6 articles Tag depression

How to Help Someone You Love Who is Suffering from Depression

With 1 in 4 individuals living in the UK suffering from a mental illness, it is likely that someone in your family or friends group is one of those people. From depression to border-line personality disorder, there is always one recurring factor that must be remembered. Seek help. The more support within a sufferer’s life, the less pressurised they feel to wallow in their irrational shame and isolation.

By reading this article, I hope to enlighten your world with ways in which you can help those in your life coping with depression. But don’t worry if they don’t reach out to you immediately. Something with such a mind-numbing pain attached can often take the person time to understand and cope with it themselves.

Understanding Depression

The first step to caring for those you love is through understanding the illness itself. Without the knowledge of how the illness is affecting them and others, there is no real relevant way that you can help. However, as each individual has their own experience of depressive symptoms, it is advised to let them explain how they feel first. Once this has been established, then you can begin to cushion the impact for them. For example, if they feel as though they are isolated from the world and this is creating an overt sense of depression, then make them aware that you are always available for company or even a simple cup of tea.

Despite this, people with mental illnesses also tend to value their time alone to reflect and get to know themselves, so you should definitely avoid any form of smothering.  Nevertheless, with a gentle reminder that you are there for them, this can go a long way.

Another way in which you can help your loved one is through the boosting of their low self-esteem. With depression, it is almost guaranteed that the way in which they feel about themselves is fairly negative. But if you want to care for them, then reinforcing a cycle of positivity can help with this. So, if they have decided to get out of bed, or are looking more cheerful on those better days, then don’t forget to remind them of this. With the occasional complimentary comment, you can help to break their negative thought pattern, reminding them that they always have been, and of course always will be a beautiful person.

Don’t Make It All About You and Your Experiences… Just Let Them Talk

If you also suffer from depression yourself, I am sure you are aware that there is nothing worse than people smothering you with their stories of how they overcame their illness. In one way, they probably believe that by telling you about their experiences, this will automatically benefit you; however, it doesn’t. As I’ve mentioned before, each individual person suffers from their own specific depressive symptoms, meaning that just because you’ve overcome your illness, by following the same path they can too. This is a common mistake and can often make those being talked at feel insignificant and overwhelmed.

The first step to success in this area is to make it obvious that you are available to talk. By extending this invitation, this then provides them with the opportunity to accept whenever they feel comfortable and ready to open up. As the first discussion can be overpowering, then you must be prepared for tears and snotty messes; but once they come to terms with their depression, and accept that they need help, then it can only go up from there. It is also important to remember that often when people discuss their mental illness, they feel ashamed of their ‘weaknesses’. However, as a stigma that needs to be destroyed, you must make them aware that it is okay to feel down. It is the recovery and learning to love yourself that is important. By doing so, you’ll reinforce this significantly important mantra: Your mental illness does not define you!

Every Little Helps

A further method support is to reinforce the importance of maintaining their typical everyday schedule. When suffering from depression, an ordinary routine can often become overwhelming, causing isolation and sadness to consume them as you feel as though they cannot leave their bed. This can often lead to difficulties regarding money, especially if they convince themselves that going into work is not an option. However, by contacting advice services such as Mental Health and Money Advice, professionals who understand will be able to create a plan of guidance and offer you services into how to help someone with poor mental health with their expenses.

By following the aide of this article, I hope that you will be able to alleviate the suffering of your loved one. As such a common problem in the UK, I know how consuming mental illnesses can be. However, with your support, you should be able to encourage your family member or friend to open up and seek the support that they so desperately deserve.

MISSING: One Sense of Self-Worth

It’s a funny thing, self-worth. Despite the fact that the point of self-worth is ‘what you think of yourself’, it can be intrinsically linked to what others think of you. I think anyone who reads my blog regularly will know that it’s not been the best year for me. I don’t mean to be all ‘boo-hoo’, I know people out there who’ve had it a lot worse than me, but I’m really struggling to remember what the point of me is.

I know it’s depression and hormones and goodness-knows what else talking, but I feel like I’m treading water with a big weight tied to my foot, trying to drag me down. I can’t remember any ways in which I’m of any use to anyone anymore.

Yesterday was particularly black for me. I spent a  lot of it crying, sometimes because of how I feel, sometimes because of stupid things like Mo Farah’s wife being pregnant with twins. No, I don’t know why that made me cry either. I spent all day thinking about the fact that Husband and Sausage would be better off without me. I tend to just mess things up, like forgetting to pay bills and stupid things that should be second nature to me by now. I’m 28, for fuck’s sake, I’ve been married for 6 years and a mother for four of them. I look at my life and I can’t think of a single thing that I’m needed for. Everything could function just as well without me, probably to a much better degree of efficiency. It’s not like I even have a job where I’m able to contribute any decent amount to the family coffers.

I don’t feel like a very good mother. And what makes it worse is that it’s self-perpetuating, I feel like a shit mum, I get depressed, the depression turns me into a self-loathing waste of space and I behave like a shit mum. How do I ever win?

