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Call me crazy

When I was in my mid-twenties, I struggled with a severe depression. Everything was so dark and I felt so lonely and no one seemed to really understand. As it turns out I’m in pretty good company. Lady Di, Winston Churchill, Jim Carrey, Charles Dickens, Audrey Hepburn, all of them suffered from depression at some point. I also have a lot of company, according to the WHO (World Health Organization) almost one out of five people suffers from depression at some point in their live.

Despite the fact that so many people get affected by depression (it’s not just the person that suffers from it, but also the people close to them) it’s surprising there is still so little understanding of depression. A lot of people still think it must be someone’s own fault/weakness. They think it’s just some negative thinking that someone needs to snap out of. They will tell them to “just think positive” or to “exercise more”. But depression is so much more than just a bunch of negative thoughts. And maybe if someone has a mild depression, thinking positive and exercising might be enough. But if someone has a severe depression, no matter how well the intention, this ignorant advice can even be harmful. Depression is not the same as sadness. Sadness is a state of mind most people have every now and then. In that case it can be helpful to think positive or do something you like to do. Depression is an illness and should be treated like one. Treating the two as if they’re the same is like telling someone with a broken leg it’s merely a bruise. That it may hurt a little but there’s really nothing wrong with the leg. My sweet hubby found the perfect cartoon to illustrate this.

helpful advice

I have experienced myself that there was a difference between telling people I was dealing with depression and telling I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. A lot of people were much more understanding and compassionate when I told them about the Crohn’s. WHY?????? Because, honestly, I’ve suffered more from my depression than I did from the Crohn. Not in the least, because a lot of people told me to snap out of it or exercise more and didn’t really take me seriously. And I know most of them meant really well, but they just had no clue what I was dealing with and how much their words hurt me. And other people think you must be totally wacko if you see a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is merely a doctor, specialized in mental illness. No doubt there are psychiatrists that see people who have issue we would call crazy, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who goes to see a psychiatrist is crazy. If you break your leg, you go to a doctor that can fix your leg. If you break mentally, you go a doctor that can help you with that. Call me crazy, but I did.

Once I went to an ‘experience museum’ about being blind. They made an “obstacle course” in which everyday situations were recreated that blind people encounter on a daily basis. And to make sure visitors wouldn’t cheat, they darkened the place. They gave you a cane and a (blind) guide to lead you through the place. It’s unbelievable how many obstacles there are when you can’t see. Suddenly you realize that most times you are not even aware you maneuver around obstacles. I mean, do you ever really see that garbage can? Probably not, you just walk past it without even giving it any thought. Not when you can’t see though. You are definitely aware of the fact that something is blocking your way and you have no idea what it is. During our trip we paid a visit to a playground. Now, that’s a real obstacle course, and there were not even children playing! While I was trying to find my way around the obstacles, the group started to leave the playground. Since I was already a little bit freaked out about the fact that I couldn’t see a thing, I wanted to stay close to the group. But the playground was fenced off and I couldn’t find the exit. I started to panic…., I didn’t want to be left behind…., I desperately tried to find the exit, but again couldn’t find it. Since I have a slight problem with asking for help, it was difficult for me to call out to the guide, but if I didn’t want to be left alone, I didn’t have a choice. So, I asked for help. And the guide came back for me and helped me get out of there.

Being depressed is kind of like that. You’re somewhere in a very, very dark place and you have no clue where you are. You may be standing next to the exit, or you could be standing on the edge of a cliff. At first you try to make it out of there by yourself. But you can’t find the exit, you keep on bumping into obstacles, you start to freak out, become desperate. So what are you going to do, keep on trying, hoping you will make it out of there in this lifetime? Or will you ask for help? You still have to make the journey yourself, you will still encounter obstacles, but at least you have someone to guide you to the exit and you’re no longer alone.

