I've put this together to try and explain how depression works, and sometimes doesn't with work. I've also tagged on trying to explain depression to someone who doesn't have it. I also touch on how suicide relates to a lot of the symptoms.
Work. One of the definitions from the Oxford Dictionary is "A task or tasks to be undertaken"
Much like every day life is like inside my head, as well as outside.
For a lot of reasons, people are unable to work, due to either a physical or mental illness. I know that I am fortunate to be able to continue with my work, and despite my management occasionally being difficult, they have been incredibly helpful and supportive overall.
You see, for a lot of illnesses work is simply not possible but oddly enough, my depression is actually made worse when I don't work
Let me explain why work is a good thing. It does a number of things, and these are;
- It gives me a reason to get out of bed in the morning,
- It gives me a reason to have a shower every morning,
- It forces me to eat semi regularly,
- It provides structure and reason to my day,
- It gives me something to concentrate on,
But the worst thing for me recently, has been the feeling of complete and utter isolation.
You see, I have always been a social animal. I have been described on numerous occasions as "The one who's always there", "The one who's always smiling", "The life of the party".
If only they knew how dead I feel inside every single waking hour. Sleep used to be my escape, however recently it has contained nightmares that I can't even begin to describe without wanting to shut down. I am permanently tired, always exhausted.
It may come as a surprise, that I do have good days. I have days when I don't have darkness and dread following me around. I am able to feel happy, sad, excited, angry and everything in-between.
It will come as no surprise, that given my team consists of only two other people, they have noticed. They noticed my lack of appetite. They noticed I no longer got coffee which "I always loved". They noticed that I keep loosing concentration and was off on a different planet multiple times in the day.
I honestly can't fault them. I have spoken to them both about how I feel which was scary, but worth it in the end. For the mornings that I simply can't face the world they are there to help me. They are there to cover for me while i get 20 minutes sleep in an unused room at work when I didn't sleep for the entire night.
I am fortunate that I have a team who I can rely on for the bad days, and share the good days with. I understand that there are many people out there who don't have that support. You have my sympathies.
Trying to describe how depression feels to the uninitiated is a minefield, but I'll try and get it across, with some pointers.
Depression has teeth, and they are very big ones. If you let it sink them into you, it's not letting go for a long time.
Further to that - Depression is not my choice. I wouldn't wish it on my arch enemy. Please don't ever say "It's just a phase" "you can be happy". When you say this to someone who has depression, it implies that we have a choice. It implies that we made a concious decision to be the way we are. It is incredibly demeaning for us. It WILL result in us pushing you away.
If we trust you with our broken mind and heart, we are very aware that it can be a lot to deal with. It's likely that we have spent a lot of time studying you, and working out if it is safe to speak to you. If we do divulge this to you please, please, never leave our side. I can't begin to describe how much damage this can do.
Please know that if we have a "breakdown" then rational reasoning is unlikely to help. Please just be there, often that is enough to know we are not alone.
I can't begin to explain the isolation and emptiness that we can feel. I know I have over ten people that i know i could talk to, but i don't feel like I can. It's not your fault, or anyone else's. Depression has this way of convincing us that no-one cares and no-one want's to speak to us. It's why we won't speak to you for weeks on end, and not reply to your messages.
Some of the many things depression will make us do, is be irritable with you. I'm not in any way using this as an excuse for being a dick. There will be days where we simply don't have the energy to talk to people. It sounds stupid right ? Well ,it probably is. But we literally don't have the motivation to open an unread text.
Sometimes we honestly don't feel like we're worth your time.
Please reach out to someone who has depression. I understand it can be confusing when you get no reply, or a short sharp text in response. Often we care too much about others, and it leaves us no room to care for ourselves. Please don't stop asking us out for the "weekly pint" that we haven't gone to for months. Please ask us out to the monthly clothes shop we always went with you on.
Suicide is real. It is everywhere. Many people you know will have contemplated it in some shape or form. That includes someone who has "everything". When someone isolates themselves from the world, it can become one of the only things we can think of doing. Often we don't want to die, we just can't stand the thought of "existing" in this way for any longer.
One thing you'll learn very rapidly if you get to know someone who has depression, is that material possessions can mean absolutely nothing to us some days. I, for example, have a steady and safe job earning more than anyone I went to school with, I have a car, I have a mortgage. I should be happy right ? Some days, all of this means absolutely nothing to me.
Please don't give up on us. Often the only thing that keeps us going is the knowledge that someone, somewhere "might" miss us. If you make it a "will miss" it'll give us a lot more to fight for every day.