Depression is a word we are probably all familiar with. But do you really know what depression looks like? This post, in the middle of Winter in Nova Scotia, is written for these who want to understand depression more.
We often think of depression as sadness. And yes, it certainly includes sadness. But there’s a lot more to what it looks like. Depression is the label given when someone is experiencing a cluster of particular symptoms. It can look different from person to person. And sometimes it can be misunderstood. So here are some aspects of depression that might sometimes slip below the radar.
Things take more effort
Motivation is really hard when you’re depressed. It can look like laziness. In fact, I think depression is sometimes missed because of this. But it’s not laziness. In actual fact, lack of motivation is a very real problem when someone is struggling with depression. Just getting up, having a shower, getting out of the house, can take a lot more effort than it did before.
Things don’t feel the same
Remember when you lost your sense of smell when you got a cold once? This is a good analogy for how you can lose your sense of enjoyment when you’re depressed. Activities that once brought you joy might feel meaningless.
It doesn’t always mean life stops
Sometimes it can be hard to see someone as depressed if they are still getting up, going to work or school, doing the activities they did before. But depression doesn’t always mean life stops. Sometimes this is because there are bills to pay. Sometimes continuing to do activities is what keeps someone going. And sometimes continuing with a routine and doing activities previously enjoyed is part of getting well. Depression affects how we think and feel about activities: physically, emotionally and mentally. These are internal factors that aren’t always visible. These might make people more likely to disengage. But not always.
The basics are off
There are certain things that are essential to survival. Sleep and food are two that are top of the list. Depression can have an effect on both of these. Some people find they sleep more, some less, sometimes appetite decreases, sometimes it increases. If you notice a significant change in your eating or sleeping habits over a period of weeks, coupled with low mood, it might be worth asking your doctor if depression is a possibility.
Sadness can look like anger
Depression is something we tend to associate with sadness, or low mood. But emotions are funny things, and sometimes they aren’t expressed in a typical way. Sometimes we will avoid expressing certain emotions because they feel scary or unacceptable. The way we see emotions is informed by our experiences, upbringing and culture. If sadness is an emotion that doesn’t feel ok to express, then it might be replaced with something else, often anger. This might look like irritability day to day. Of course this can work the other way too and sometimes anger is at the root of depression. But that’s a whole other post.
The internal bully
I think if we could see into the head of someone who is depressed we would see a bully constantly commentating on that person’s life. Imagine if someone followed you around everywhere you went over the course of your waking life, giving a negative verbal commentary to your efforts, putting you down, beating you up with words. It can make life very difficult.
Hope is hard
Hopelessness can be a very real part of depression. Visually, depression can feel like you’re in a pit with no way of getting out. The problem is that this lack of any way out feels so real and it completely squashes hope. Others can have a very different perspective and certainly at the start of recovery, family, friends, professionals might be the ones holding the hope. It’s ok to start with none. It will grow.
I hope this post has been useful in giving you a slightly different view of a well known mental illness. If you are struggling with these issues but have not been diagnosed, then consider visiting your doctor as a first step. And if you’re looking for a ladder to get out of that pit, then we can help at Imagine. Do get in touch or visit our website to learn more about what we do and to book a free consult.