Like I said, I have slight problem asking for help. And as I’m writing this, I can see Mr. M. looking at me in this tone, so let me correct myself. I have a BIG problem asking for help and that’s now, it was even worse when I was younger. When I was in my early twenties I knew that things weren’t going too well, but I wasn’t really aware I had a problem. Not until one day, I was staying with my boyfriend at that time at his mom’s place. What happened that day opened my eyes and changed my life. It was an awful experience and I still feel sorry for her she had to go through that, but it was a life saver for me. Early that morning a noise woke us up. We heard his mom yelling and screaming. At first we thought there was a fire or something. But when we heard what she was saying, we realized she was psychotic. She was delirious, screaming and laughing hysterically. It was scary and at that moment, I finally realized that if I wouldn’t change anything in my life, I might end up just like that. You can try to ignore the difficulties you encounter, you can choose to hide them somewhere far away, but sooner or later they will catch up with you. This was the moment I decided to face my problems. Not that things changed over night, but it was the crucial awareness I needed. And, even though it was really, really tough, I reached out for help.

I worked my way through university, visiting a student psychologist and after a few years I graduated. The moment I had tried to postpone for as long as I could had finally arrived. I had to find a job. I was afraid that if I was going to work somewhere, I would get stuck there, because of my fear of new people and situations. So I made a decision of which I’m still very proud today. I choose to work for a company that would outsource me to municipalities that needed help. Had I not done that, chances are I would still be working at the same place I once started, and I would have never met Mr. M. and never had my little girl. So, it was the best choice I could have made, because I wouldn’t want to miss them for the world. However, I was depressed (even though none of the counselors I had seen so far had noticed – yeah, definitely getting more and more convinced about my acting skills 🙂 ) and it turned out I didn’t like the work and I made long days because often I had to travel far. But I dragged myself through it for almost a year and then, then, one day I couldn’t get out of bed anymore. All I could do was cry. And I had such abdominal pain that I was convinced I had appendicitis. So I went to my physician. Fortunately I had a really nice and understanding physician. And for the first time someone told me I suffered from depression. When he said it, it seemed so obvious, but until that point I had never realized it.

I went to the psychiatrist he referred me to. She was very nice, and I was ready to talk, but she also suggested medicines. That was a little bit too much for me. Talking? Fine. Medicines? I don’t think so. Until about two weeks later my world was so dark, I was willing to try just about anything to make the pain go away. So I got medicines and within two weeks I slowly felt the darkness get a slightly less dark. I was so grateful that it helped, because it does not work for everyone. Taking medicines can help to get out of the deepest darkness so you are better able to handle things, but it still means you have to deal with it. It’s not some kind of miracle pill that will take away your depression and make you live happily ever after.

If you think you might be suffering from depression, please look for help. Talk to your physician, pastor or a good friend that will take you seriously. And if you think someone around you might be suffering, try to talk to them, let them know you’re there and will take them seriously.

If you think my story might be helpful to other people then please, do share it. If you don’t know anyone that might benefit from it, please consider sharing my story anyway to help me create more awareness and understanding for depression. If you want to use parts of my story somewhere, please feel free to do so. All I ask is that you give me credit for the words I wrote.
Not sure it will make a difference? I understand, I have these moments too. And when I do, I think about what the Dalai Lama XIV said:

If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.

Thanks,

Sandra

 

 

 

