#itsokaynottobeokay – Depression is a multi-faceted condition

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This week we are featuring a guest blog from one of our readers, Alan. He suffers from depression and wanted to give his own account of how he lives with the condition on a regular basis. We are most grateful to Alan for taking the time to write this article and hope that it will help both those suffering and those who are living alongside those who suffer. We want all sufferers to know that they are not alone and that there is someone around to offer support. Please show your support by commenting below.

My name is Alan, and I would describe myself as having high-functioning depression.  This means you might not know from my demeanour, which is generally of a normal (OK – normal-ish) friendly, outgoing (again on the face of it) sort of person, that I suffer with depression. I have done occasionally off and on all my life, and since November 2007 without much respite.

I have for a time felt that honest details are needed.  Every time I have posted one of those ‘Share and put Done in the comments page’ mental Health posts on Facebook, I have felt they haven’t really addressed anything. They are supportive, but still keep most people pretty much in the dark as to what depression means and feels like.

Caveat: There are many types of depression and mental health issues and of course I can only relate to my own.

Often described as a constant unremitting unhappiness or melancholy, that is true for me and I feel that I constantly have a heavy grey cloudy sky enveloping me, whatever the weather. It is true that good weather helps, sunshine helps, fewer layers of clothing help. Being outdoors more, surrounded by nature and birds singing also help. That does bring other issues though – an anxiety that I am not doing enough to make the most of it for example.

Life often feels like living in a bubble, the world going on around me, but without the energy to break through it, it seems everyone else is having a good time except me – inside my head anyway.

This leads to feelings of emotional fatigue, numbness, total abject apathy, lack of interest in anything, difficulty focussing, an inability to concentrate. Reading a book is impossible, reading anything is impossible and functioning at all is only barely possible. When depression bites these feelings can last days or weeks and get in the way of everything, which is so frustrating. They come without reason, and without notice, which is hard to deal with. It also makes me question who the real ‘me’ actually is, because when it passes none of those feelings exist and everything is possible.

That lack of emotion and feeling makes me hard to reach into sometimes.

Seeming to be OK doesn’t mean we are. Most of us are experts at painting on a smile. I can be the life and soul of the party, funny, open, interesting, creative and courageous. That is what most of you see, but when that smiling face turns away, the smile can drop VERY quickly.

However good a day, it does not mean that the next day carries on where it left off. Sometimes it might, and I do occasionally look forward to things, but generally every day starts at Ground Zero, and that is relentlessly tiring.

Often perfectionists, we strive to not let people down, saying  ‘Yes’ to things we maybe shouldn’t, then wishing we hadn’t. Sorry, if that sounds uncaring but that is the way of it. Don’t stop asking me, but I know I need to say ‘No’ more often, and I need people to say ‘That’s OK, I understand’.

Another stigma is that we are all potentially suicidal and need to be kept a close eye on. I know that generally I am not suicidal. The issue is not so much about being suicidal, but I sometimes just do not care about what happens to me. Honestly.

Did I say it is relentlessly tiring?

It is so tough on those around us.  I don’t want to spoil anyone’s day, or life, so when I am feeling bad it is easier to keep it to myself than inflict it on those I love. They find it tough enough to deal with and understand as it is. Out comes the painted smile.

OK - what about medication? I have always been open about my condition and do not mind people knowing I take anti-depressants. Medication can help, and at the start it did get me through the first few months, particularly when it was coupled with the extreme anxiety that I had. Since then they have pretty much been a constant. Anti-depressants do have side effects, and one of them is that it keeps me in that disconnected fog with blunted senses. Do they help? I cannot really say. The dose I take is relatively low, and I have learned to live with that.

  • If I stop taking them, the side effects might stop, the fog would lift and my head would clear.
  • If I increase the dose, equally it might help, depression might lift and the fog might clear, but the side effect of disconnected living will increase too.

So, damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Doctors, I feel, sometimes know little that can help, so when I tell them I am still feeling low, upping the dose is usually the only offered answer. I don’t want even more grey fog, and they cannot promise any different, so here I am.

What this article absolutely is not, is an attempt to get the world record for number of sad emoji’s on a post, or sympathy. I don’t want that. You may have read or been aware of these descriptions of depression, just never associated them with me, or one of your friends. I can tell you that you all will almost certainly know someone who feels like I do, or something similar. If you know this, talk to them and be there for them.

I have a whole bunch of lovely well meaning friends and family. It is great when people say ‘get in touch if I can do anything/be any help/you know where I am’, but please realise that when people with depression are in a bad place it takes so much energy for us to reach out, even if we wanted to. I shy away from contacting people when I am struggling because I don’t like inflicting my misery on others. So, instead of saying those words, please make it YOU that get’s in touch. I can tell you that an occasional message on social media or phone call/text that just says  ‘How are you?’ is so much appreciated.  It opens the box so that I can respond as I wish.

You can’t fix me, and none of the feelings described above are unique to me. Most of them will be the norm for another sufferer. Talking properly, without feeling judged, almost always helps and is recognised as the best help there is. If just one of you reading this recognises something in someone you know, and reaches out to him or her, I will have achieved my objective. #itsokaynottobeokay #itsokaytotalk

This week we have featured a guest blog from one of our readers, Alan. We hope that by reading it you will be better empowered to help those close to you, whether friends, loved ones or colleagues, because depression is  a multi-faceted condition.

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