When it comes to depression, most people will struggle to explain how they feel. Utterly overwhelmed by their symptoms, they can find it very difficult to pin down what exactly is wrong. Concerned friends and family may genuinely want to understand what is happening but phrases such as, “I don’t know, I just feel awful” and “I’ve got no energy” puzzle them. Don’t we all have off days? Don’t we all feel tired, for most of the time?
Depression is all-consuming. You can’t think straight. Sometimes you can’t even walk straight. You can drop things and misjudge distances. Journalist, Tim Lott writes that depression ‘can produce symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s – forgetfulness, confusion and disorientation. Making even the smallest decisions can be agonising’. And exhausting.
Often those diagnosed with depression will spend the first few weeks trying to explain to others why they are not themselves, whilst not understanding it themselves. Instead of recuperating, they will ruminate on how to explain it better so people will understand, and know how best to help. Because they want help, they just can’t verbalise it in a way that makes sense yet doesn’t upset those offering assistance.
Those with depression often ignore emails, texts and leave the phone to ring. They may start doing shopping online, or choose to visit the supermarket very early or late at night to avoid bumping into friends in town. The effort to engage with another person is too great. But they don’t want to be forgotten. Isolation can become a real fear, and questions such as, “Will anyone notice if I’m not there?”, or “Will anyone even care?” may feature.
Counselling can be immensely helpful, creating a space to explore how you feel without judgement. The relief of talking with someone who understands the condition yet values your experience as unique can be therapeutic. There’ll be no pull-yourself-togethers, or you-think-you’re-tired-you-should-try-being-mes. You can just be you as you are right now, and take as long as you like to say all you need to say. But the important thing is that you won’t be alone.