Noem me gek

Click here for the English version: Call me crazy

Toen ik halverwege de twintig was, worstelde ik met een zware depressie. Alles leek inktzwart, ik voelde me ontzettend eenzaam en niemand leek het echt te begrijpen. Het blijkt dat ik me in goed gezelschap bevind. Lady Di, Winston Churchill, Jim Carrey, Charles Dickens, Audrey Hepburn, allemaal leden ze op enig moment aan depressiviteit. En ik ben zeker niet de enige, volgens de WHO (Wereld GezondheidsOrganisatie) wordt bijna 1 op de 5 mensen op enig moment in hun leven depressief.
Ondanks het feit dat zoveel mensen worden getroffen door depressie (niet alleen de persoon die depressief is lijdt eronder maar ook de mensen in hun naaste omgeving) is het verrassend dat er zo weinig begrip is voor depressiviteit. Veel mensen denken nog steeds dat het iemands eigen schuld/zwakheid is. Ze vinden dat iemand gewoon moet stoppen met negatief denken. Er wordt gezegd “gewoon positief denken” of “je moet meer sporten”. Maar depressiviteit is zoveel meer dan wat negatieve gedachten. En het kan zijn dat bij een milde depressie positief denken en sporten genoeg is. Maar wanneer iemand zwaar depressief is, ongeacht hoe goed bedoeld, kan dit onwetende advies zelfs schadelijk zijn. Depressiviteit is niet hetzelfde als verdrietig zijn. Iedereen is wel eens verdrietig. In dat geval helpt het vaak om positief te denken of iets te doen wat je leuk vindt. Depressiviteit is een ziekte en moet ook als dusdanig behandeld worden. Wanneer je deze twee hetzelfde behandelt, is het alsof je tegen iemand met een gebroken been zegt dat het maar een blauwe plek is. Het doet misschien wel pijn, maar er is niets mis met het been.

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Ik heb zelf het verschil ervaren tussen mensen vertellen dat ik depressief was en dat ik de ziekte van Crohn had. Veel mensen waren aanzienlijk begripvoller en meelevender toen in ze vertelde dat ik de ziekte van Crohn had. WAAROM????? Want echt, ik heb meer geleden onder mijn depressiviteit dan onder de Crohn. Niet in de laatste plaats omdat veel mensen me vertelden dat ik me er maar overheen moest zetten of meer moest gaan sporten en me niet echt serieus namen. Ik weet dat de meesten het goed bedoelden, ze hadden alleen geen idee waar ik mee worstelde en hoe hard hun woorden aankwamen. Weer andere mensen denken dat je knettergek bent wanneer je naar een psychiater gaat. Maar een psychiater is niets anders dan een arts die gespecialiseerd is in psychische aandoeningen. Uiteraard zijn er psychiaters die mensen behandelen die in een dusdanige psychische staat verkeren die we in de volksmond gek noemen, maar dat betekent niet dat iedereen die naar een psychiater gaat gek is. Als je je been breekt, ga je naar een dokter die je been kan helen. Wanneer je psychisch breekt, dan ga je naar een dokter die je daarmee kan helpen. Noem me gek, maar dat heb ik gedaan.

Ooit ben ik naar een voorloper van het MuZIEum geweest waar de wereld van een blinde wordt nagebootst. Ze hadden een “hindernis parcours” waarin alledaagse situaties waren nagemaakt die blinden dagelijks tegenkomen. Om zeker te weten dat bezoekers niet smokkelen was de ruimte geheel verduisterd. Je kreeg een blindenstok en een (blinde) gids die je door de ruimte begeleidde. Het is ongelooflijk hoeveel obstakels er zijn wanneer je niet kunt zien. Opeens realiseer je je dat je er meestal niet eens bewust van bent dat je om obstakels heen loopt. Ben je je nou echt bewust van die container die daar staat? Waarschijnlijk niet, je loopt er gewoon omheen zonder er over na te denken. Maar niet wanneer je niet kunt zien. Je bent je er heel erg bewust van dat er zich iets op jouw weg bevindt en je heb geen idee wat. Tijdens onze wandeling kwamen we in een speeltuin. Nou, dat was echt een hindernisbaan en dan speelden er nog geen eens kinderen! Terwijl ik nog mijn weg probeerde te vinden tussen alle obstakels hoorde ik de rest van de groep de speeltuin verlaten. Aangezien ik toch al een beetje panisch was omdat ik niets kon zien, wilde ik graag dicht bij de groep blijven. Maar er stond een hek om de speeltuin en ik kon de uitgang niet vinden. De paniek sloeg toe…, ik wilde niet alleen achterblijven…, wanhopig probeerde ik de uitgang te vinden, maar dat lukte maar niet. Daar ik lichtelijk een probleem heb met het vragen van hulp vond ik het moeilijk om de gids te roepen, maar als ik niet alleen achter wilde blijven, dan had ik geen keus. En dus vroeg ik om hulp. De gids kwam terug en hielp me de speeltuin uit.

