This week, Blue Tree Clinic’s intern and aspiring clinical psychologist Alexis Baker writes about important things to remember when struggling with depression.
Today, depression continues to be one of the most wide-spread mental health conditions. A recent NHS health survey showed that 24% of women and 13% of men in England are diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. Yet, those experiencing it can often feel misunderstood and isolated in their struggle to maintain functional lives, particularly as relationships with loved ones can be affected and a certain level of stigma around the illness remains. Often people can feel helpless and immersed in these feelings meaning it can be increasingly hard to continue being open-minded and positive about their recovery.
If you find yourself struggling with depression, or know a loved one who is experiencing it, here are some things to remember that may not immediately come to mind during difficult periods.
- You are not alone. As hinted at above, more people suffer from depression than you may think. It is easy to get caught up in a dark bubble and forget that what you are feeling is experienced by many others. A quick google search will show many charities and organisations offering support from peers who have lived experience of depression and can relate to what you are going through. There is also likely a peer support group for depression or mental health in your local area. Seeking out these means of support will help you to remember that so many people are also trying to cope alongside you.
- Recovery is a process. You may experience setbacks and frustrations along the way. This is completely normal and does not mean you are failing even if it feels like it. The important thing to remember is that, whilst recovery is not easy, many people are able to come to a point of managing their depression and can acknowledge the journey they have been through leading up to this. Try not to allow setbacks make you give up on your recovery and take one step at a time. Allow yourself to feel proud of each little achievement you make.
- People do care. They may appear overly careless by saying things like ‘just get over it’ or ‘well you don’t look depressed’. You may also fear that if you tell people about your illness they will want to avoid you. But remember, the way in which people respond to you is not a reflection on you. It can be incredibly hard for others to understand or accept the presence of mental illness in a loved one, particularly if they have never experienced it in their own lives, so it can be hard for people to relate or realise what they are doing can be hurtful. Try to be open with them about the way they make you feel and suggest how they could be more supportive in a way that suits you. However, never force yourself to engage with toxic people who are only interested in bringing you down. Improving your mental health is a top priority so try not to let negative people get in that way of it.
- Everyone is different. People experience depression in different ways. Not only are there many different symptoms of depression, but there are various forms of depression, people can have different levels of symptoms, and depression can be comorbid with other mental health issues such as anxiety or even physical health. This means that there is room for so many varieties of experiences amongst people with depression. If you are able to function in everyday life this does not make your depression any less valid that someone who is having greater difficulties. Likewise, having more severe symptoms than other people does not mean you are more ‘broken’ or ‘useless’. Comparing your mental health to others is not productive and there will always be people who are struggling more and less than you are.
- You are not weak. You are stronger than you think. As with mental illness in general, depression does not discriminate. It can affect anybody, even those who appear to have their life all together. Avoid thinking that depression was bound to happen to you because you are ‘weak’ or ‘destined for hopelessness’. You are much more able to overcome this than you may give yourself credit for, especially if you make good use of the support around you and trust in yourself to not give up.
Depression can be both scary to accept and challenging to overcome. The exhaustion of suffering from a mental illness can often make you feel like you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel and that giving up is the only answer. However, you must always focus on your/your loved one’s recovery journey and remember that things will get easier over time.
If you have concerns that you, or a loved one, may have symptoms of depression such as consistent lack of motivation, flattened emotions, poor sleep, appetite changes, or suicidal thoughts, it is important that you seek professional support. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other professional therapists are available here at the Blue Tree Clinic who can offer a wide variety of support using a warm and open-minded approach. Please do not hesitate to get in contact with us so that we can be a helping hand along your recovery journey.