I struggle with depression. Four of the hardest words I have ever had to say. Why am I admitting to this? Well, 10 October (my birthday coincidently) was World Mental Health Day and, as part of an ongoing campaign to continue meaningful discussions surrounding the topic, SADAG is encouraging people to talk openly and honestly about their experiences… The idea is to shatter misconceptions and debunk myths.
Am I crazy?
The sad truth is that many people still regard depression as a weakness or associate it with being ‘crazy’. However, it is in fact an illness involving your body, mood and thoughts. Men and women of all ages can be affected by it and it can be cause by various factors.
For me, it is genetic and biochemical (depression is believed to be caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. In other words, when the functioning of certain neurotransmitters is disturbed, depression can occur.) I am not a sad person. I am not miserable because my life sucks. In fact, I am not miserable at all! I am just living with an illness that causes a bunch of physiological and psychological symptoms.
The big D
I was about 8 when I first felt the numbness of depression in the pit of my stomach. That is always where I feel it. It is a slow wave of nausea that slowly spreads throughout my body, transforming into a persistent and overwhelming sense of fatigue, exhaustion, numbness, frustration, anger and physical pain. It occurred to me that everything was pretty pointless and I could not shake that feeling of foreboding. It made me so tired.
I did not realize it at the time, but that feeling was depression rearing it’s cold, ugly face. Since that day I have been living with that dark, uninvited companion. It hit me hard in my teens, resulting in years of eating disorders and frantic mood swings, and it took years for me to figure out why I was so different to everyone else. It took another several years for me to learn how to control and cope with it.
For me, one of the hardest things was dealing with the stigma attached to depression. People often told me to snap out of it, they said that I had problems and issues, that I was a disturbed person, that I needed to pull myself together. For those reasons I refused to believe that I was living with depression and refused to seek professional help, instead looking for alternative reasons to explain why I was always feeling so sick.
Eventually my doctor sat me down and gave me a full explanation on what depression really is and how it was manifesting physically in my body. Nausea, stomach ache, fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches, mood swings… it was all due to a simple chemical imbalance.
Road to recovery
I have undergone various treatment methods and have finally found one that works for me, but it is different for every person, which is why it is so important to seek professional help. I am just grateful that I have had running to help me through this.
It has kept me on an even keel. the trails is where I let everything go. Where I can let my walls come down and just be me. It is where I meet my true self and where I can express myself without inhibitions. Running is when I am truly free and it has saved me.
I hope that, by speaking out about this, it might encourage others living withi this illness to find help! We are not meant to feel this way. You deserve to feel alive, not dead. And you deserve proper treatment!
Information on depression
SADAG is at the forefront of patient advocacy, education and destigmatisation of mental illness in the country. Its expertise lies in assisting patients and callers throughout South Africa with mental health queries.
SADAG released the following information on depression.
What is a Depression?
A Depression is a “whole-body” illness, involving your body, mood and thoughts. It affects the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you think about things. A Depression is not the same as a temporary blue mood. It is not a sign of personal weakness or a condition that can be willed or wished away. People with a depression cannot merely “pull themselves together” and get better. Without treatment, symptoms can last for weeks, months or years. Appropriate treatment, however, can help most people who suffer from Depression.
Symptoms of Depression
Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom listed. Some people experience a few symptoms, some people experience many. Also, the severity of symptoms varies between individuals.
Symptoms of Depression include:
- Persistent sad, or “empty” mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
- Feelings of hopelessness and pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and self-reproach
- Insomnia or hypersomnia, early morning awakening, or oversleeping
- Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
- Decreased energy, fatigue and feeling run down
- Increased use of alcohol and drugs, may be associated but not a criteria for diagnosis
- Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts
- Restlessness, irritability, hostility
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
- Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain
- Deterioration of social relationships
If you think you, or a friend or family member, might be struggling with depression, please check them out for more information www.sadag.org