Depressief zijn lijkt hier op. Je bevindt je ergens waar het inktzwart is en je weet niet waar je bent. Misschien sta je pal naast de uitgang, maar je zou ook maar zo op de rand van een klif kunnen staan. Eerst probeer je er zelf uit te komen. Maar je kunt de uitgang niet vinden, je blijft tegen obstakels aanlopen, je raakt in paniek, je wordt wanhopig. Wat doe je dan? Blijf je het proberen, hopend dat je er in dit leven nog een keer uitkomt? Of vraag je om hulp? Je moet nog steeds de route zelf lopen, je zult nog steeds obstakels tegenkomen, maar in elk geval is er iemand die je naar de uitgang kan leiden en ben je niet langer alleen.
Zoals ik al zei, heb ik lichtelijk een probleem met vragen om hulp. En terwijl ik schrijf, zie ik Mr. M. al op zo’n toon naar me kijken, dus laat ik mezelf verbeteren. Ik heb een GROOT probleem met vragen om hulp, en dat is nu, toen ik jonger was, was het nog veel erger. Toen ik begin twintig was, wist ik wel dat het niet geweldig ging, maar ik had ook niet echt door dat ik een probleem had. Tot die ene dag dat ik met mijn toenmalige vriendje bij zijn moeder verbleef. Wat er die dag gebeurde heeft mijn ogen geopend en mijn leven veranderd. Het was een vreselijke ervaring en ik vind het nog steeds verschrikkelijk voor haar dat ze daar door heen is gegaan, maar het is mijn redding geweest. ‘s Ochtends vroeg werden we wakker van een geluid. We hoorden zijn moeder gillen en schreeuwen. Eerst dachten we dat er brand was of iets dergelijks. Maar toen we hoorden wat ze riep, realiseerden we ons dat ze psychotisch was. Ze hallucineerde, schreeuwde en lachte hysterisch. Het was eng en op dat moment realiseerde ik me dat als ik niets zou veranderen, mij dat ook zou kunnen overkomen. Je kunt proberen om je problemen te negeren, om ze ergens heel diep weg te stoppen, maar vroeger of later kom je ze toch weer tegen. Dit was het moment dat ik besloot om mijn problemen onder ogen te zien. Niet dat dingen nu meteen veranderden, maar het was het cruciale stuk bewustwording dat ik nodig had. En, hoewel het echt super, super moeilijk was, heb ik om hulp gevraagd.

Ik werkte mezelf door de universiteit heen, sprak met een studentenpsycholoog, en na een paar jaar studeerde ik af. Het moment dat ik zolang mogelijk had proberen uit te stellen, was eindelijk daar. Ik moest op zoek naar een baan. Ik was bang dat als ik ergens in vaste dienst zou gaan, ik daar altijd zou blijven hangen, vanwege mijn angst voor nieuwe mensen en situaties. Toen heb ik een beslissing genomen waar ik nog steeds trots op ben. Ik koos ervoor om in dienst te gaan bij een detacheringsbedrijf dat mensen uitzond naar gemeentes die hulp nodig hadden. Had ik dat niet gedaan, dan was de kans groot geweest dat ik nog altijd op dezelfde plaats had gezeten waar ik was begonnen, had ik nooit Mr. M. leren kennen en nooit mijn kleine meisje gehad. Het was de beste keus die ik ooit had kunnen maken, want ik had ze voor geen goud willen missen. Maar ik was depressief (hoewel geen van de psychologen die ik tot dan had gezien het daar met een woord over had gerept – ligt ongetwijfeld aan mijn waanzinnige acteerkunst 😊 ) en ik bleek het werk niet leuk te vinden en ik maakte lange dagen omdat ik ver moest reizen. Bijna een jaar lang heb ik mezelf er doorheen weten te worstelen tot ik op een dag mijn bed niet meer uit kon komen. Ik kon alleen nog maar huilen. En ik zo’n ongelooflijke buikpijn dat ik ervan overtuigd was dat ik blindedarmontsteking had. Dus op naar de huisarts. Gelukkig had ik hele aardige en begripvolle huisarts en voor het eerst was er iemand die me vertelde dat ik depressief was. Toen hij het zei, leek het zo logisch, maar tot dan was het nooit bij me opgekomen.
Ik ging naar de psychiater waar hij me naar toe verwees. Ze was erg aardig en ik was bereid om te praten, maar ze stelde ook medicijnen voor. Dat was teveel voor me. Praten? Prima. Medicijnen? Dacht ik niet. Tot ongeveer twee weken later mijn wereld zo donker was dat ik zo ongeveer tot alles bereid was om de pijn op te laten houden. Dus ik nam de medicijnen en binnen twee weken voelde het zwart al iets minder zwaar. Ik was erg dankbaar dat het hielp, want het werkt niet voor iedereen. Medicijnen kunnen je helpen om uit de diepste duisternis te komen, zodat je beter in staat bent om dingen aan te kunnen, maar je moet nog steeds aan je problemen werken. Het is geen wonderpil die de depressiviteit wegneemt en je zorgeloos verder kunt leven.

