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We Might As Well Talk About Depression

I’ve spent so long thinking about what I want to say about depression that I feel like anything I say is going to be the wrong thing. I’ve spent hours drafting posts where I try to say things about depression that might help people who’ve never experienced it, understand it and people who have experienced it, feel less alone. But I’ve realised that all I can really do is share my own experience. That’s all I’m qualified to do. Although based on the hours of therapy I’ve endured I would call myself at least an “Amateur Mental Health Expert”.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt like writing about depression on this blog might make me seem, I don’t know, unstable. Which is incredibly sad I suppose, being scared to talk about something that you literally have no control over. But my experience with depression has been that once people know you suffer from it, they kind of look at you differently.

Like, you’re crazy, or possibly you’re going to cry at them at any given moment. And they often use this as a weapon against you. Actually, that is the exact reason why I’ve always felt like writing about depression on this blog might make me seem unstable. Also, I am unstable.

But anyway, I think the time is right. I think we need to speak more about depression. I think that the reason people have such a tough time understanding it is that we don’t talk about it enough. We shy away from it. This often ends up with no one looking to find solutions to help people end the depression they are suffering from. For example, there many people with depression out there that have no idea that CBD-rich cannabis strains have been known to aid depression and anxiety.

People tend to treat depression like an insult. Like asking someone if they are depressed is like asking them if they have a body odour problem. Like saying “tell me more about depression?” is the same as saying “tell me more about that embarrassing and awful broken little brain of yours?”

I’m fine to talk about it in real life, and I often speak to my friends about it. But we all know that the online world is supposed to serve as a highlights reel of your life, right? Who wants to read about the times where you literally cannot fathom leaving your bed for 3 days?

Well, I do. I would love to read more about people who have depression and how they deal with their depression. I’ve read that there are some people who suffer from depression who have tried everything to help with their depression, for example, therapy, exercise, supplement pills from somewhere like Zach Attack Supplements and I have even heard from a friend that they used medical marijuana online to manage their issues. I would like to read about what other people are feeling and have felt. Because as anyone who has even been through a period of depression can tell you, it feels like the loneliest thing a human can have to go through.
I was first diagnosed with depression when I was about 13 years old. At the time, I’d just started high school at an all-girls boarding school and I was desperately unhappy. So unhappy that a doctor gave me some light anti-depressants just to get me back to a normal state. Because I just couldn’t get there by myself. Even once I had left the school where I was so unhappy, I couldn’t get back to the way I thought normal was supposed to feel. I was at the bottom of this black hole full of unhappiness and I was drowning trying to claw my way out.

Over the next 10 years, I tried about six different medications, on-and-off. The unfortunate thing about anti-depressants is that they are kind of trial and error and the results can be a bit hit and miss. What works for one person might not work for the other. You just have to keep trying till one day you feel like maybe your chest feels a bit lighter and today might be a good day to wash your hair.

So I tried different ones. Ones that made me feel like I was someone else. Ones that seemed to not do anything at all. Ones that made me pick up loads of weight and one that made me code red bat-shit psycho. There was one that actually had me end up in hospital. Which is where I spent quite a bit of time with a doctor who has been treating my dad for depression. Which can be hereditary by the way, did you know that?

It was a tough time. And it took me a long time to finally find the right mediation and more importantly, understand depression. Like, why do I have it? And what exactly is it that I’m feeling? And especially, how am I supposed to explain this to anyone? I think that’s where the loneliness comes in. How do you explain to someone that you feel so lonely your body feels empty, but you also don’t want to see anyone?

I woke up really early this morning and stumbled across this post of Buzzfeed. It’s funny because it’s so true. I feel like I’m finally ready to try to explain how depression feels. I feel like I’ve been thinking about it long enough and I’m going to try to verbalise it.

This is what depression feels like to me.

– No matter what you are doing or who you are with, no matter how amazing or beautiful everything around you is, nothing, nothing makes you feel anything. Like, you can see it and appreciate it, but you never feel excited. You never even feel nervous or anything else. You just feel like you wish you were sleeping. All the time.

– Sometimes, you are with your best, best friends in the world, and you feel like you can’t join in the conversation because your head is in a cloud and you can’t really hear or understand what everyone is talking about. I actually imagine it like a grey cloud around my head. It makes it difficult to see and hear and you feel so disoriented a lot of the time. You can’t really remember things. Like conversations or what that important thing was that your friend was worried about. There are large portions of time where I look back on my life and I know I was doing stuff but I can’t remember what. I look back and feel like I was in robot mode.

