The “D” word – Living with depression
It isn’t something people like to talk about. Admitting that you have depression is a sign of weakness and something we are taught not to talk about in public. When someone asks you “how are you?” we are programmed to respond with “fine thanks” even if we aren’t.
Why does depression have such a bad reputation? Why have we over the years learned to hide our feelings and instead try to cope on our own?
It could happen to anyone
When I was a teenager, there were many many times when I sat alone in my room at night. I listened to music and I wrote poems which probably weren’t any good and I cried. I had no idea why I felt the way I did. I had no understanding of the emotions going on inside of me. I definitely had no idea that depression was something that I was genetically predisposed to.
Without a choice, I was destined to experience feelings of depression at some point in my life. Of course there was no way of knowing when or if it would happen but not knowing also had its own consequences.
I would scream, shout and slam doors. Perhaps it was “normal” teenage behaviour, perhaps it was depression. I don’t know, I was never diagnosed but there should have been an option to see someone. Growing up in Swaziland has its disadvantages. One of them was having no access to a counsellor or therapist.
I grew out of my “phase” but I always had very emotional tendencies. My family has often described me as “highly strung” because I’m generally quite sensitive and passionate about the things I believe in. I think sometimes, when you feel like you’re handling way too much and everyone expects you to be strong, it can be easy to be seen as “highly strung”. Sometimes we hide how we truly feel out of shame and sometimes we are taught to keep it inside. We are praised for being strong to the extent that we forget that it’s okay to not be strong all the time. Maybe it’s okay to let go. Maybe it’s okay to get help.
Symptoms of depression may include
Depression has a number of telling symptoms, you may have some, you may have all. I’m not a doctor or therapist but some things to look out for might include;
- Not being able to sleep or sleeping way too long.
- Not being able to concentrate.
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and uselessness.
- Negative thoughts.
- Thoughts about suicide.
- Loss of appetite
- Lack of interest in things you previously enjoyed doing
- Negative thoughts and feelings about life not being worth living.
- Self hatred.
- Wondering about your purpose in life and feeling like you don’t contribute anything.
So you think you may have depression….What now?
There are a number of causes and triggers for depression. We don’t always realise we are depressed but it’s not something to be ashamed of. The sooner you admit that you are depressed, the sooner you can get help. Treatment may be as simple as offloading your troubles or it may require medication or regular treatment. It’s not something to be ashamed of. Beating depression is something to be proud of.
Get help! Go and see your GP and they can recommend someone to see either a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Or just look one up for yourself and go for one appointment. You don’t even need to tell anyone that you’re going to see someone. If you’re nervous about being judged then just treat it as a spa treatment for your mind, a once weekly/ monthly/ once off cleansing of the burden on your shoulders.
Who to contact if you’re in South Africa
- South African Depression and Anxiety Group
0800 21 22 23
- Lifeline – General Counselling services across South Africa
0861 322 322
You don’t have to do this alone!