Als je denkt dat je misschien depressief bent, zoek dan alsjeblieft hulp. Praat met je huisarts, dominee of een goede vriend die je serieus neemt. Is er iemand in je omgeving waarvan je denkt dat die depressief is, praat met die persoon, laat iemand weten dat je er bent en het serieus neemt.

Mocht je denken dat dit verhaal iemand kan helpen, deel het dan. Ken je niemand die het kan helpen, overweeg alsjeblieft om het alsnog te delen en mij zo te helpen om meer bewustzijn en begrip voor depressiviteit te creeeren. Wil je (een deel van) mijn verhaal ergens gebruiken, voel je vrij om dat te doen. Het enige dat ik vraag is dat je mijn naam vermeldt.Niet overtuigd dat dit kan helpen? Dat snap ik, die momenten heb ik ook. En dan denk ik aan wat de Dalai Lama XIV heeft gezegd:

Als je denkt dat je te klein bent om verschil te kunnen maken, probeer dan eens met een mug te slapen.

Dank je wel,

Sandra

The meaning of your communication

We communicate every day, but how often are we consciously aware of what we say, how our words are received and what impact they have? I think most people don’t give it much thought, just assume that everyone understands what they’re saying, until something goes wrong. Or maybe it’s just me 🙂 .

As I mentioned before I’m in a NLP training (if you do what you did, you will get what you got). NLP is based on several presuppositions and one of them is: the meaning of your communication is the response you get. You are responsible for getting your message across the way you intend it. A lot of people hold the other person responsible for not correctly understanding the message. Isn’t that nice and easy, it’s the other person’s fault, not their own. In NLP you take the responsibility if someone else didn’t understand the message. You take a closer look at what you said, check how your message was received and … try again.

My post Call me crazy got the following response “Please don’t blame anyone who doesn’t understand it, even for yourself it is difficult to understand and to accept. People indeed have no clue, thank god, so even if they want to help you they have no idea how. Usually this ends up in trying to give someone a positive vibe, a peptalk. Don’t shut them out and don’t feel hurt”.

When I read this, the first that came to my mind was: “Don’t blame anyone? Where was I off in my communication?” Ohhh, I am so practicing NLP (it could also be my uncertainty, but I prefer to think I’m getting good at this NLP stuff). I was surprised, because I never blamed anyone. In fact, I’m convinced that each and every one had good intentions (though that doesn’t make it less painful). In the past I probably would have freaked out, convinced that person would hate me 🙂 . Now, I was just curious. Most people seemed to have taken it the way I intended it, so when I got this response I really wanted to know what triggered it. Did I say something that could be taken in a different way, did I omit something crucial? When you write something, you know all the in ands outs and it’s easy to omit something because you assume it will be clear or you think people know. But someone else who does not know everything there is to the story might lose you and interpret it the way it makes most sense to them.

