by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 4th September, 2018
For many, depression is a big, scary word. It can bring with it the concept that someone experiencing symptoms is broken, damaged or simply that there is something wrong with them. While it is an illness, that kind of stigma keeps those who are experiencing it from getting the help they need.
Instead of fostering shame, it's important to bring depression as well as other mental health topics to the forefront. These things need to be healed and cared for the same as any bodily illness. To assist in making those steps, we're going to provide information on what depression is, what it looks like, feels like and what to do if you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms.
Please keep in mind that this article isn't written by a professional psychologist. For direct medical care, it's best to seek out a doctor or therapist.
At some point or another, most of us experience sadness. We may have a bad day, feel bad about some aspect of ourselves, have a poor experience or lose a loved one. It's a perfectly normal feeling, and for the most part this sadness will come and go as your body and mind accept the feelings and heal from their cause.
However, for those suffering from depression these feelings may not fully leave or they may not fade at all. Even in situations that may normally be joyous, such as a get-together with friends or family, feelings of sadness, loneliness, hopelessness and more may still linger.
It's important to know that depression is not a choice. It's not a matter of simply being more positive. It's a medical illness that requires proper care and treatment to begin to heal, and it may never go away fully. Consequently, it's important to treat depression the same as you would diabetes or cancer, with care and empathy.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to depression as well as a wide variety of symptoms that can stem from it. Knowing these symptoms can be key for helping yourself or someone else who may otherwise feel alone and undeserving of a better quality of life.
Depression is not an illness that looks the same in every sufferer. Some may be unable to get themselves out of bed in the morning, while others may be able to go about their day, but still feel a heaviness they can't seem to describe.
Like many other things, depression can come on a spectrum. Not everyone who suffers from it will have suicidal thoughts or engage in physical self harm. For some, that harm may come from a negative self image and inward thoughts that are damaging to the person. It all varies based on the individual.
It can be difficult to recognize depression, even in yourself. Many people can be in denial, avoiding the possibility of depressions because they may worry others will see them differently. In many cases, sufferers may tell themselves it's no big deal, that it will go away in time. While this might be true, depression can take longer than grief or sadness to begin to fade.
You may notice that you're shying away from activities that once interested you, or that getting through your day becomes harder. Even things like personal hygiene or keeping your living space clean can become very difficult.
Though you may be able to be more objective about someone else potentially having depression, it can still be hard to pinpoint the true cause. In some cases, the changes in a person can be more obvious. They may have physical changes, gaining or losing weight, appearing to give up on personal appearance, or other similar behaviors.
They might also talk less or become more withdrawn overall. In other cases, it might seem as though they are perfectly happy. Don't fault yourself if you're unable to see the clear symptoms of depression in yourself or others. It isn't an easy thing.
It can be hard for those who haven't experienced depression to understand how it feels to those who do. While that is understandable, it's also important to make the effort. Otherwise, you can run the risk of behaving in an invalidating way to the person suffering.
To put it lightly, depression feels like a dark cloud that won't pass. It can stem from feelings of low self-worth or negative thoughts that run rampant in the mind of the sufferer. In some cases, the individual might wonder why they can't just be "normal". They look around themselves and see happy people, many of whom appear to be handling life well. Meanwhile, they feel trapped and unable to progress in their own happiness.
Those who deal with depression can also feel worthless, hopeless or like they don't deserve comfort or happiness. In some cases, they may believe they deserve the suffering they feel.
It's important to know what steps to take if you think depression might be present in yourself or someone else. However, these steps can be different depending on who it is. Considering the following tips can help you to meet either situation in the best possible way.
If it's someone you know who is showing symptoms of depression, you may need to tread more carefully. After all, you don't know if they are willing to accept it themselves yet and they may react poorly to the concept.
Think about their perspective, and don't assume that depression is the cause of the changes you may have noticed in them. Remain open-minded to the situation regardless. Remember that the best thing you can do is be there for them. You cannot force them to get help, or fix their problems for them. Nor should you attempt to do so.
Reaching out is a good idea when you're concerned that someone you know might be showing signs of depression. It doesn't need to be a large display of your concern, and for most it isn't a great idea. Pushing someone with depression too much can only cause them to withdraw further.
On the other hand, small things you do can make a large impact. Things like asking how their day is going, or just talking to them about recent films, games or events. More importantly, listening to what they have to say can show them you care about what they think and feel. It can show someone who might normally feel isolated that there are people they can talk to who will seek to understand rather than try to tell them how to solve their problems.
There may not be an instance where you can directly tell someone to get help. This is going to depend on the relationship you have, and how much they want to tell you about how they're feeling.
If you get the chance, then recommending a therapist, counselor or even talking to a doctor is a good idea. However, it's wise to be careful how you word your recommendation. Don't try to tell them what to do, but instead try to relate to them. You can try talking about an issue of your own, and discuss how a professional has been able to help you, for example.
Otherwise, listening to whatever the person does want to tell you can be a very important thing. Too often, those who suffer from depression can feel like no one cares, and you have a chance to change that thinking through your actions.