– If someone said to you “do you want to sleep for the next 6 years or carry on trying to live your life?” you would go for the sleep option. There is never enough sleep. There’s isn’t enough sleep in the world or even the galaxy. And everything else on earth feels so overwhelming that you have no idea how humans have been tasked with something as impossibly difficult as being alive. The only thing worse than this is when you can’t sleep.

-It’s hard being in robot mode. But it’s all there is to do. So you try really hard to be normal and happy and funny. People probably get along with you easily and like you when they first meet you. But after a while you need to take a break from acting normal. So people tend to often come in and out of your life quickly because they don’t understand why you are so weird. This is the whole “unstable” thing.

– It feels like everything you do or say or experience is only ever on the outside of you. Everything in the whole world only ever happens on your skin.

– Washing your hair, opening your email box, eating…these things seem like they are some of the most difficult things in the world to do. And they are. When you are in the dark place of depression, it feels like your body is melting and you can’t keep it together. Imagine trying to wash your hair if your body was melting?

– Sometimes depression makes you really scared. Like, so scared that you can’t even answer a phonecall. Everything makes you scared. Especially people. And the dark. And nighttime. And also everything else.

– Depression makes you feel so lonely. It feels like you are the only person in the history of mankind who is broken in this invisible way. Everyone around you seems to experience such genuine feelings like joy and excitement and the only emotion you ever, ever feel, is this deep, deep sadness in your bones.

– It’s really exhausting. I think that a lot of the exhaustion comes from trying so hard to seem ok the whole time. People only want to hear “I’m having a really tough time” maybe once or twice. For the post part, they want to hear that you are doing great. And they want to see you feel things. People want to see you happy and trying. They want happy things for you. Actually, this is definitely where the exhaustion comes from. Man, being alive is tiring.

– The last thing I have to say about this is that being depressed means not being in control. Your brain just does not have the capacity to allow you to “pull yourself together”. When you have depression, you don’t have the chemicals in your brain get happy. Which makes you feel even more depressed.

My friends and family are very supportive and I think they’ve all educated themselves, to some degree. But there are a lot of things that people say to depressed people that are both hurtful and unrealistic.

Here are a few things that you might think are helpful, but will probably make someone who is depressed feel more isolated.

“Come, just get up and have a shower and then you will feel better.” – I literally will not feel better because showers don’t sprinkle drops of endorphins on your brain. But I’ll shower anyway. Because I know you feel helpless and I want to show you that I am ok even if I’m not at all.

“I think that you let yourself get depressed. You just need to keep busy.” – In a sense, this is true. Keeping busy does give you a reason to wash your hair and leave the house and it does distract you from lying on your back for 28 hours straight, but that doesn’t mean you’re not depressed. It just means you are going through life counting the hours till you can sleep again or maybe be alone. (Which of course, you will hate)

“I think people use depression as an excuse. You’re not depressed, you just want an easy way out of things.” – I’m sure this is true sometimes. People probably do use depression as an excuse. But to be honest, I wouldn’t risk it. People are already so judgemental of depression that using it as an excuse to get out of something is just going to get you labelled as even more “crazy” or “unstable”. It’s hard enough admitting to depression as it is, I’d rather use temporary blindness as an excuse than give people more reason to judge my mental state.

“Can you have kids? What if you get postpartum deprssion? Will you give your kids depression?” – I don’t know. What if that does happen? I suppose I’ll just have to deal with in the same way I’ve been dealing with the last 25 years of life; one day at a time. (I actually had a serious boyfriend tell me that he didn’t think he could risk having kids with me because of my depression. I want to say something funny or sarcastic about this, but it was actually too hurtful)

“But you have so much going for you, what do you have to be depressed about?” – Frustrating right? Can someone tell my stupid brain?!

“What can I do to make you feel better?” – This is probably the most difficult of them all. It warms my cold little dead heart and it means a lot when people want to help. But it makes me fee so guilty. I hate seeing you wringing your hands as I lay there trying to act normal and happy while I’m drowning in this fucking cloud. I want to make you happy and feel like I am going to be ok and that stresses me out so much. This is probably one of the reasons people going through depression often want to be alone. It’s easiest.

That’s kind of all I have to say right now. I hope that maybe, if you do have depression, this post made you nod your head and feel at least some of the feels. And I hope that if you’re one of the lucky people with all the chemicals you need to be naturally able to deal with life floating around in your mind, this post has helped you understand a little. It’s actually helped me to come to a few realisations about my own depression.