I really wanted to learn more about this interpretation, so I asked what exactly it was that lead to the interpretation that I blamed anyone. The answer was that ‘blame’ may not have been the correct term. The intention was to say it wouldn’t do me any good to worry about how people responded to me because it is their inability to understand. This was something I didn’t get out of the initial response. Isn’t it fascinating how we all have our own filters through which we experience and interpret the world and words in different ways? Maybe you have siblings and when you talk about something that happened in your youth you discover that they had a (totally) different experience. It may even be so different that you start to wonder if you’re really talking about the same thing. Really, when you think about it, it’s a miracle our communication works out most of the times.

Honestly, I think communication should be taught in schools. Everyone should learn about the impact of their communication, different ways to communicate, to say what they want in a clear yet respectful manner, give their opinion in a constructive way. I think people would be much more understanding and respectful towards one another. No, it still wouldn’t be a perfect world, but it would definitely be a step in the right direction.
So maybe, the next time someone misunderstands you, it might be interesting to see what they heard and what you could do differently so they do understand… or not…

 

 

 

Being me

First of all I want to thank everyone that took the time and the effort to read my posts Call me crazy and Hello, this is your wake up call. It means a lot to me that you all did. I also want to thank everyone who commented in some way for their kind and encouraging words, it really lifted my spirit.

Even though I know there are a lot of people who suffer(ed) from depression, I was still amazed how many people let me know they suffer(ed) too. It’s so sad to hear that and a big virtual hug for any one that needs it and know that you’re not the only one. To me it’s a sign that it was a good decision to tell my story, thank you for letting me know. I was tough, but you all made it well worth it.

The other day I wrote a poem. Until now I didn’t have the courage to share it. But I thought, if my story helps people, maybe my poem will inspire/encourage someone as well. If it’s just one person that gets something out of it, it’s well worth it. Also, I no longer want to hide myself. I just want to be me and this poem is me. If someone doesn’t appreciate it, so be it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (though I prefer them to like it 🙂 ).

Being ME

Being here
being me
sounds so easy
how hard can it be?

Being here
being me
not always as easy
as I want it to be.

Being here
being me
I just keep on going

knowing

one day I will be

ME

 

 

How I survive depression

Michelle Robinson via Flickr

The other day I was asked how I survive the turmoil of a depressive episode. That was kind of interesting, because I never consciously thought about it. I realize everyone is different and what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for someone else. Nevertheless, I think I’m on to some good stuff 😊. Obviously, it’s not going to take away the depression. These things are meant as self-care to make the journey a little easier.

1. BREATHE! Trust me, it’s a lifesaver 😊 and no, I’m not kidding you.

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.
Thich Nhat Hanh

Our breath is what keeps us alive; yet we hardly give it any thought. Depression creates a lot of stress, emotionally as well as physically. This leads to a shallow breath high up in the chest. Because of this, there’s not enough oxygen going to the brain, causing even more stress and so on and on. To break this vicious cycle, we must make a conscious effort to breath correctly. By using mindfulness, yoga or a simple breathing exercise we can alleviate some of the stress in the body and the mind. At least once a day and whenever I notice I’m getting stressed, I do a breathing exercise to calm myself down.

2. FIND SUPPORT

No person, trying to take responsibility for her or his identity, should have to be so alone. There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep, and still be counted as warriors.
Adrienne Rich

Whether it’s your partner, a good friend, a minister or a therapist, whoever makes you feel safe and heard, let them know what you’re dealing with. Sitting down, sharing your struggle and weeping is NOT weak. It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable! Yes, it’s hard and it also healing to open up and receive love and compassion. When I wrote Call me crazy I got so many kind and loving responses, even from people I didn’t know, it was heartwarming and it made me realize how many people actually care (something that can be hard to see when you’re depressed).
As I said, it’s hard. Even though I have the most wonderful, caring, and understanding husband, I still have a hard time telling him what is going on. Not because I don’t trust him; if there’s anyone I trust, it’s him. There are several reasons, but the thing is, I need to learn to be open about what is going on. Baby steps my friend, baby steps.