I’ve suffered with depression and low self-esteem for a long time, but I don’t think it’s ever been this bad.

I don’t really know what to do.

I don’t want to take pills.

No, that’s not true, I do want to take pills, I want to swallow a little magic tablet once a day and feel numb to it all, but I won’t. That’s not a judgement of others, it’s more to do with the fact that I’ve tried them once before and they made me feel worse and if I’m honest, I’m quite scared of them. My Nan has taken Prozac for about 15 years and she’s probably the most miserable person I’ve ever met.

Husband’s answer was exercise. He said that releasing endorphins will make me feel better and have the added bonus of making my disgusting carcass (MY words, not his) get a bit less fat, which will have a knock-on effect with improving my self-esteem. He’s completely right, but for some reason that I’ve not even worked out for myself yet, this made me want to murder him. Or at least hit him quite hard.

I have to try something. I feel like my soul has been put into a sack and beaten repeatedly with a bat.

Alone in a Crowded Room

I never got it when I read things about depression and people said “I was surrounded by people, but I felt so lonely”. I’ve suffered with depression before, but if anything, I felt the opposite. People equals pressure. Suffocation. If you’re depressed, truly, genuinely, seratonin-deficient, you often feel sad without knowing the cause. Of course, the cause is hormonal, but it’s usually the perception of others that if you’re sad or depressed, there must be a tangible reason, and often there isn’t.

So being depressed around other people means questions.

“Are you okay?”

“What’s the matter?”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

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Mental Health Awareness Week

Today I learned through Jo Middleton’s blog Slummy Single Mummy that today is the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. We’re all aware that ‘mental health’ or mental health issues exist, so what does this really mean? Raising awareness for something that we all already know about?

But, how much do you really know, and how much of it is an assumption?

If I said to you that someone was a paranoid schizophrenic, you may assume that said person was dangerous to be around. Did you know that, actually, people with paranoid schizophrenia are actually extremely unlikely to be violent to either themselves or others?

If I told you that I knew a person with severe post-natal depression or even post-natal post traumatic stress disorder, you’d probably assume, through no fault of your own, that I was talking about a woman. Did you know that it’s estimated that up to 25% of new dads experience some form of PND or PTSD?

Did you know that, despite certain terms being bandied about and used as common language, true cases of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder actually only account for between 2-7% of the population, whilst people with bipolar are around 0.9% and 2.1% of the adult population?

For me, Mental Health Week is not about making us aware that metal health problems exist, it’s about educating ourselves, smashing the stigma and the stereotypes and trying harder to be compassionate to others. It’s so easy to label people, put them into a box and write them off as ‘mental’ or ‘mad’, but have you ever stopped to think what it’s like to live with these afflictions? NO-ONE would choose to live with these illnesses, people who seriously self-harm don’t do it for attention. I guarantee you, the people who self-harm because they are mentally compelled to are the ones you’d never know about, not the silly school girls comparing chicken scratches on their arms.

Take the time to educate yourselves and perhaps suicide rates, which are higher in the UK than anywhere else in the EU, would drop.

Or don’t. It’s up to you. Just know that no-one is immune to mental illness and knowing how to help someone you love could make all the difference. If you’re struggling please connect with a therapist near you.

Guilt, Grief and SSRI’s.

Let me start by saying that this is one of those blog posts where I feel a bit like I’m ripping my guts out and smearing them all over the page (apologies for the rather visceral visual…). It’s very personal and there’s always that worry that someone will take what you say and use it against you. In short; be gentle with me.

As you can imagine, the past few weeks have been something of an emotional rollercoaster for myself and my family. Grief is an unfathomable creature, making you feel one way and then another without so much as a moments notice. I imagine I’ve been quite difficult to live with, really.

I’ve suffered most of my life with some form of anxiety or depression, remembering even as young as four or five the abject panic that set in when I was away from my Mum, the cutting out of primary school 5 minutes after I was dropped off and chasing my mum or nan up the road, begging not to be left. Anyway, the point is, I’ve dealt with it for about 20 years and have largely managed to resist taking tablets to get by. I’ve seen counsellors, been given diagnoses and had them taken away again, but I’ve always maintained that there’s no point in giving myself a false high if there’s something underlying that’s causing my issues. I’m anti-paperingoverthecracks, if you will.

A couple of days ago, Husband was listening to me pour my heart out for the millionth time, about how sad I feel, how I feel completely and utterly cheated out of the chance to get to know Lorraine better, something which I took for granted while she was alive and am completely rueing now. At her funeral, I found out she was a fan of The Only Way is Essex and Alanis Morrisette, two things we have in common that I never knew about (despite THIS post. Yes, I know, I got sucked in. What are YOU saying?!) I’m struggling to get my head around the fact that she’s no longer here, my heart actually physically aches for my Dad when I think of how devastated he must be, how he’s got to go about his daily life despite the fact that his world has been torn in two.

