Every person is unique and how they experience depression differs from person to person. Depression doesn’t look one way on the outside. Some people force a smile and go about their day. Others withdraw and stay away from friends and family as much as possible. For some, they can hold it together in work only to fall apart at home. In fact for most people, you would never know the battle they are fighting in their heads. They become masters at hiding the pain.
Why do you feel depressed?
Clients looking for reasons for depression often tell me that they do not understand why they are depressed. They have everything they need for a happy life – enough money, a loving family, a comfortable home, a good career. But depression isn’t about what you have – it’s about how you feel, and think. The likes of stress or demands at work may contribute towards depression, as can toxic relationships, and not living your values.
On the outside you look like you are coping, it’s a very well practiced façade. Hitting targets, maintaining work relationships, complying, getting on with life conscientiously, supporting and helping others. But if anyone dares to look and listen harder the cracks are visible. An increase in complaining, keeping very busy, short on patience, acting quiet or withdrawn. There may be an increase in alcohol use or family issues, lacking or spiking in energy, looking tired. Others may be testing the water to see how others react and respond to questions, (e.g. ‘how do you cope with not sleeping?’), or talking about your failures and mistakes more – subtle things that contradict the mask you wear.
While it seems you are coping on the outside, on the inside you feel like you are drowning. Negative thoughts and self talk dampen any positivity, and you feel desperate to hold the internal pressures together. But as they exceed their limit, the dis-empowering impact gets harder to hide. The external pressures often give you focus and can allow you to maintain the ‘got it together’ look for the people you work and live with. However, as the inside pressures subtly leak out, the external pressures become too much and you find yourself coping less. Showing more and more signs of your inner struggles, you become more desperate to hide them.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Some of my clients have described symptoms of their depression as:
- Feeling numb or feeling sad for a prolonged amount of time
- Feeling like there is no way out
- Difficulty socialising or communicating
- Feeling a sense of doom or blackness around you
- Unable to enjoy life or things you previously enjoyed
- Lacking motivation or passion
- A loss of interest in family, life, relationships, work, hobbies, etc
- Not looking after yourself
- Not wanting to leave the house or bed
- Feeling exhausted / drained all the time
- Mindless living, working on automatic pilot
- Feeling like you are drowning
- Trying to find ways to distract yourself from the emptiness inside
- Feeling lonely even if surrounded by people
- Lacking energy
- Clouded by negativity, self punishing thoughts,
- sense of worthlessness and or hopelessness
- eating too much, not eating or controlling eating.
- Feeling fearful
The exhaustion is overwhelming, the battle to keep going offers no reprieve, praise doesn’t feel good, the successes have no pleasure, you feel like a failure and like you are letting everyone down no matter how many people tell you how well you are doing. You feel like a fake crawling through life and you don’t belong in that world of work or home. The disempowerment of depression feels worse because you know that, although you do not want to be doing it, you are the one cutting yourself down, you are the one who can’t control the thoughts, you are the one who is struggling and not saying anything. The contradiction doesn’t escape you either. It’s a frantic fight to hide it all away and pretend it’s not happening, versus the desperate need for someone, anyone, to find out how you feel and take it all away.
The fear felt in a bout of depression is irrational. It has you believing a variety of things that are not true. You learn to discard the truths and evidence that contradict the fear and depression. You don’t ask for help because you physically can’t bring yourself to be vulnerable in front of anyone. It doesn’t mean you don’t trust other people, it means you are already hurting. With no idea what a rejection will mean to you, you’re not willing to take the risk. Instead you’re waiting for when someone finds out, no matter how long it takes. Feeling like a failure is a daily occurrence. But the very thought of someone else seeing you as a failure has you pulling up your bootstraps, fixing your mask and hiding it all the more. Hiding the symptoms, running away from or keeping it all safe inside becomes a full time job as it threatens to overwhelm you, the struggle gets harder. There are days where it seems better and you think you are on the mend and don’t need help and then it overwhelms you again.
Finding help for Depression
You may need some help – to gain new knowledge, to learn new skills and access the right support. You may have decided that it’s time to make a change to the way you are feeling. You start exploring ways to help yourself, you practice and try but nothing changes. You try opening dialogue with friends and family but you are not confident in their reactions and responses. You go see the doctor for the physical aches and pains, but lose your voice as you try and ask for help. The truth you have come to believe is not necessarily reality, you have come to believe certain ‘truths’ and have stopped challenging what you believe to be reality – but is it? But only you have the ability to change your situation. If you are in need of support, check out the crisis support lines featured on my website.
My biggest fear when living with depression was not ever living a life free from it. I hated the constant despair and disappointment. When I look back to the years before my depression, I realise now that I had built a rocky foundation of low self esteem. I practiced self punishing thoughts, I self sabotaged, I lacked a sense of who I was.
I can reassure you that from my own experiences, there is help out there. In order to win any battle, we teach the warring parties to understand their enemies, the situation, their own strengths and weaknesses. If we learn these things about ourselves, life and how to handle the things that may come up, we have a better chance at resilience and success. We could even reduce future bouts of depression. Conventional routes aren’t the only services available out there. Consider talking therapies, counselling, psychotherapists, coaching, or complementary therapies such as homeopathy, reflexology that can help.
My ethos is – find the thing that works for you, and do it until it doesn’t work any more… then find the next thing. Its important to find the right service for you, and there is no need to continue to struggle alone.
If you are ready to make a change to your thinking patterns, and how these negatively affect your behaviors – please get in touch. My Emotional Empowerment Coaching addresses the low self esteem and confidence felt as a result of poor mental health, and can support your self developemnt to create a life you are proud to live. EmotionMind Dynamic is a coaching programme I designed specifically to address and disrupt these patterns, and can be offered both online or in person. find out more at https://www.hayleytwheeler.co.uk/emotionmind-dynamic-programme/