I first showed signs of depression when I was 16, and was actually diagnosed with depression and prescribed medication when I was 19. My best friend also has depression, as does my current girlfriend, so it’s a pretty central part of my life. And with that cheery introduction, let’s get started.
Depression is a pretty misunderstood thing in my opinion. A lot of people would think that I, a middle class white-boy with a good education and with a family who loves me, would have nothing to be depressed about. But that just isn’t how clinical depression works. There are all kinds of factors which contribute to depression. Some of them are environmental and situational, but there are also genetic and chemical factors as well. Put simply, some people with depression ARE just born that way. So why the hell is there this weird notion that it shouldn’t be talked about? It’s not like I chose to have depression and I can’t just “get over it”.
So what’s it like?
Firstly, people with depression aren’t miserable bastards every day, it’s something that comes and goes. Sometimes you can feel it welling up inside, sometimes it just comes out of the blue. It might last for a day, it might last for a week. When it does hit, it hits hard and it’s fucking miserable. The worst thing is that it is vicious cycle. I would sit for hours staring at a wall trapped in my own head: “Why am I depressed? I don’t even know, it’s so pathetic of me that I can’t even control how I feel. I need to get out of this house. What’s the point of leaving the house? I’ve got nothing to do anyways. I should go and meet up with some friends. But my friends aren’t going to even want to be around me when I’m like this.” That’s how it goes, each attempt to pull yourself out of it only giving you another reason to feel more down. And suddenly you need that relief, anything to make you feel in control again. For me, that’s how my self-harm and hard drinking started.
The self-harm was like me punishing myself for being so pathetic as to allow myself to become so depressed. It also made me feel in control again, I couldn’t make myself feel happy, I couldn’t make myself not be depressed, but I could make myself feel pain. It was empowering. The drink, on the other hand, was the way to escape the endless circle of thoughts that ran around my head.
Now that all sounds bloody miserable, but like I said before, it’s not like that every day. Most days it’s not. In fact, the people I know who have depression are both incredibly driven, sociable and focused people who always seem to see life in the most beautiful way. They are the very last people you’d suspect of being depressed. In fact, I would like to think that most people wouldn’t guess me to be someone with depression either; they might think that I am a prick, and I’d find I hard to argue against them – but not a depressed prick.
People handle depression in all kinds of different ways. I know that’s not exactly the most helpful thing to say, but it’s true. For me, the most important thing to do when trying to handle depression was to talk about it. I don’t mean that I needed to get on a rooftop and shout it to the public, I just needed one person who I could trust and just open up about how it made me feel.
For me, that person was my girlfriend. She was very open with me about her depression, and it gave me the confidence and comfort to be able to talk about mine with her. The reason that this is so important is because it allowed me to escape the trap I had created inside my own head by just voicing my thoughts to someone. Furthermore, talking in general is just good! It is not even that I need to talk about my depression per se, we can talk about anything: books, films, music, anything that just takes me out of my head for a bit. She was also very understanding about it, she never pressured me into thinking that I HAD to be happy all the time, but simply accepted that there would be days where I would be depressed. She made me come to terms with it and eventually, convinced me to see a doctor to be prescribed. That was a real turning point for me, actually knowing that I had clinical depression, that I wasn’t pathetic for not being able to control my feelings, but that it really was a biological thing. It’s just who I am.
That is how I handle my depression. I don’t view it as a mental disorder, I don’t view it as something I should be able to control and can’t, I just accept it as being part of my personality. Everyone gets depressed, I just get depressed more regularly and to larger extremes. When I have days where I’m depressed, I don’t fight it and try and pretend that it’s not happening. Instead, I’ll try and just sit with some good music to try and distract myself so as not to get stuck chasing my own thoughts. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll tell my girlfriend or my family or a friend what is going on, that I’m having a shitty day and that I need some help.
The reason that it’s important that people need to start talking more about this issue is because it really can affect anyone. As I said before, it can just be a chemical and biological thing, it isn’t just restricted to people who have experienced some kind of traumatic event. But I think that because this is not really understood by most people, and so it’s led to the stigma of not talking about it, because people who do suffer depression just feel pathetic or like they cannot control their own emotions. Suicide is the number 1 killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK, and it’s hard not to see a link between this statistic and the social pressure for men to always be strong and in control, never talking about emotions. That is simply unacceptable. We need to make more of an effort to firstly, understand depression and its causes; secondly, to not stigmatise people with depression or treat them as a ticking time bomb of misery; and lastly open up the conversation.