Clinical depression is the malignant all pervading vinegar, which sours mind, body and soul, it knows no barriers and does not distinguish between race, creed, colour, class, sex or sexuality. Therefore, no matter what they may think no one is immune from this, or any other form of mental distress.
Those looking in ask, “What’s wrong?” Unless they are here or have been here, I cannot explain. It is not like a sore throat for which you suck a lozenge, or a broken bone, which you repair with a plaster cast, I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately, there are no lozenges or plaster casts for the mind, though there are anti-depressants. Without them, I would be a damn sight worse or dead!
To lie in bed at night with every bone, muscle and sinew aching for sleep with a mind which is fully awake and racing with thoughts that do not allow sleep, is at times, almost insufferable. Hamlet in his soliloquy “To be or not to be” says, “To sleep: perchance to dream:” a better version would be “To sleep: perchance to rest:” Real sleep is nothing but an elusive daydream, if it were not dark at night I would know every inch of my ceiling and every cobweb and spider that lurks there! The nearest I get to sleeping is the short period of deep uneasy “sleep” towards the end of the night, from which I wake exhausted.
Moods swing from high to low, low to high within hours with no apparent reason; it is as though mood is a separate being in total control of one’s mind and essence. The highs do not last very long perhaps five or six hours at most, whereas the lows can last anything from a few hours to several weeks. Over the years, I have developed ways and means to hide or mask my moods from friends, relatives and work colleagues.
Clinical depression is not only about mood swings it also creates or heightens the following:
Fear of losing friends
This is a very real, continuing, and probably selfish fear of losing my close friends by saying or doing something to offend or upset them. These friends give me support and invaluable friendship. I hope I support them and return their friendship. The support, which they give, is support that a family never can give because we have had, and are sharing experiences, which a family cannot imagine.
Fear of letting people down, not being good enough
Although linked to the fear of losing friends this fear has a much wider significance in that it applies to virtually everything said or done. It is a constant striving for perfectionism, which is unachievable and therefore leads to feelings of dissatisfaction, frustration and underachievement.
Fear of the next episode
This may sound dramatic to those who have no experience of clinical depression. It is not so much a fear of the depression, although that is frightening enough, it is the fear of what will be contemplated or done, to escape the desperation which comes with the depression.
Brought about by the desire to run, to escape from everything to find total peace and quiet and to be completely alone, finding isolation seems to help the recovery process, albeit a temporary recovery. There is often a desire to just curl up in a corner, hide and never come out.
Confusion and lack of concentration
Racing and erratic thoughts do not allow the mind to process incoming information immediately, it becomes part of a large tangle of thoughts and this can give the impression of not listening or paying attention. This is not the case, the information is taken in and eventually processed and an answer or opinion, if required, given later. The same racing thoughts can make it difficult to concentrate and easy to become distracted particularly by sounds or movement.
A perplexing phenomenon, where events, conversations and even school lessons from forty or fifty years ago are remembered as if they happened yesterday, yet it is impossible to remember something from just one minute ago.
Low or no self-esteem
Feelings of worthlessness, shame and guilt brought on by the inability to interact at an acceptable everyday level, loss of energy and will power, feeling incapable of simple everyday tasks, so that something like changing the bed becomes comparable with climbing Mount Everest.
Those on the outside have a false impression that depression is just feeling low, they are so wrong.
Of course I am not always high or low usually I am somewhere in between, what I call nermal (nearly normal). In this state of nermality, I have all or some of the above; but I am better able to manage my life and mind. Nermality can be a very fragile and vulnerable state to be in, where it is easy for a trigger to send the mind tumbling back into depression.
One of the most powerful triggers is encountering stigma, prejudice, discrimination, call it what you will. Discrimination, especially verbal, is one of those things which you cannot dodge, cannot see coming, and it is directed right at you. It instigates anger, low self-esteem, and avoidance, the fear of not being good enough, confusion and lack of concentration, and the need for isolation. This leads to low morale, which can, and very often does lead to another episode of depression.
The fears and feelings mentioned in this meandering of words are just a few of those experienced in clinical depression. Discrimination in the workplace is widespread and many managers seem to have little or no control over it, often because they do not see it or choose to ignore it.
Clinical depression is treatable and manageable; it just takes a lot of time, patience, hard work and will power (because of the nature of the beast; will power is the most elusive) to get there. Nevertheless, please be assured that it CAN be done!
Chris Rugg has worked for Mind in Taunton & West Somerset for a number of years as the project manager for the Advocacy project which helps people with mental health problems have a voice when it comes to matters regarding their day to day lives. You can read more about the work Advocacy do here