It’s such a dirty word.
It feels taboo. When I think about depression and how to tell people I suffer from it, I often think of euphemisms to use instead, because I’m not comfortable with it. If you know me, you’ve probably heard me say things along the lines of: “I’ve been feeling really low lately;” “I’m not feeling myself lately;” “I’m just not having a good time, mentally/emotionally – if you know what I mean.” None of which accurately describe nor explain the absolute mindfuck that this illness is. None of which actually describe how bad I feel.
I also always use adverbs like ‘lately’ or ‘currently’ to show that that this isn’t me always (which it isn’t). But, I also do this because I don’t want people to think less of me – I’m ashamed. I don’t want people to think that I am weak, or weird. I don’t want to be judged.
I hate that I suffer from it. I have a Type A personality, and people like me are not supposed to suffer from things as abstract and difficult to explain as depression. People with Type A personalities are apparently most likely to suffer from coronary heart disease. A horrible, evil disease, yet one that people understand and can empathise with easily.
If you didn’t know I’m depressed, it’s because I didn’t know you well enough or feel secure enough in our relationship to tell you. When I have told friends – the reactions I’ve had are the most bizarre. When I was first diagnosed early last year, I told one friend over dinner that I was feeling very lost and sad; I’d pulled back from our friendship group and she’d obviously noticed. I wasn’t being the same Temi who’s outgoing and gregarious – always game to go dancing or for drinks.
After I told her, she soon stopped responding to my texts and invitations to hang out – yet she become closer friends with my housemate at the time.
Some of the people who I’ve felt strong enough to tell – those I felt closest to have been shit; not supportive in the slightest. I expected them to care more. I think about if the roles were reversed and how I’d react, and I know I’d be there for them. Some people who I don’t really know at all have been the most supportive.
This instance still sits with me even after more than a year because a) it really hurt, and b) that’s when I realised that people do not know how to respond to depression. Most people I tell I don’t think actually believe me. I often get, “but you’re so smart and successful and driven and pretty, why are you sad!? Stop being sad!!”
Cheers thanks, I hadn’t thought of trying that.
I’m quite good at hiding how I feel, so I guess this response is fair. Little do they know I ask myself that daily – there’s nothing wrong with me. Why am I depressed?
Having depression makes me feel weak, pathetic and confused. How did I get it? Why do I have it? There is nothing wrong with my life. I am privileged: an educated, hard-working and, career-wise, a successful young woman. I have a roof over my head, a stable income, and food in my fridge. How can I be depressed? Nothing has happened – no real traumas. The meme First World Problems has never felt more applicable in my life than now. And yet, as time went on from December 2013, I became more depressed, but I just got better at hiding it from others. I would feel so low, empty and so lonely, but I rarely spoke out. Only my family knew.
Feeling that bad about oneself means you seek ways to alleviate the pain – and lately, more than ever I turned to food. I would eat, then feel better (thanks to serotonin/ghrelin), then overeat because I didn’t want to feel shitty again. Then I would feel bad about overeating (I’m a qualified nutritionist. I know what normal eating is and isn’t. I also rarely touch junk food – but when I was feeling bad, I would go to town) and thus the cycle repeats itself.
You can’t out-exercise a bad diet, Temi.
This cycle of overeating made me gain weight, and I hated it. So that was something else to hate myself for.
I would hate that depression was making me succumb to this, and the anxiety that came with it. Things that gave me repreive and joy – going to the gym; exercising, felt too difficult a task to do. Getting out of bed has been hard. Leaving the house felt like an impossible feat. But hating that I have depression doesn’t help, it just adds another layer of disgust and hatred that the internal monologue playing on a loop in my mind can use against me.
The thing is – I’m smart. I know that the negative thought patterns I have make me susceptible to depression. I know I should go out and be social even when I really don’t feel like it. I know things like mindfulness and CBT help. The number of times I’ve spoken to counsellors on the phone but then decided not to go to a session sits at about four.
I’m smart, but I’m also stubborn. I don’t like asking for help. I shouldn’t need help – for me it signals a sign of weakness. It’s almost as though I’d rather suffer alone in silence than ask anyone for help. I don’t want to be a burden, and I don’t want people to treat me differently.
This is why I keep schtum about it; why I use euphemisms. I’m trying to minimise the impact depression is having on me, because I want to beat it on my own. If I don’t make it seem like a big deal, then it’s not a big deal and there’s nothing wrong with me.
I guess I don’t want depression to become who I am – I’m pretty sure the same Temi pre-depression is still in there somewhere. I’m not depressed 24/7/365. Some days I feel OK, or more than ok – I feel great! And then, I think: lol I’m not depressed!! Silly mind playing tricks on me. But, like a pool of water in the desert, this too is a mirage.
I know that not seeking help and keeping quiet is not helpful. It’s maladaptive and stupid. I know.
But I’m working on it.
You see, the thing about being stubborn is that giving up is pretty much not an option. There’s always an ounce of fight in you somewhere. The first stage for me was acceptance. Now it’s time to get better.