The ‘Dealing With’ series will focus on exploring different issues that we will all possibly face every day or once in our lifetime: Depression, Anxiety, Toxicity and Trauma.
Depression can be hard. It’s a constant battle of overwhelming thoughts, mood swings, an array of emotions and many more symptoms; and often very few people can understand what it’s like to actually deal with depression. But before I share my thoughts, to those who may be struggling, I want you to know: you are not alone. It is always important to remember that despite how hard it may be, today is not tomorrow.
Often people are confused about with what depression is and are unsure whether they have it or not. There is a huge difference between being unhappy and depressed, which people frequently fail to realise. It is natural for us to go through periods where we are not feeling our best – but when you are depressed, this changes completely and goes from a few days to weeks and months of persistent sadness. Some of the key symptoms of depression are: feelings of sadness (for more than just a couple of days), difficult sleeping (too much or too little), feelings of worthlessness, guilt or shame, suicidal thoughts and loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed.
Growing up, I lived in a household where one parent was all about embracing your emotions, whereas the other didn’t believe that mental health existed. The latter simply upheld the belief that ‘tough times don’t ever last’ or ‘to keep my chin up’, and that I would get over it. It is a common experience that someone might have invalidated how you were feeling, simply because they thought your issue was trivial. However, depression isn’t so easy to shake off, and despite keeping your chin up, waiting a few days for the sadness to pass, you feel as if you’re constantly sinking.
Depression isn’t so easy to shake off
Depression can affect people in multiple ways and not everyone has the same symptoms. Often on television, the main character will portray and feed into the stereotypes of what the media or Hollywood believes is someone who has ‘depression’; such as moping around in bed being “lazy”, not speaking to anyone or being very violent towards others and themselves. But these stereotypes can be very damaging as everyone is different and there are many symptoms of depression and most people are not confined to one. Amanda Rosenburg highlights that depression is often trivialised: “TV depression looks fabulous. And it’s not just TV depression; any mental illness on-screen looks rather thrilling. Either it’s dark and dramatic — unlike day-to-day depression…or it’s quirky and fleeting”.
I lost someone to depression, and for a long time, I sat questioning why they took their life. Even though it was not my fault, I beat myself up constantly for thinking that this person was even fine. I knew myself how easy it was to mask pain and yet I hadn’t been able to see through this person’s facade. They always had the biggest smile, had just started university and, suddenly, they were gone forever. I think the saddest thing for me was coming to terms with why? Why had they done this? Why didn’t they seek help? Sadly, that is something I will never know.
But now whenever I talk to anyone about mental health, I urge the importance of speaking out about your emotions and embracing them. I learnt that we have ten main emotions, those being: Happiness, Sadness, Anger, Shame, Guilt, Love, Jealousy, Envy, Disgust and Fear. With all of these emotions, we should create a balance and have no shame in feeling any one of them. At first, I found this quite difficult because I didn’t want to feel anger or sadness or even shame. However, I later realised that that is what makes us, us. We have all of these emotions to help regulate us and they all serve a purpose. But it is important that we take steps to control our emotions and this is a skill called Emotion Regulation in DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy which specialises in giving skills to help tackle and treat a variety of conditions like depression and anxiety). In DBT, emotion regulation specifically invites us to experience more pleasant emotions and decrease the frequency of negative emotions. Using emotion regulation, we’re able to understand what our different emotions are telling us about the situation we’re in.
With all of these emotions, we should create a balance and have no shame in feeling any one of them
So how can you deal or help someone else with depression?
If you or someone you know thinks they may have depression, it is important that you go to your GP and seek further assistance. I know there is a stigma around going to the GP for mental health, out of fear that your feelings are going to be invalidated or you won’t get any help, but the sooner you go, the sooner you can start to feel better!
Confide in your friends and family! Never feel embarrassed to talk about how you’re feeling. They love you and would never want to see you in any pain. If you feel that you cannot confide in your friends/family, you can always talk to your lecturers, the welfare officer at the SU, your GP, as well as many anonymous free helplines such as the Samaritans or NightLine at UON.
If you know anyone that has been distant, acting different to their usual self, the best thing is to just ask if they are okay. Never pressure anyone to tell you how they are feeling or try to force a response. Sometimes it’s just nice to let someone know that you are there for them.
And lastly, it is important to remember: these emotions are only temporary. I like the Riding the Wave analogy. You are the surfer and sometimes the waves – which are representative of your emotions – can be calm and other times they can be rough and you feel that you are going to lose control of your surfboard or that you may drown. But I promise you, emotions do not last forever and they go like waves. All you have to do is: hold onto your surfboard and ride the wave.
Nottingham University Counselling Service: 0115951369
Nottingham Nightline: 0115 9514 985
Samaritans: 116 123
Mind: 0300 123 3393
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