I can feel it coming. It feels like a wave of numbness that starts in my gut and spreads from there. It is a strange feeling of detachment and separation from the world around me, an acute sense of wanting to isolate. It eliminates any interest I have in anything around me. It makes me just want to disappear and withdraw. I don’t care what happens to me and I feel completely lost. This is what depression felt like for me.
Since I first recognized and sought help for this massively under-rated illness (I did not know it was depression at the time), I’ve been to support groups, I’ve been to counseling and have been down the medication road. I am in a much better place now than I was when I was ready to let it all go. I was ready to walk away from everything and go to god knows where. I was experiencing a super heightened level of compounded anxiety, chronic stress, a crisis of self-esteem and burn out to the point where I was broken, physically and mentally. Taking the first steps to determine what was happening to me were so hard but so crucial.
Today, thankfully I feel like the worst of this illness is behind me and that I have better tools and techniques to help me deal with things. Whenever I can feel myself getting out of whack, I try to take some small steps and do some things that I have learnt are helpful for combatting depression and anxiety and that would promote an increase in serotonin levels – I meditate, I run and I rest but possibly the most helpful thing I’ve found of all is to talk to people. Ironically, this often feels like the hardest thing to do at the time.
I didn’t talk about how I was feeling exactly but I just talked about work issues with work people, home issues with my family and friends – I just talked and engaged with people and through this one step, I felt less isolated and my issues seemed less overwhelming afterward.
The hardest thing to do is often the right thing to do. Talk to people. Engage with the world, especially when this is the last thing you want to do.
Running and general exercise also really helps. Post run I literally feel like a different person, much stronger and more capable of taking action and less willing to dwell on the negative.
During this journey, I have learned a lot about this illness and just how delicate our minds can be if they are not cared for and minded properly. I have seen first hand the devastating effects that chronic prolonged unmanaged stress can have if left unchecked.
One of the best things that I have learned is that depression is not forever. It is possible to build mind muscle, to learn techniques to help you deal with your stress and become more aware of it. Accept the fact that you will never eliminate stress but you can ensure that your daily habits make you stronger and more resilient to help you deal with it better when you do experience it.
A message to any men reading this – don’t let work or life stresses go unchecked – recognize the tension in your body and find ways to release it – run, meditate, go outside in nature, talk to people (about anything) or write about it. It all helps.
A message to any women out there – Mind your men.
Yours in health and happiness,