'But You Don't Look Depressed?'
It's Depression Awareness Week this week. Mental health is not something I usually blog about (explicitly) but hey, there's a first time for everything.
Depression is arguably more talked about now than it was a few years ago. It seems to be one of the more accepted mental illnesses. I think most people have had at least one day in their life where they've felt almost inexplicably completely bummed out, so it is something many people feel they can relate to on some level.
Being depressed and having depression are very different, though. I've had depression as long as I can remember; I've been diagnosed with it since my early teens.
Most people in my life probably don't know I have depression. I don't define myself as a 'depressed person', and don't exactly 'look' depressed. So many people think depression has a 'look', but it really doesn't. Yes, there are some signs that someone might be depressed, and a person crying or looking 'down' may well have depression. But not everybody who is crying is depressed, and people who are depressed rarely cry 24/7. Most people with depression look just like any other person walking down the street. People with depression can laugh and smile too, it just might happen a little less often or be a little more exhausting to do so. Below are nine pictures of yours truly. In all nine pictures I have depression, but does it look like it? Probably not.
Depression is exhausting. Really, really exhausting. When I'm managing it, it often doesn't interfere with my life too badly, but there are some really rough times too. When it's bad, I often wake up crying. It can take me hours to get out of bed, not because I don't want to, but because I can't remember the steps involved in getting up and dressed, can't make a decision about what clothes to wear, and feel stuck to my bed. Everything feels flat, lifeless and pointless. Moving feels like wading through wet sand and the world turns to sludge. Words are in my head but moving in slow motion, and they often get lost somewhere between my brain and the outside world. Being around people feels like watching others as if they were on a film - they feel far away and almost in another world to me. I can hear conversation but it doesn't make sense. I can feel hugs but they lack any comfort. It's so lonely.
If I manage to get up and dressed, I then have to leave the house (which often results in more tears). If I manage to leave the house (this can take many hours), it can often feel like too much and if anyone spoke to me I probably wouldn't be able to respond for fear of dissolving into a puddle in front of them. Upon coming home, I usually come upstairs and cry because I'm so exhausted and I've been holding everything in all day and it just sort of comes out. Then comes the evening, and trying to get to sleep. For me, depression sometimes results in sleeping a lot of the time, but sometimes it results in hardly sleeping at all. Neither of these are very fun, to say the least. Sometimes I cry loads, other times I can't cry. I normally go a bit quiet and fall off social media. Sometimes it can result in fairly intense suicidal feelings, but more often than not if I'm in a real depression-pit, I'm too low to care about anything like that.
Depression is really boring, too. I like to be busy and doing things, but it zaps so much of my energy that I frequently find myself zombified on my bed. Sitting is boring, lying down is boring, not doing much is boring, so I have to try and do things which don't take a lot of energy or brain power, but keep me busy - not the easiest task!
Please, don't fall into the trap of thinking people with depression are 'lazy'. That they 'just need to get up', 'just need a good night out', or 'just need to smile more'. Believe me, if any of those things would cure it, I'd be more than up for giving it a go! I really want to be out and doing things and being busy and working and studying and everything else, and often I do... but sometimes that just isn't possible.
Around one in five people in England will experience depression at some point in their life. Depression doesn't 'look' a certain way. You can't always tell that someone is depressed and depressed people do not all need to 'try harder'. They are trying. They are trying to live the life they want alongside a horrible disease which is determined to drain the life and enjoyment out of anything and everything.
I’m Naomi, a 21 year old from Yorkshire, currently at University in York studying Psychology in Education. I’m a Team v senior mentor for the North this year, having been a Team v mentor last year and a leader for Leeds the year before. I’ve done some work with the Boston Spa Neighbourhood Plan and continue to work with Young Minds, Shout Out Leeds and Scouts! I’m also the Disability and Access rep. for my college, colleges volunteering liaison for my students’ union, and have two part time jobs, one as a student ambassador and one as a nanny. I’m always up for a laugh and say yes to almost anything. I’m permanently busy and spend a large proportion of my life running on not-enough-sleep, but I love every minute of it. Anyway, this is me, one girl, from a small village, stumbling my way through life.Naomi.
Read Naomi's blog or follow her on Twitter @naomi_barrow