5 Things I’ve Learned About DepressionWritten by The Young Women's Movement
This week, 18 – 24 April, marks Depression Awareness Week in the UK.
If I’m honest, I think most people are already somewhat aware of depression. It’s not like endometriosis or dermatilliomania, long medical names with lots of letters that I’m not even sure I could pronounce properly.
Depression. It’s easy enough to pronounce as words go, and it’s thrown around all the time. Not so difficult to understand, right?
That’s why events like DAW are so incredibly crucial. Because so many people think they know what that means, and so few of them do. I’ve been managing severe clinical depression for 3 years, and I still don’t fully know what it means. But I think it’s given me a little bit of insight.
So, on the off chance that they might prove useful, or help you/a friend/a family member, here are 5 things that I have learned about depression as someone who lives with it.
1) It can be seriously debilitating.
In March of 2012 I successfully defended my PhD thesis. A year later my standard of success was officially being measured by how many times I showered and/or got dressed in a week (more than twice and I got the verbal equivalent of a gold star sticker from my CBT counselor).
If you had told me in March 2012 what March 2013 would be like for me, I would have assumed that I was due to suffer some sort of traumatic brain injury.
The up side: I have set new standards for success that lie somewhere between ‘achieved basic daily hygiene’ and ‘worked for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week’.
The take home: Don’t underestimate how physically as well as mentally disruptive depression can be. For yourself or for anyone else.
2) It is sneaky af.
So apparently depression is a deceptive, manipulative, evil mastermind. Winston Churchill described his depression as a black dog, but I don’t know if a dog is capable of this kind of deviousness (that’s actually a lie – I had a hilariously crafty childhood dog). If a person did to you what depression does, they’d be labelled a sociopath.
The trickery and self-doubt lead you on a strange logical detour until one day you find yourself genuinely trying to convince a medical professional that it is totally normal to want to stop existing. Ponder that for a second.
The up side: If you overlooked your own depression or didn’t see someone else’s, you can toss all of that guilt and blame you might want to heap on yourself right now.
The take home: Depression is the Carmen Sandiego of the brain.
3) It’s unpredictable.
Depression takes on so many different shapes, comes in different sizes, and can trick you into thinking that it’s something it isn’t. You can think you are losing hold of your grip on reality; I worried that if I spoke to my GP I would be sectioned. It doesn’t help that depression and anxiety are the inseparable Kimye of the mental illness world, which makes figuring out what’s going on twice as confusing.
The up side: Understanding my own bizarre symptoms of depression has given me a better understanding of how differently everyone experiences mental illness.
The take home: Listen when someone tells you about their depression; don’t make assumptions.
4) It’s still stigmatised.
It doesn’t seem to matter how many brilliant campaigns there are, or how many laws are put into place, or how many incredibly astute illustrations are produced, the stigma around depression is still an issue, as with any mental illness. This was no surprise to me (sadly). What is a surprise is how much I still stigmatise it, even for myself. Especially for myself.
Whenever I have to confront my own depression, I transform into the most ignorant, judgmental caricature. I will think and say things about my own mental illness that would throw me into an incoherent rage if I heard them said about anyone else.
The up side: My fight to end the stigma surrounding mental illness is also an act of self care.
The take home: Be as considerate as you’d hope someone would be towards you, and be as kind to yourself as you would be to someone else.
5) It doesn’t go away.
It’s shockingly difficult to accept this one. But it’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned. It doesn’t go away, and that doesn’t have to stop you living your life or doing your thing. That’s the up side.
The take home? You’re not alone. You’re okay. And if you’re not okay, that’s okay too.
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Ally Crockford is a digital media officer at YWCA Scotland – The Young Women’s Movement. She is a PhD graduate in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh, and was Scotland’s first Wikimedian in Residence, based at the National Library of Scotland. She is a die-hard intersectional feminist with an interest in Victorian literature, medical humanities, and human bodies. Cheese lover, book lover, and Netflix addict, Ally also has an irrational fear of zombies. Tweet her @AProckford.