3. GET OUT OF THE HOUSE

Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose–a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.
Mary Shelley

It’s hard to get things done when you’re depressed. The fatigue and the fact that I’m easily overwhelmed make me want to crawl up on the couch. Forever. I don’t want to do anything, I don’t want to talk to anyone. And that is exactly what I should be doing. In order not to become a hermit and not to lose my sanity, I need to get out of the house, talk to people and do something useful. I know I can’t do this on my own. That’s why a year ago I started volunteering at Little Bit (a therapeutic riding center). Normally, I love going there. Right now, the only reason I go, is because I know people are counting on me. Once I’m there, it’s ok and there will even be moments I enjoy. It is tiring and I will have to balance my day, but I feel better than when I sit on the couch all day. Even when it’s hard, at least I feel good because I did something useful.
Find what works for you, but whatever you do: get out of the house!

4. BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.
Louise L. Hay

It’s not your fault that you’re depressed, don’t beat yourself up about it. Ignore people who suggest otherwise. And don’t beat yourself up if you’re unable to ignore them. Don’t beat yourself up about anything, instead, be kind to yourself.
Whenever I notice I beat myself up because of whatever, I remind myself: what would I say to a friend if she felt the way I do. That’s always much kinder than what I tell to myself. Then, I say to myself whatever it is I would have told my friend.
When you know you can’t get through the day without sleep, allow yourself to go to bed. If you really know you can’t make it somewhere, it’s ok to cancel. And if you don’t feel comfortable telling why, just say you’re sick. That is the truth, you are sick.
And I’ll be honest, this is a struggle. I’m so used to putting myself down and pushing through that it feels unnatural and selfish. I need to constantly remind myself that I need to take care of myself. And that’s ok too. Every baby step in this direction will make it a little easier next time.
Be your own best friend, you need, you deserve it.

Behind the smile

I have a friend, a wonderful, kind and caring friend. She’s the kind of woman who can handle anything, the kind of woman who has always something going on, the kind of woman who talks to everyone, the kind of woman you can laugh with. She’s the kind of woman people would never believe to be suffering from depression. She’s social, she’s active, she’s smiling… How could she possibly be depressed?

Depression doesn’t have just one face. There are different types of depression and they can manifest in various degrees. People suffering from dysthymia (popularly known as high functioning depression) can often function in a way most people won’t notice anything is off. They can do the things they need to do, socialize, and smile. Even when they don’t feel like it.

Because the symptoms of high functioning depression aren’t as obvious as those of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) it may not be easy to recognize them, neither by the person itself, nor by the people around them. There is also the danger that people are so used to the feeling that they think it’s normal. But high functioning depression is an illness and needs treatment. Left untreated this could eventually even result in MDD.

My pitfall is that I compare everything to when I suffered from MDD. Everything was so black and hopeless that everything looks pretty good now. But that I’m feeling better now doesn’t necessarily mean I’m doing good. I guess for me it’s a combination of being used to feeling like this and really wanting everything to be good and thus fooling myself into believing everything is ok.

Symptoms someone with high functioning depression may experience are:

  1. Difficulty experiencing joy
  2. Very critical of self and others
  3. Constant self-doubt
  4. Fatigue
  5. Irritability or anger
  6. Small things feel insurmountable
  7. Worrying and feeling guilty
  8. Need to zone out
  9. Sadness you can’t seem to pinpoint the cause of
  10. Perfectionism
  11. Inability to rest and slow down

These symptoms are pretty generic and are easy to overlook when someone is hiding it for the world or even themselves. And it doesn’t help that there is still a stigma surrounding mental illness and we live in a world that emphasizes positivity and happiness. But when you think you recognize these symptoms in someone you care about, see if you can get a look behind the smile.