A month ago, I shared some of my story with depression this year on my social media. I had someone reach out to me and express that they had no idea I was struggling because I always seemed fine around them. Which is understandable, as all the photos in this post were taken at my lowest point.
I share this because I think it’s important that people know that depression looks different for every person. Everyone handles their depression in different ways and it’s so important that we have empathy and care for others. Someone may be really good at putting on a smile or doing “regular” activities but inside they are barely getting by. At least this was my experience.
It’s more than having a few bad days. It’s a diagnosable mental illness with changes in mood, behaviors and thoughts over a period of time. Every person is different and will experience it with different intensities or symptoms. The brain actually changes both physically and chemically when someone is experiencing depression. Everything from relationships to work and productivity are effected by depression.
According to Mayo Clinic, here are common symptoms of depression:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
- Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
If you are experiencing depression, please make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible! If you have a loved and you’re noticing some of these symptoms, I’d encourage you to reach out to them and genuinely check in on them consistently. Encourage them to seek out medical advice from their doctor. Sometimes people on the outside can notice changes before the person realizes there’s a problem. Often, my husband will notice my agitation before I recognize I’m agitated.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. I think it’s important to distinguish that depression does not necessarily mean suicidal. I have struggled with depression for 20 years and have had suicidal thoughts twice in that time. Just because you may not be experiencing these thoughts does not mean you shouldn’t seek medical attention. However, suicidal thoughts or ideation can come on suddenly so I think it’s important to address.
The first time I experienced those thoughts was about 4 or 5 years ago and my husband and I suffered for the most part privately. I did not have a good psychiatrist at the time and he did not take me seriously. Two months ago, I experienced the hopelessness again and this time I was extremely grateful for my family and my counselor who took the situation very seriously and advocated for me. Our support system was much greater.
The lies that I was a detriment to my family and that I was never going to get better reverberated through my whole being. The hard part of depression is that it’s often not possible to think logically or rationally. Physically and mentally it may not be possible, which is why having a true support system is so important.
If you are experiencing any of these thoughts or emotions, TELL SOMEONE. Do not go through this alone!
- Call your doctor
- Call a suicide hotline number — in the U.S., call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Use that same number and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.
- Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
- Contact a minister, spiritual leader or someone else in your faith community.
For me, swift changes in medication, supportive friends and family and consistent counseling are what got me through.
Here are some resources that have helped me in my mental health journey:
Fully Alive by Susie Larson
Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen