Those who know me often describe me as being loud, opinionated and feisty. “Nothing seems to get you down” they say. “I admire the fact that you're such a strong woman who doesn't give a damn about what people think.”
If only they knew.
Sometimes I feel like such a fraud because that is no longer who I am – at least that is no longer how I feel at the moment. I have been depressed for a good few months now. Part of the reason is due to the fact that I have not been working for six months and I have been finding it difficult to get another job. On top of that my savings are running out so I am struggling financially.
The term, ‘depression’ is used so lightly in daily conversations. How often do you hear people exhale, “God I'm so depressed today” over something very trivial. Now, whenever someone is truly depressed, we very rarely take them seriously.
While it is normal to feel a bit low at times, depression is much more than that, and it is actually one of the most common illnesses in Britain today. According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in five people become depressed at some point in their lives. Sometimes there is an obvious reason why people become depressed – bereavement, end of relationship – sometimes not.
What does it feel like to be depressed?
Depression can range from mild, which does not stop you living your daily life – to severe, which makes daily activities almost impossible. There are certain traits that are common in those who suffer from depression. Not everybody that has depression will have the exact same symptoms, as it depends on how severe your illness is.
Those who suffer are told to seek help from their GP immediately. Yet I've still not chosen to do so and that is partially because I feel embarrassed to admit that I have this problem (pride has always been my downfall). Another reason is that I feel as though this is a temporary blip in my life, that it will go away by itself. Just the other day, I was walking down the street, music blaring in my ears, singing along, feeling elated and by nightfall the jubilation gave way to despair.
The days have turned into a blur. I wake up and have nothing to do – no job, no social life. So I stay in my room or in my bed for most of the day. I'm constantly tired and lethargic, finding it difficult to do anything. Some people seem to think I'm merely being lazy.
My confidence levels have dropped rapidly. I have developed severe acne on my face and my hair is falling out, so I feel ugly, useless and worthless pretty much all the time.
I usually pride myself on my writing – if there's one thing I stand by, it is my writing. But it has been a while since I've written anything (this article notwithstanding), because every word and sentence just drains my energy; it takes too much effort to write even the simplest of things.
I compare myself to my contemporaries and it makes me feel even worse. They are working, earning money, going on holiday and seem to have it all, while I am the complete opposite. It feels as though there is a ticking time-bomb, that I should have achieved my dreams and ambitions by now, or at least been halfway there. For that reason, I try to minimise any socialising because I seem to have nothing going on in my life. As a result, I've withdrawn into a shell somewhat. Some people have started to notice the change.
I do realise just how lucky I am compared to some people out there. I have a roof over my head and food on the table. But when you are depressed you lose sight of that. You forget to be grateful for what you have and wallow in your own despair.
A problem shared is a problem halved
Talking really does help. I have two friends in whom I confide, as they are really understanding and, most importantly, do not judge me. I dread to think what state I would be in without them. I have had trouble sleeping; my mind never seems to stop. So I ensure that I call one friend – we will talk for hours until I'm feeling much calmer, relaxed and too tired to think, resulting in a good night's sleep.
However, I have managed to come up with a way of coping. While reading a website on depression, a friend of mine came across a phrase, a 'critical inner voice', which, according to the PhD expert, is the negative voice inside you that brings you down.
“We need to ridicule this inner voice of yours” said my friend. “Ridicule it to the point where you don't listen to it.”
But how do you ridicule it? I thought of some names and settled on calling my 'critical inner voice' Pervez (I've always disliked that name). My inner voice is an Asian man named Pervez who hates strong women and stops at nothing until he brings them all down. This was perfect, as it appealed to the feminist in me.
So whenever that little voice inside says that I cannot do something, I actually shout “Shut up Pervez!” in my head – it really does works. Of course, I don't say it out loud, that would be a sign of madness, but then again it might guarantee an empty seat beside me on the bus.
I don't usually give advice, seeing as I'm so bad at taking it, but one thing I suggest to anyone suffering from depression is to talk to someone. Anyone. There's nothing worse than bottling it up – it does more harm than good. We all need help with that 'inner Pervez'.