My family life is suffering because of my grief, and while I know this is normal, I hate the fact that I’m grumpy, snappy and prone to tears at the drop of a hat. So, I asked Husband, shall I go to the Doctors? Well, he said, you know they’ll just offer you anti-depressants. And it’s true. I don’t know if it’s my surgery or all of them, but ours seem to have a stash of pre-printed prescriptions. Anything physical; antibiotics. Anything mental; anti-depressants. It’s like a conveyor belt where you get handed one or the other, no questions asked.

So, do I take them? I came to the conclusion that it’d be largely pointless. Hear me out, this is not me casting judgement on people who DO take them. Some people’s depression genuinely does come from their body’s inability to process serotonin adequately and they need a helping hand. My ‘problem’ isn’t chemical, it’s real. I could take anti-depressants but when the time came for me to come off of them again, the ‘problem’ will still be there, Lorraine will still be gone and I’ll still miss her. Sure, they’ll give me a boost for now, but I still think I’d be better off going through the natural process and dealing with each stage of grief as it comes.

I was explaining to Husband last night that although I still feel overwhelmingly sad at times, some of that sadness is giving way to a really intense anger that was worrying me. He gave me a wry smile and told me to Google ‘stages of grief’. Step One, denial, Step Two, anger. So while I might be feeling awful at times, at the very least I know I’m normal. And that’s something to be positive about, right?

I don’t know how long it’s going to take and I feel guilty for saying I even want to feel back to normal already, like I’m doing Lorraine a disservice by not permanently grieving, but I know for a fact that it’s not what she’d want. She adored Sausage and would be gutted to think that I was making her suffer with my behaviour. So, I need to use every ounce of mental strength that I have to stop me slipping back into the mire of depression, as it can be so bloody hard to get back out of.

Wish me luck…

Not All Wounds Are Visible.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that the last almost-three years of my life has been very much shaped by the traumatic birth of Sausage, and how angry I am about the circumstances surrounding it all. But, although I’ve written my birth story, both on here and for Maternity Matters, I’m not sure I’ve ever really gone into detail about how it’s really affected me.

I mentioned in a blog post recently that I used to be an outdoorsy, summery type person, but how I now like it when it rains as it takes the pressure off of me, in terms of leaving the house. No one expects you to take a small person out of the house for a non-essential trip when it’s pissing down outside, do they? This means that we can stay in the house, within our little cocoon, where it’s safe and familiar. About a year and a half ago, when I thought I was doing better with the PTSD, I was on the bus home from town with Sausage when I had a weird vision that a car was going to drive into the side of the bus. It sounds so crap to say vision, but I can’t think of any other way  to put it. Think ‘Final Destination’; it was that realistic, I saw the car driving into the side of the bus, the section that Sausage and I were sitting in, and in that split second I calculated all of the ways that I could dive in front of the pushchair and protect her. I’m certain this was all down to the residual feelings of guilt and resentment about not being able to protect her during her birth, but nevertheless, I go so worked up that I got off of the bus about 6 stops early and walked the rest of the way because I was SO convinced that a car would crash into the bus. God knows what my poor Husband thought when I burst through the door, 20 minutes later, sobbing, unable to properly breathe and talking about a bus crash.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve had many moments like this and have become accustomed to the fear and anxiety that I feel on an almost daily basis. Every decision that Husband and I make regarding Sausage is doubly analysed and picked over, we know we’re what some people might consider to be over-protective, but it’s the only way we know how to function. Most parents are happy for their kids to go to playschool. I feel like someone is sitting on my chest when I think about sending her to playschool.

Along with the constant fear and anxiety, I also have regular injections of guilt, when I feel like I’m holding her back because of my anxiety. But I comfort myself with the fact that she’s loving, bright and very forward. At our last Health Visitor appointment, Sausage was described as ‘exceptional’ and completed tests deigned for a five-year-old. She’s good with other kids too, we took her to our local soft play centre  recently and she and another little girl latched onto one another and ran around holding hands, laughing and playing the entire time. But I still feel guilty. I think I always will.

Things that are normal to other people will never be normal to me. We live in a bungalow, a fairly small one, and despite the fact that the bedrooms and the living room are all off of one very small hallway, when Sausage falls asleep at night she stays in the lounge, asleep on the sofa, until Husband and I go to bed. If we do put her in bed, which we’ve been doing a lot more recently, we sit in Husbands office for the evening, because it’s closer to the bedroom. And when I say bedroom, I mean OUR bedroom. Sausage has her toddler bed in our room and I’m just not ready to even conceive of the idea of putting her in her own room. I honestly don’t think I’d get a wink of sleep if she were two doors away.

It’s never easy to talk about mental health, or the effect that it has on us, but it can be even harder to put those issues into actual real-life terms. Yes, we have the flashbacks, the anger and the sadness, but it’s how we translate all of this into our daily lives to make them work that’s important. No, I don’t like to take Sausage on trains, which means I don’t take her on visits and people are missing out on seeing her growing up. I feel bad about this, I really do. But I need people to know why I am the way I am. And trust me, it’s not easy. Not doing things is by no means the easiest decision. I can only hope that one day, I’ll get better. But until then, I just have to get by.