It can be very difficult to accept or even entertain the idea that depression may be the source of your problems. Not everyone is willing or able to consider that possibility, especially not right away.
You may not also be certain if depression is the culprit. Only a professional will be able to guide you through the process of diagnosing what's going on. However, that doesn't mean your feelings aren't perfectly valid.
Taking baby steps can help greatly. Firstly, thinking about your feelings and considering why they might be happening is a good start. You can even do some journaling or other activities that help you to get the feelings out. Second to that, it's a good idea to talk to someone. This can be anyone at all in your life. When you feel ready to continue the steps, professional help can truly work wonders.
This can be the hardest part of addressing depression. For many, pretending that nothing is wrong is the go-to reaction to the kinds of feelings it can cause. However, even if you don't have depression, accepting your feelings can go a long way toward your improvement.
There are a number of ways you can go about exploring your feelings and determining whether or not your symptoms appear to match those of depression. The difficulty of this process is also another reason why a professional can help. Oftentimes, a therapist or counselor knows how to gently guide you toward understanding yourself and your feelings better.
If there is at least a single person in your life who you feel you can turn to about what's going on, it's worth trying to reach out. Talking to someone about these kinds of feelings isn't easy by any means, but it can give you a lot of perspective.
It can be so easy to feel alone or lost while dealing with depression. When you talk to someone else about it, it can help you to feel like you have an ally. Of course, this can also depend on how they respond to what you tell them. Ideally, they will be open, understanding and willing to help in whatever way you need.
In time, it may become easier to seek out a therapist. A professional ally can be absolutely key to getting the help you need for healing the depressed feelings.
In time, the correct care can decrease negative feelings whether they come from depression or not. Remember that there is nothing wrong with seeking out professional help for mental health.
It can often feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, but that isn't the reality. In the vast majority of cases, those who seek help can end up living happy, healthy lives. Relieving the weight on your shoulders is the first step toward a truly happy life.
In addition to seeking out help, it's also wise to remember healthy sleeping, eating and exercise. An imbalance in these things can make symptoms of depression worse. Just start on your own path, and remember to keep moving. Even moving slowly creates more progress than not trying at all.
There are a few things that apply to both yourself and others with regard to depression, and they're crucial to keep in mind. It can be all too easy to push too hard, expect too much or try to move too quickly. To assist with healthy progress, keep these tips in mind.
One of the most important aspects is to be gentle. Depression often comes with its own harsh expectations, beliefs and feelings. Consequently, it's ideal to make sure that you handle yourself or someone else with depression with gentle, loving hands. There is no tough love when it comes to dealing with depression.
If you are the one suffering from this illness, then it's important to do what you can. If you can't put forth as much effort as you might normally, do what you can. Focus on self care over demands. Try to do things you need to do for yourself, such as eating, taking a shower or bath and making sure you're drinking enough water. If that is all you can do some days, that's perfectly okay.
Similarly, try not to judge someone else too harshly if they aren't forcing themselves to do more than they can handle. For some people, just getting out of bed in the morning can take all the effort they have for a given day, week or even months. Instead, focus on empathy. Be a cheerleader, but not someone who makes demands of that person. The sufferer may withdraw if you do.
Moving forward, even in small amounts or very slowly, is still moving forward. For those with depression, it can sometimes seem very appealing to give up. In some cases, they may feel that their efforts are worthless anyway, or that no one cares to see them improve.
When our brains pull these kinds of tricks on us, moving out of the realm of self-pity can be extremely difficult. It's okay to just survive some days, if that's as much as you can handle. If you need some backup, it can also help to call a friend or family member.
During these rough times, your focus is best spent on addressing hurtful thoughts and feelings. Meditation or just enjoying some soothing tea can be helpful. Curl up with a good book, do some light cleaning if you can or listen to soothing music. Lifting yourself out of depression is hard, but worthwhile.
For most of us, there's at least one time when we wish we had worded something differently. Perhaps, something came out more harshly than we expected. In other cases, maybe we wish we had sounded more confident, more knowledgeable or at least less timid.
This aspect is especially important to pay attention to when depression is a factor. If you're the one with symptoms, harsh, negative thoughts can envelop you some days. On these days, it's worthwhile to slow down and try to find the proof in the negative claims. Remind yourself that you are worthy, despite what they may claim.
With someone else, the way you phrase your words can either help them immensely or cause them to withdraw from you completely. Consequently, it's best to try not to come off as demanding, or like you're telling them how to handle their own lives.
Depression can be an extremely difficult thing to deal with. Whether you notice the symptoms in yourself or someone else, it's wise to treat the situation with care and an open mind. Be gentle with whoever it is who seems to be suffering, and focus on empathy.
It's worthwhile to reach out. Reach out to someone else who appears to be suffering, even in little ways. If you're concerned about yourself, reach out to anyone you feel comfortable talking to. If you have trouble finding someone in your life, there are resources out there that can help. Read below for a few numbers for those who can provide assistance.