Heather is a full-time nurse on a postpartum unit who also works in the Special Care Nursery. She comes into contact with many women who need mental health services. As well as all this, she lives with anxiety and depression. She is on a mission to help others. Heather has a unique perspective having lived with mental illness and working amongst women who mental health issues also touch.
Heather’s blog TheMidsummerDaydreamer.com is designed for people who are struggling with mental illness, or someone who is helping a friend/loved one with their struggles. It’s a blog to help advocate for mental illness, share experiences with anxiety and depression, and help to stop the stigma that is related to mental illness.
I know it’s difficult. Before I became depressed, it was difficult for me to wrap my head around exactly what people meant when they said they had depression. I didn’t understand how someone could shut themselves away from the world in a pit of despair, and not have the means to be able to feel better. Why couldn’t they just snap out of it?
The thing is, it’s hard to believe the disabling features of depression unless you experience them yourself. For those who have not been afflicted, I hope that you can support the loved ones in your life who suffer from depression, whether you’re someone who will listen, someone who will advocate, or someone who will be a beacon of light for someone who is immersed in darkness. For those of you who haven’t experienced a depressive episode, I hope that you never do.
Depression isn’t always something you can see
NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) estimates that 16 million American adults, 7% of the population had at least one episode of major depression in the last year. Depression isn’t something that you can always see. People are able to hide their depression from those around them. I just recently shared my mental health story, and my friends and loved ones could not believe that I suffered from both anxiety and depression. They had no idea. This tells me that either I’ve been very good at hiding my illness from those around me, or no one knows what to look for when it comes to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Depression is a silent disease. It’s not like a broken arm, something physical that you can see. It doesn’t just heal and become a distant memory. It is in your face 24/7, trying to pull you under, trying to make you succumb to the power it has over you.
You feel dismay. You feel alone. You feel miserable. You feel hopeless. You feel like you’re in a dark place and cannot find the light. You feel the walls closing in. You look at those around you and wonder why you can’t just be happy.
You get tired of feeling..you wish you could be numb..you wish that you could pull yourself out of it. You feel embarrassment, you feel like you can’t share your experience with anyone because they won’t understand, or you’re afraid that they will ostracize you.
According to NAMI, some symptoms that people who are suffering from depression MAY display are:
1) changes in sleep: either sleeping too much or too little
2) changes in appetite: either eating too much or too little
3) lack of concentration
4) loss of energy
5) lack of interest in usual activities
6) hopelessness or guilty thoughts
7) changes in movement (less activity or agitation)
8) physical aches and pains
9) suicidal thoughts
Everyone has times when they feel sad. Depression is more than just feeling sad. As you can see, depression interferes with your normal daily tasks like sleeping, performance (such as school/employment), and eating. If you or your loved one suffers from these symptoms, I urge you to seek help from a medical professional.
Don’t suffer in silence
So many people in this world are suffering in silence, and my goal is to get people to speak up. Talk to someone about your depression.
I know that it feels like a losing battle when you are faced with depression. It is important to find someone, anyone who you trust to help you through the more difficult times, whether that be a best friend, partner, sibling, parent/guardian, clergyman, therapist or a self-help call centre.
I urge you to find someone who can listen in those times of need, be there for you when your outlook on life feels threatened or when you find yourself lost or confused. Something that seems to work for me is journaling. I started writing down all of the stories and life experiences that were in my head, my emotions, my reactions, other people’s reactions, and every little detail I could remember.
Ask yourself, what would have made this experience in your life have a better outcome? What could have been done differently? What would you do if this ever happened again? What did you learn about the experience? Get the words out on paper. You don’t have to share with anyone unless you want to. Go back to your journal and read about your experience down the road. Do you still have those same feelings about the experience? Has anything changed?
Why I write
I choose writing because I’m so much better at writing than talking. Some things that I write I know I could never say out loud. I think this is because when I talk, I can immediately see people’s reactions to what I’m saying, and that inhibits me from sharing what I need to. If I write, however, I’m able to get beyond that obstacle, and can share more. Once I write, I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I can breathe just a little bit easier, and for someone with depression, this can make all the difference in the world.
I hope this suggestion works for you, too. Thank you so much for reading.
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