You may have struggled with depression for a long time or perhaps you sense that things aren’t right emotionally but have not put a name to your feelings. When we say we are depressed, it is different from feeling sad or low for a brief period of time. That is something that most people feel sometimes. A bout of depression involves a much more continuous experience of being down, feeling hopeless, low in self esteem, irritable, suffering from insomnia or sleeping too much, lacking motivation and even sometimes feeling suicidal.
There has been a lot of stigma around people struggling with mental health problems and whilst attitudes are changing, it can still be difficult to speak out about your experiences. You may fear discrimination or assume that others will simply see you as weak.
Those who have not suffered in this way, may find it hard to understand that it can feel absolutely unbearable to be in this state. Some people continue to function and hold down jobs, relationships or family lives and others come to a point where it is just not possible to go on.
Many people self medicate using alcohol, drugs, food, gambling, over-spending or sex. It can be a very frightening place to be, rather like falling down a hole that you feel you may never get out of. The effects can be long lasting and impact you both emotionally, socially and financially.
Nobody is immune to experiencing this kind of suffering and it can hit people at different periods in their lives. There is help out there although it is not always easy to make the first step. Some people choose to go to their GP and take medication which can feel helpful in terms of reducing symptoms. Others choose to seek the help of a professional who can listen over a longer period of time and help to think about the underlying causes.
We are all unique and have complex reasons for being the way we are. Whilst two people may suffer from similar symptoms, the reasons behind these may be entirely different. This is just like when someone is physically ill – two people could have a high temperature or suffer from stomach pain but the sources of these troubles could be any number of a diverse range of possibilities.
Talking to a psychotherapist can provide you with an opportunity to find out more about what is going on inside you and reflect on what might lie behind some of these debilitating feelings. Whilst being depressed can feel like a desperate and terrifying place to be, it may also be a sign that there are things we need to look at about ourselves which we have tried to avoid. This could be due to past experiences or losses that we have tried to put out of our minds.
Often when we have suffered crises or painful disappointments and tried to ignore them, they can resurface in a whole range of ways which we might need to acknowledge and understand better. Depression can be a warning that the life we are living needs to be thought about or even changed, a kind of protest against the way things are. It can be very important that we listen to ourselves more carefully and really take heed of our symptoms as opposed to trying to suppress them.
Whilst friends, partners or family can be supportive, it may be more helpful to talk to a professional who is trained to listen to you and think with you about some of the patterns in your life and reflect on the way you relate to other people and yourself.
This can have an impact on the way in which you function in the world and enable you to make changes to the way in which you handle your relationships and feel about yourself. It is not an easy process and could put you in touch with painful feelings which you may have hoped to bury but it can also provide you with an opportunity to live more fruitfully and feel more alive.
It takes courage to listen to what it is that your feelings of depression are telling you about the world you inhabit, both externally and internally, to consider the meaning of your pain and explore ways in which you can change. It can, however, be the beginning of a journey in which you may start to know yourself better and therefore feel able to know others better too and live life more meaningfully.