This post is deeply personal and comes straight from my own experience. About two years ago I basically couldn’t hold it together anymore and I started taking a drug called Wellbutrin. It has literally changed my life. Of course, I still feel everything I’ve mentioned in this post, but not all at the same time anymore. And at varying levels of intensity; just below the surface, always there, but thankfully seldom engulfing.

And now, when things happen, normal things that most people can deal with but would have sent me into a black hole for days, I can kind of deal with them. My brain kicks in and starts making those things I need to survive every day when I take my little pill.

Don’t be scared to take medication. It might be a tough little roller coaster ride but it’s worth it. And don’t be scared to talk about depression. We need to desensitise people. Otherwise they’re just going to keep on thinking that we’re all unlovable, unreliable and unstable. It will also help you to get to grips with it yourself if you are struggling. When you teach you learn.

So anyway I think the key takeout from this post is that washing your hair is really tough.

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16 comments

  1. Thank you for this post, it makes it easier when you know that others feel the same way.

  2. Great read! I suffered from post partum depression since coming back to work after maternity leave in Jan of this year. It was tough, since every one around me was elated that there’s this adorable bundle of joy, but me as the mother couldn’t hold it together. Only once I acknowledged it for what it was, did it get better. I was put on a very mild anti-depressant, and the very first time i took it, it knocked me out, and that night, I did not hear my own baby cry – needless to say, I never took them again, but I make the conscious decision to ask for a break, or asked to be left alone when it’s needed. I have to say though, my case was mild, and it very recently (3 months ago) stopped. Mine was definitely related to the traumatic birth experience, and the shock that is sleep deprivation. Time has healed, and I don’t intend on going back there!

  3. Super brave Natalie.

    I dated a guy that suffered from depression and it was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to come to terms with, mainly because I was so uneducated on the topic. In fact only years after we broke up and I read Stephen Fry’s piece on depression did I finally comprehend it. I think that you’re right, the more that people share about it and talk about it the easier to understand it will be.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is thanks for sharing, I know it’s going to touch a lot of hearts. And, *hug* X

  4. You are so brave for writing this. I wrote a similar post and my mom made me delete it and said “I don’t want the boys to see this one day because then they’ll use it as an excuse to be depressed”. I love this and every word is exactly right. I’m on Lorien, and it’s fantastic for me – but you’re right in saying it doesn’t take it away completely. My dad had depression & committed suicide when I was about 2. He was incredibly intelligent, a chartered accountant – beautiful wife, 3 healthy kids and he just couldn’t deal anymore. People don’t realize how debilitating it is, and that it is COMPLETELY not your fault. I had PND twice – and got treatment early and worked through it. NEVER considered hurting my children at all – the hormones just make your normal sadness a bit deeper, but you still love with your whole entire heart and kids really make it better for me because their happiness is just so effing contagious.

    It’s very unusual for depressed people (like you and I) to be as successful as we are in our careers and great friendships – so there’s that. I really love this – so much. Really. Well done for being so brave and awesome all the time xx

  5. Love you so much! I would give you ALL my endorphins if I could figure out how. You are an amazing young woman…brave and tough and just loaded with so many talents! My heart breaks for you, knowing that you can’t fully appreciate just how blessed you are. Keep on keeping on Princess Consuela.

  6. Oh I love that statement Bailey –
    “In vulnerability there is actually amazing strength!”

  7. Absolutely LOVED this! So much! I was diagnosed with depression at age 12. I wasn’t ever “depressed” – who is at that age? I was irritable, short tempered, and binge eating for comfort. I have been on meds 90% of the time since then, and now realise and accept I always will be. The times I tried to come off them (with Dr’s support etc”)just turned me into a bitch, to put it simply. I have NO patience, no level of tolerance for anything or anyone (including myself) and just become a rather rubbish person to be around.

    I take my meds every day with a smile, knowing that they allow me to be true to myself. They don’t make me happy, they don’t solve my problems, they don’t make me “high” – but they do take the “edge off” and allow me to focus on what really matters to me.

    Bravo and huge respect to you for posting this, and thank you!!!

  8. Hi Natalie

    Congratulations for saying this out loud – as you are so well known, it is amazingly brave. I hide my depression from a lot of people, only close people know and also mostly I try put on a brave face for them.

