The loneliness of depression and the importance of talking
Posted Thursday 18 October 2012
I took an overdose in June this year. It’s not the first time I have taken an overdose. It was not the last. But that overdose was significant. It was when I realised that my depression was really back with a vengeance. I had a friend with me at the time, which was lucky because he looked after me. But it was also important because seeing how much I scared him made me realise that things were serious.
Since June I have been quite open with people about my depression. I realised that for me my depression is fuelled by feeling as if I have failed. I am one of those people who ostensibly have a good and very successful life. Feeling down all the time made me feel like I was letting myself and everyone else down. I realised that I needed to talk to people to overcome that guilt.
And talking to people is great. If you haven’t tried it then I would definitely recommend it. People have surprised me by how kind and sympathetic they are. Mental health issues do not have the same stigma that they once did, and organisations like Mind and the Samaritans are really helping to get people to accept that depression and anxiety are actual illnesses, as real as a broken leg or a nasty infection.
But sometimes even talking to people has made me feel very lonely.
For me my depression feels like the tide coming in. It happens slowly and gradually, and then it is suddenly there and I’m swamped. Once it is there it feels like someone else is doing my thinking for me. It feels like I become a different person. I can almost look at myself and know that I don’t want to be feeling down and sad, but I have no control of the thoughts and feelings which tell me that I am worthless and useless. Sometimes I feel completely disconnected from the world. I describe it as feeling like I've walked into a familiar room but all the furniture has been moved a half inch out of place. It is my life but it doesn't feel quite right. I end up feeling like I am going mad.
If I describe this to someone who has had depression or anxiety they can often understand what I mean. But when I describe it to someone who has never felt like that they tend to look at me a bit blankly. My friend who was with me when I took the overdose knows me incredibly well, and is one of the most sympathetic people I know, but sometimes I feel that even he doesn't quite ‘get it’.
And I think that, for me, this is one of the hardest things about depression – it makes me feel very lonely because I can’t make other people understand it.
Sometimes it frustrates me. I don’t feel angry with my friends who don’t quite understand. They are not doing anything wrong. If anything I get angry with the depression and the fact that it feels like it is cutting me off from the world. I can try as hard as I like to explain, but it still feels like no one understands.
Now, if you are reading this and any of this sounds remotely familiar then hopefully you will have realised the obvious: you are not alone. There are lots of us out there who feel exactly the same way. How exactly your depression feels will be very personal to you. But you are not by yourself. That’s just what the depression does.
And my advice, for what it is worth, is that no matter how difficult it is don’t give up on talking to people. I have found friends that I never knew were there. And for each person who doesn't understand me and just tells me to ‘snap out of it’, there is someone who will sit and listen over a cup of tea. Which helps me to feel a little less alone.
You can read more from Louisa on her personal blog.
Opening up to someone about a mental health problem can be really difficult, but it can be helpful to talk to someone about how you're feeling. There are some tips on telling someone about a mental health problem on the Time to Change website.
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