Speak up about Depression

It was late one afternoon earlier this year that it suddenly hit me. Usually a positive (if cynical), interested (if wary) and humorous (if warpedly so) person, I was suddenly pessimistic, detached and unable to laugh at anything.

It was like being gripped by ‘flu, except not in any way physically ill; being placed into a tunnel of lethargy, except for no apparent reason; being afraid, except with nothing to fear. I found myself waking early yet determined to sleep at midday; frequently hungry yet unwilling to eat; instantly irked yet unable to remember ever before having noticed the things which irked me.

It is, of course, called Depression – that thing which only happens to other people, that thing which you have helped others cope with, that thing which no one as mentally stable as you would ever experience. Yet there it was – it had happened. In my case, from absolute depth to 80% functionality took about a week, with days on and off, but I remain hugely wary, and fundamentally still affected, now. For all that, reflecting on it, I regard it as almost a positive thing – a means of the mind telling me to get my priorities in order and stop engaging in things (and people) of no value.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I never once thought of self-harm or anything of that nature (mine was more a broad sense of “If I just went away, would anyone notice?”) and, of course, I have the best friends and family in the world – I sought instant help from them and received it. My GP was also a great support – and, contrary to common belief, did not (in my case at least) instantly reach for the “happy pills” but rather looked for programmes of support which have helped.

It’s Depression Awareness Week. So please, if this sounds familiar, now or in future, take some time off, tell friends, seek out assistance, and look for professional help if you feel it’s necessary. It is nothing to be ashamed of, or I wouldn’t have written the above. Indeed, officially it strikes 20% of us – and in truth, not least because of the instant empathy shown by others towards me, I suspect the figure is much, much higher than that.

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5 thoughts on “Speak up about Depression

  1. Thanks for sharing, Ian. I was just talking with a health professional about how delinquent we are in dealing with mental health. I hope this taboo is extinguished in my lifetime.

  2. IJP, a very prescient post and one that I wish people would do more often. This was a part that especially grabbed my attention:

    ‘ I never once thought of self-harm or anything of that nature (mine was more a broad sense of “If I just went away, would anyone notice?”) and, of course, I have the best friends in the world’

    I know how you feel in this respect. A contract I had undertaken had ran its course and there was little work on offer (probably none) back home and I was waiting for about 3 1/2 months before I emigrated to Australia. For me, it was the feeling of helplessness and failure that got to me and it has on many occasions, where you allow something to become a great weight and it may feel that if it does not come to pass you are a failure of some kind and ‘that’s it, it’s all over.’ This was all happening while my friends were ‘getting on’ with their lives and I would feel distinctly rudderless and left behind.

    I must admit, if it was not for my friends and family I would not be the man I am. I am not perfect in any shape, way or form but I am imbued with the knowledge that my burden to bear is not as great as others and whilst I am not a particularly religious man I am always mindful of the story of a man and ‘the Lord’ walking along the beach, the 2 sets of footprints and then when times are tough the one set and the man believes he has been abandoned when ‘the Lord’ tells him he actually carried him. There may or may not be a God or deity, I don’t know though I am an RC, but I do have a circle of friends and family who have done a lot of heavy lifting of me, for me and I shall forever be in their debt.

  3. Clare says:

    Thank you for sharing this Ian. It seems especially difficult for men to open up about this,
    Some feel it shows weakness, but there is still too much stigma.
    I had problems with panic attacks and depression starting about 12 years ago and was hospitalised at one stage in 2001. It reoccurs and the worst spell was Nov-Feb just past. I am presently receiving cognitive behaviour therapy.
    The cause of it confuses me as to whether it is chemical imbalances or childhood issues.
    When it strikes it is utter darkness and a feeling of no hope.
    Unless someone experiences it they generally do not understand.

    • I’m sorry to hear this, Clare.

      You are right, it all seems too irrational for people who haven’t experienced it to grasp.

      My first advice to anyone would be to tell those closest to you, immediately. It takes pressure off yourself but will also gain you great sources of support.

      And yes, that applies particularly to men. We need to talk more!

  4. Clare says:

    I was your age when I first experienced it Ian.
    Hope you feel better soon.

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