Depression: Addressing the elephant in the room


Hey everyone, I apologise for my absence online recently. I wish I could say that I have been off galavanting around the world, but unfortunately, I experienced my worst bout of depression to date.

Depression is something I encourage everyone to talk about and to become comfortable speaking freely about it. Anyone, at any time, and at any age can become depressed. I used to mistake small periods of feeling down with depression. It is normal to feel down if you are going through a rough time. The difference with depression is that you continuously feel down, and it can also be for no particular reason. Depression can last for weeks or months, and some individuals may have an ongoing battle with depression.

Since my teenage years, I have suffered from anxiety. Anyone that knows me knows how quickly I can worry about things. When I get anxious, this can cause me to feel down. These negative feelings are what I used to perceive as depression. However, they would always be short lived and never lasted more than a few days. I now know that this was just me feeling down due to an unpleasant experience.

My first real experience of depression was after being admitted to hospital. For months after I was home, I kept crying, feeling exhausted even though I was off of work, and would become overwhelmed very quickly. I was fortunate enough to be seen by a psychologist who specialised in diabetes care. After my sessions with the psychologist, I was feeling better equipped to deal with any bouts of depression. Up until recently, I was able to keep my mental wellbeing in a positive state.

After having five months off, I started a new job at the beginning of this year (January 2018). I was pretty nervous as I knew I had to carry on with my low carb diet to keep my blood sugars in check and keep a watchful eye on my cholesterol and blood pressure. I was worried that my health would spiral out of control again if I had busy or challenging days. But, knowing what I am like, that is just my anxiety talking. So, I created a plan to stick to that enabled me to have low carb breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks readily available. However, what I had forgotten, was how tiring it is when you first start a new job. My job involves lots of challenges and learning on a daily basis (I am a web developer) which is an incredible opportunity but is mentally tiring. I also didn’t realise how long my days would be, I am up from 6 am and I get home around 7-7.15 pm. I am sure many individuals have similar long days and function perfectly well, but this affected me as I had very little time in the evenings. I planned to cook meals for the week on the weekends. Pre-cooking these meals meant that I could come home after work, reheat a meal, and focus on relaxing or working on After my first couple of weeks at work, I found that I was feeling exhausted on the weekends and my motivation began to deplete when it came to doing anything, let alone cooking. As soon as I stopped following my plan, each day became a painful battle of trying to find something suitable and quick to eat. I began to struggle with sleeping. My anxiety was through the roof worrying about my health. All of these thoughts kept creeping up. I thought that I was adjusting to the new situation and these feelings would soon go away.

Before I knew it, weeks had passed, and these feelings became progressively worse. I persistently felt unhappy and helpless. I was feeling overwhelmed by trying to be “normal” and go to work and do things like socialise with colleagues or friends and still manage my health issues with a strict diet and exercise. I was feeling so exhausted I even found it difficult to have the energy to socialise and properly listen to what other people would say. As rude as that sounds, my intentions were not to be horrible. I managed to hide how I felt from my colleagues at work, but I was unable to keep this up outside of work. I started to ignore my health and not bother to eat meals to relieve the fact that I felt so overwhelmed and tired. I also wanted to stay in bed as much as possible and spent the majority of my time out of work in bed. Mild panic attacks became a regular occurrence. Something could set me off at work, and I’d hide in the toilet trying to calm myself down. Something as little as a friend asking me for help or advice, or even to meet up, could set me off. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to help them or see them, I just felt unbearably overwhelmed, and I had reached my mental and emotional capacity.

After around five weeks I could no longer keep up the charade. My other half had noticed, and I was having thoughts that I never dreamed I would have. I started off by thinking that I no longer enjoy my life, and at the time could see no way of ever being able to go back to enjoying life again. This thought constantly appeared. I would think about it when I woke up, on my way to work, randomly throughout the day and before I went to sleep. Although I never got to a point where I actively wanted to commit suicide or die, as embarrassing and upsetting as this is to admit, I had two thoughts that pushed me to get help. The first thought occurred when I was traveling on my way home from work. The train was pulling up, and I felt like I could understand how feeling like this could drive someone to jump in front of a train. Although I had no desire to do it myself, I kept thinking about my understanding of others doing it.

My second thought occurred on a particularly challenging evening. I was on my own and was in a pretty distraught state. Exacerbated by alcohol, which is unlike me to drink, I randomly thought about the amount of medication that was in my room and how easy it would be to take it all if I desired to do so.

I spoke to a small selection of loved ones about how I was feeling. It can be hard to admit this to someone, especially if you suffer from anxiety. Thoughts such as they’ll think I’m pathetic or they’ll think I’m a hypochondriac plagued my mind. I was worried that they would never understand me and I felt embarrassed that I was struggling. I felt like I should be able to cope and had no reasonable explanation for my struggle.

Based on my experience, I believe that most of the time, your loved ones will react with concern and show understanding. They want to support you to get better. However, what I have discovered is that not everyone is mentally equipped themselves to give you the support you are seeking. They could be going through something themselves, or haven’t had a similar experience and struggle to relate to how you are feeling. For this reason, I strongly encourage you to seek professional help if you are feeling depressed, in addition to reaching out to loved ones. Family and friends can provide much-needed support, but professionals are trained to help you with your struggle.

On the evening when I had thoughts about how easy it could be to take medication, I became frightened of myself. I felt like I had no control of where my thoughts were going, and I was getting more distraught. It was late, and I didn’t want to keep burdening my loved ones. So, I decided to contact the Samaritans as I genuinely felt like I needed help immediately. I didn’t know where my thoughts were going and I didn’t want to be alone with them. I didn’t feel comfortable enough to call the Samaritans on the phone, so I spoke to them via email. I am so grateful that there is the support out there for situations like that. I wish I could thank the person I spoke to, he/she was incredible. You can contact them as much or as little as needed. You can also end the conversation whenever you want to. It is confidential, and for the most part, they let you do the talking.

Since talking to the Samaritans, I have been able to identify various factors contributing to my depression. From this, I have formed a plan to set me on the right track to get better. My feelings have improved after talking to loved ones and the Samaritans. Having a plan in place to deal with this issue has lifted a weight off of my shoulders. My next action is to make a doctors appointment and discuss how I feel so I can get ongoing help. I am also going to review how I manage my health conditions and look for ways to make the process easier to maintain.

I wanted to write and publish this post, regardless of my concern of judgement and misunderstanding, as I believe we must change the stigma of mental health. Thanks to the work of organisations such as 320 Changes Direction, I felt able to push myself to get help. If this had happened ten years ago, I wouldn’t have had the courage to speak to my loved ones, let alone to the Samaritans.

320 Changes Direction is an organisation that highlights the help that is available for people in need and works towards changing the culture of mental health so that everyone can feel more comfortable talking about it. It has certainly helped me, and I wanted to share this post to show my support to the work that they are doing. On the 20th March, to honor the wonderful Chester Bennington, who lost his life to suicide, 320 Changes Direction asked everyone to post a selfie with the hashtag #Iamthechange. Whilst I am nine days late, I wanted to share this post in honor of their work and contribute to the conversation about mental health. We all have mental health, and if we ignore the warning signs of depression it can lead to a mental illness. Talking about it is the first step to prevent this from happening.

If you need support and are in the UK, you can find a list of contacts on the NHS website. If you live outside the UK, do a quick google search to find out what helplines are available in your country. Luckily, there are lots of support systems in place all over the world.