    I think there are so many people who are depressed but they don’t talk about it. I don’t know if this will make it easier for any of us who deal with depression, but it is something to consider – maybe everyone who seems like they are dealing with life really well are actually also suffering quietly.

    Everything you described I have felt. It is heart breaking when people try help you or tell you to try and gave a good time and shower and wash your hair!! I get this totally. And washing hair is a major pain anyhow!! 🙂

    You are such a cool chick. Keep being cool, your life will be awesone.

    xx

  9. Thank you so much for writing this post, Natalie.

    I was diagnosed with clinical depression about a year ago (I’m 21)and was put on Cilift/Cipramil. I was experiencing all of the things you mentioned in your post. I also discovered that I had inherited the depression from my Dad. I found that Cilift didn’t make me feel any better, and so I was introduced to Wellbutrin.

    Just this morning I had one of those episodes where getting up, dressing and showering feels like the most exhausting task in the world, and the thought of sleeping the whole day away seems so much more enticing, like I would choose that over spending the day outside with friends. And this is not a “mental health day” because truly, I feel like this almost all the time, and I know no one can tell me that wanting to spend the whole day sleeping is healthy. I know exactly how you feel and it is not something I could wish on my worst enemy.

    The depression also caused me to become resentful to people I don’t even know. I felt this cold envy come over me whenever I saw people going about their business and looking happy.

    I have been on Cilift and Welbutrin for a few months now, and the combination of them worked a lot better, but I have recently decided to go off them. I feel like I have my shit together a lot more now, and would like to at least *try* to live normally and not have to depend on a pill to keep me sane…

    I think writing personal experience posts like this is a great way to get the word out and educate people about this sickness. I don’t think it is taken seriously at all, and I want to throttle people who say “Ugh, I’m like, so depressed right now” in everyday conversation. It is not a term to be used so freely.

    It is blog posts like this that make you stand out from all the other Cape Town bloggers out there. I crave stories I can relate to, and this really did get me nodding and mentally ticking all the “symptom boxes.”

    Thank you so much. May the force be with you.

    Emma

  10. Thank you for your bravo and honest post.

    Yes people treat you as broken you’re in a mood or stuck in a funk.

    Glad I saw this post shared by someone via FB. I been in a very dark place for the last few weeks. I’ve been struggling to see any hope. Struggling to find a reason to move, look forward, do anything. Man it sucks feeling stuck, like there isn’t any reason to get out of bed, any reason to live. It’s even harder to look at people who seem happy and progressing in life pass you by while you’re stuck in the mud, stagnant. Just coasting, weeks, months and years passing by while I’m self absorbed, stuck in a rut.

    I know life is not all roses and unicorns, he’ll I grew up in a family that struggled, seeing people of all walks of life struggling, many of which still struggle even today. I’ve been fortunate that even being the laziest bastard I know, I’ve seen some of the world, done some cool things, met some incredible people. All that seems just irrelevant many days. Like it’s wasted on me.

    Here’s hoping that we all wake up each day feeling better and more optimistic than yesterday. It’s a struggle most days, God, don’t I know it.

    P

  11. Such a beautifully raw, honest and real post. It is so difficult for those who have never suffered from depression to understand how powerful and debilitating depression is. It isn’t having a blue day or feeling sorry for yourself. It is based on the chemicals in ones body and while anti-depressants certainly work for many I have found 5-htp to be my savior. It is an SRI as opposed to an SSRI meaning it have any of the nasty side effects SSRI’s may cause. 5phtp increases the seratonin levels and has helped more then I can ever put into words. It cannot be taken in conjunction with SSRI’s though but is certainly something you could perhaps look into if the Wellbutrin ever makes you feel crappy.

    You are an incredibly strong woman for putting yourself so out there.

    x

  12. I really enjoyed reading this, it has made so many things clearer for me. If you haven’t see it, this is a great read about depression http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

  13. I really enjoyed reading this, it has made so many things clearer for me. If you haven’t see it, this is a great read about depression http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2013/05/depression-part-two.html

  14. This was so beautiful, and brave, and – just – thank you.

  15. thank you.

  16. Loved reading this. I have thought a lot about depression lately.

    Depression: the highly misunderstood disease. The main reason probably being that so many people do not recognise it as just that – a disease. Personally, who knows how things would have turned out in my life if my dad hadn’t grown up in the era of “Afrikaner men do not see head doctors’… Anyhoo…now I’m rambling in your comments.

    Thanks for sharing from a fellow depression sufferer.