|Depression is an insidious condition. It creeps up on you without you even realising. As a teacher I have been trained to spot the signs of depression in others but I still didn’t notice when it snared me.
Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. Despite this obviously physical cause many people will still ask “Why’s that?’ when you tell them you are suffering from depression. It’s like people believe that you should always be in control of your mind and your emotions. Anything that interferes with that control must be your fault. I must admit I thought that too. But think about it for a minute. If you get the flu do you blame yourself? Why should you blame yourself for getting ‘the flu’ in your mind?
Symptoms of depression
Depression is more than just feeling down. The ongoing feelings of despair, the lack of energy and the lack of any feelings of enthusiasm can all be part of the problem. If these symptoms persist for a period of more than two weeks you may be suffering from depression and should seek help. There can also be other signs that you may or may not experience. These can include sleep disorders – either sleeping too much or barely sleeping at all. There may well be a lowering of self-esteem- a feeling that you are not worth anything and perhaps that people would be better off without you. There may be changes in weight – either gains or loss. Sex drive may almost disappear. Problems with concentration and regular thoughts of death are also quite common. Any combination of these symptoms may be signalling that you are suffering from depression and you should seek medical help.
Things to do to Deal with Depression
I am a sponge for knowledge anyway. When my depression reached the point that I couldn’t work for a while, I needed to try to understand what was happening to me. The more I learnt about the symptoms of depression and the causes the more sense things made to me. I had recognised that my sleep patterns were not healthy- hey less than an hour continuously every night for weeks is pretty obvious. What I didn’t realise was that it was both a symptom and a cause of depression. It made me think about what I needed to do. If you think you may be depressed find out as much as you can about the condition. On its own it’s not a cure but it will help you to understand what you need to do in order to get well.
I don’t like taking pills. I don’t trust drug dealers. Even if they are multinational corporations who extract billions of dollars from the world‘s economies, I still don’t trust drug dealers. However, I needed help. I took the pills to replace my brain chemicals. They took a while to kick in (about two or three weeks). I took the sleeping pills. They were better. At least they worked pretty quick. I got my first sleep in ages.
Unfortunately for those of us who resist taking pills as much as possible it really is necessary to take some form of medication to get over depression. About nine months after my initial diagnosis I tried to cut down on the anti depressants. I was going against the instructions of my doctor who thought that I should wait at least a year. I did cut down from three pills to two but there were a couple of weeks where I thought I was going back into the pit of depression. Listen to your doctor he should know more about depression than you do.
The lethargy that overcame me when I was depressed was numbing. It was difficult to get up in the morning. Once up I really couldn’t be bothered doing anything. I had to really force myself to move. At first all I did was plant some seeds in the garden and make sure that I watered them every night. Then as the medication kicked in and I started to get a little more energy I began walking the dog on the beach. Slowly I built up the exercise level to the point where I now run about three times a week. I have never been a big fitness fan but it is now a vital part of my routine. And it keeps the black dog at bay. Get moving, it’s good for your heart and your head.
One of the things about my depression was that I tried to keep it to myself, not even telling my close family how I was feeling. Once diagnosed, I went for a few sessions of counselling. This helped a lot, in that having talked about my problems with a stranger I was able to begin talking to my wife and family. One of the positive things to come out of my illness is that I am now more capable of sharing my emotions with people. At first it was hard, but the more I do talk the easier it becomes.
Depression is a serious condition that if left unchecked can become debilitating and even fatal. However there are ways to get through. Get help, get fit, get medicated, get educated and talk.
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