a conscious decision not to drink anymore. At all. Three years of testing the water in various stages of ‘not drinking’ to ‘back to party mode, let’s go and keep going!’ has made me respect the truth; drinking and partying is not for me anymore. It’s that simple.
I’m not telling you what to do but all I know is; if you want to work your ass off kicking goals, forging a career you are supremely proud of and being your absolute BEST. If you want to feel good inside and glow on the outside. If you want to essentially live your best life for real – you need to do what’s right for you.
Depression can make life difficult but it can also make you action positive changes. Think about where you are and where you wish to be.
You can do it and your time is right now.
Thank you so much for reading! I sincerely hope this post have given you some positive, honest guidance. As always; I am no doctor or professional but I am a professional ~of myself~ because that’s all I really know fully! I hope me sharing this has helped in some way. If you know anyone who may benefit from this please forward it on to them.
*Please remember, this post is reflective. I wrote this in a good frame of mind. However, I am being realistic as I move ahead … I am living my days looking after myself and of course always trying to be prepared for the next time life throws something unexpected my way too 🙂