It is the twenty-first century. As we go about our day-to-day lives we hear the word “Depression” more often than we did twenty years or even a decade ago. Although it is used more commonly these days, it does not say people understand it, have any knowledge on it or have ever lived with it as a patient or a member of family or a close friend of someone with depression. People use the term these days far to lightly, without any knowledge that the person they are talking to may be suffering, suffering being the operative word, with this clinical disease.
Mental health and elderly care have always been the poor relative in the NHS. Knowing this to be a fact, I can only write about “Mental health” The reasons for this being, my father suffered from depression, and was one of the strongest men I have ever known both physically and mentally. Also most of my life, from when I can remember has been plagued with this illness as well.
It is undermined, misunderstood and ridiculed still, today. Most people out there are still ignorant of this killer illness. That is being very blunt, but, it does kill not only individuals who suffer from it, but it can kill their families, friends and carers alike. For every one person who suffers from it at least, and I say at least, eight more people are affected directly too.
It is often said that depression is a direct result from a chemical imbalance. This is generally true, however that does not capture how complex the disease is. Although research suggests that is a factor, there are many others possibilities that can cause this terrible disease. Faulty mood regulation by the brain, genetic vulnerability, stressful life events, medications and medical problems to name but a few. It is also said that one or many of these medical factors can have a part in the diagnosis of depression.
Chemicals are a factor, but it is not as simple as one chemical being too high and another one being too low. Many chemicals are involved working both inside and outside the nerve cells. There are millions of chemical reactions that make up your mood, perception and how you experience your life. Taking all this into account, people may have similar symptoms, but the problem on the inside could and probably is very different.
There has over many years been a lot of research done on depression, however as in alot of diseases the research is far from complete.
Popular lore has it that emotions come from the heart. However the brain regulate our organs so therefore the brain must regulate our heart and therefore our moods. Nerve cell connections, nerve cell growth and functioning of nerve circuits have a lot to do with depression. However research is still incomplete on how all this marries together.
The main aim when treating depression is to improve the way that the brain manages the ability to regulate the mood. Neuro transmitters are not the only influence, although they do play a very important part. Neuro transmitters are chemicals that send messages from neuro to neuro. Therefore an anti depressive drug increases the concentration of these substances between the neuros. Therefore with this increase the brain can do a better job.
Every part of your body is controlled by genes and that includes the brain. Throughout life genes turn themselves off and on so that they should make the right chemicals at the right time. So if the genes get it wrong they can alter your biology. Research continues into this, knowing one treatment may be right for one person but not necessarily for another It also states that it is not known what makes one person more likely to depression than another. If a direct family member has been prone to depression then is more than likely a relative is prone to depression as well , statistics saying between 1.5% – 3% more. The evidence for other types of depression is subtle but very. very real.
Having entered a little biology into this illness let me now take a further look at what it feels like. I can only speak for myself on a personal level . I have however read many articles book both professional and stories of people who have suffered too.
I knew from a very early age that I didn’t quite fit in to this world. Not only the world but community and family life too. I therefore took myself away into an imaginary world a lot of the time. Playing anyone or anything so I didn’t have to be myself. Mixing with my peers was always difficult, therefore I only let myself get close to people I trusted and that was very few. I remember when I was about eight or ten my mum taking me to the doctors as she was worried I was isolating myself in my bedroom rather than going down and joining in with the rest of the family. I tried to keep the few friends I had at school away from my home life with fear of disapproval. That very same fear of disapproval is still very relevant in my life today. As too is low self-confidence, low self-esteem. My mind never turns off not even when I am in deep sleep. Fear consumes me as too does anxiety and self harming thoughts. I never feel good enough for anyone or anything. I do however paint a good picture for the outside world. You learn to act and act hard, it gets easier with time.
So what does depression feel like to me.
Physically: I can ache from head to toe so much so that I require analgesia . I can be physically sick before I go out to an event / work. I can binge eat. I get tachycardia and lose my breath. tremors appear and large lumps in my throat arise making it difficult for me to verbally communicate. I over perspire and bite my nails.
Emotionally: I cry a lot. I have no self-confidence. I require praise. I always, always think that everybody is better than me at whatever I do. I live the fact that my brain tells me no one likes or loves me, and have a fetish with teddy bears as my reasoning is “Teddy bears can’t hurt you”. My dreams are vivid and at the times very, very real. Constant failure of life is prominent.
Socially: I struggle with people and a fear of being disliked. Keeping myself to myself is a good option, however I understand that life can not be like that so I fight against this feeling as much as I can. I think that people have better things to do, talk to and be with rather than me. This includes my family and friends.
Intellectually: I never feel that I have enough intelligence to talk openly with anyone, whoever they may be. In whatever situation I may be in. If I am uncomfortable I either act like a fool or keep quite, just agree or creep. I generally keep my opinions to myself as I do not feel worthy of having opinions. If I voice them I have a fear of being wrong or shouted down.
Most of my life I have felt in a deep dark hole with no help or assistance to get me out. Each time I grab a side to pull myself a little further out I slip and end up where I started off. There is rarely a day goes by that I don’t think about self harming or suicide. However I never follow this through so I understand it as only a thought.
There are many, many positives in my life today. Howver grasping them and holding on to them is a different matter when my physical brain works like it does.
Depression not just a fed up feeling. It is a killer just like any other physical illness that most of the world sympathise with. Just because you can not SEE this illness it does not take away the severity of it.
Do not underestimate an invisible illness.