This week I was in an article written in the West Australian paper as I’ve been taking part in a large scale study into the genetic causes of depression, along with some 20,000 other Australian residents. You can check out the article online here.
I read an article online this week (see here) about how the post-mining boom has become an extremely toxic environment with many suffering depression. There is a high incidence of suicidal thoughts and behaviour in the mining sector, and in the families that have to deal with this way of life.
Stats are showing that depression is presenting in more children at an earlier age.
Before I experienced depression myself in 2010, with my background in Psychology I could have written a thesis on what it was, causes, treatment etc, and I really honestly thought I knew a lot about it. But nothing taught me more about depression than experiencing it for myself – and the black hole/melted brain feeling that goes along with it.
My form of depression was very reactive – it was the result of the build up of a few years of traumatic incidents in my life including losing loved ones to suicide. I think the biggest factor that landed me in depression was slipping a disc in my back and being in agony all the time – not only does the constant pain sap any energy you might have, but I suddenly lost my #1 go-to coping strategy – exercise.
I wanted to talk here about what depression taught me – if you’re in the same boat too, please know that there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, and you will come out stronger one day.
1. Moving the body is so important in staying well
While I have always known that exercise of any form is really important in health and wellness, I didn’t quite realise how important it is in mental wellness until I lost my ability to exercise. I see it as the number one reason why I fell into depression in the first place, and it was definitely something that helped me out of it in the end.
2. Nobody knows what it’s like unless they’ve been there
I used to think I was really compassionate with those who were depressed, but then I lived in a relationship for 3 years where I was the carer for someone who was deep in depression. I remember I used to read Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search For Meaning” to him in the hope it would help him see things weren’t really that bad. After all, we weren’t living in concentration camp were we?
And then I got it too and could really see it from a different perspective. My brain literally felt like it was melting – I couldn’t even absorb one sentence in a book anymore. I didn’t care about life, about myself, and didn’t find anything fun anymore. The chemistry in my brain was totally off.
3. The term depression is bandied around way too loosely
So many people will say “I’m a bit depressed at the moment” when really they are just down in the dumps – which is totally different from clinical depression. Because the term is used so freely, it kind of negates what people are actually going through when they are in clinical depression. People who haven’t been there think it’s just a case of “cheer up” – it’s not that easy.
4. You have to be careful with what you say to a depressed person
Everything can be taken in the wrong way. I remember my housemates sitting me down for a house meeting, to tell me I wasn’t pulling my weight and not putting the bins out. I felt awful, and equated that to me being a shit housemate and them not wanting to live with me anymore. Each day I went to bed and hoped I wouldn’t wake up. I struggled each day to even get out of bed, let alone do the chores, and then felt like a massive burden in the house so I felt like I didn’t have a safe space anymore. That kind of thinking can tip some people with depression over the edge.
5. Sunshine is one of the best healers out there
At one stage in the middle of depression in London my brother suggested I take a break abroad to get some sunshine – I went to Turkey for a week on my own (which any depressed person will tell you, it’s scary to leave your house let alone go on holiday on your own), but I knew he was right, it was what I needed. I lay in the sunshine each day listening relentlessly to Louise L Hay affirmations. Apart from that all I did was eat good food and sleep. After a couple of days I noticed I could read again, and that simple thing made me so happy because it was evidence that my brain was recovering.
6. Time is relative
In depression, a day feels like a week, a week feels like a month, and a month feels like a year. You feel like it goes on forever and will never stop. But it can stop, and it does.
7. Self care needs to be the priority
So many of us, women especially, put everyone else’s needs before our own. The cliché saying is true – we need to put our own gas mask on first otherwise we burn out and don’t have any energy left for anyone else. You don’t need hours in the day for self care. A bit of exercise, some meditation, time alone… they can be in short bursts if that’s all you have time for. Just make time for it, you need to fill your own cup up otherwise you’ll have nothing left to give.
8. Every challenge is an opportunity for growth
I never thought when I was in depression that I’d be where I am now. Some days I couldn’t even make it out of bed. Some days all I could do was lay in the sun. But bit by bit I started to get better, and with more energy I implemented more self development tools. Last year I combined all these tools into an online coaching program called From Surviving To Thriving to help other people get out of a tough time, whether that be depression or something else.
I also have a free group on Facebook of the same name which you can join here for support.
Sending you loads of love, hugs and healing vibes,