Clinical Depression

Clinical depression otherwise known as Major Depressive Disorder is a severe version of depression. In the U.S alone 17.3 million adults had a at least one major depressive episode in a year, with 35% of them receiving no treatment to help, according to a study conducted by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2017).

Depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.

National Institute of Mental Health

It is not commonly caused by an event in life, rather something that is biological or a combination of both of them. Depression affects everyone differently, which can often lead some people to think that it’s not a real health condition. Symptoms of clinical depression can range from hopelessness, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, physical pains such as headaches to weight loss or gain.

Those who suffer from this form of depression have persistent feelings of sadness for weeks or months on end, consistently. For me personally, it is something I’ve witnessed first hand with my brother, Adam Murray who was diagnosed with the condition. Over the years I’ve watched him struggle to balance his everyday life, like everyone does from time to time.

But people lose perspective though, when he feels sad or unmotivated he can spend days in bed, despite knowing he has important tasks to do. To truly understand how this disorder has been on his life I sat down and spoke to him, to help others see how real and all encompassing this disorder is on him and other people with the condition.

Can you give a brief description of how clinical depression affects you?

I can’t think of an area of life that depression doesn’t affect. Your brain is needed to initiate and do every single thing that there is in life and that is where depression is based. Affecting me physically and psychologically.

It makes me: excessively fatigued all the time, unable to concentrate, overthink, have poor self esteem; over sleep, under sleep, over eat, under eat, completely apathetic, unable to empathise, self obsessed, unable to look after myself well, catastrophes about even the simplest thing in life, negatively think about myself/the world, think I am worthless, think others would be better without me, suicidal.  

At what age did you notice that you felt things differently from your friends?

Looking back with the insight I have it developed as I have gotten older… I think I probably had my first episodes as early as 10. I was always a sensitive, empathetic, perfectionist personality which doesn’t help. Feeling everything to intensely and wanting to fix everyone’s suffering. 

Did you ever struggle accepting your diagnosis?

I don’t think I struggled with the diagnosis. I knew I was anxious and depressed. I think I really struggled to get professional help. For two reasons. One I saw so many struggling with more than me or worse off me, therefore I couldn’t be that bad. Two, depression is a Liar! It makes you think that nothing can ever get better so what the point in getting help. You don’t know how in the dark you are till the clouds start to part. 

How have you managed to balance your mental health and work life?

It has been incredibly difficult. I fight against stigma by being open and upfront as I can and as I need to be. There will always be those who empathize with your struggle and those who will hold it against you. 

I have found that I need a lot more self care than most people. I need to be very careful to try and keep my sleep in a routine, to exercise regularly, to eat regularly, to have time by myself, to do the things that bring me joy. The irony is that depression is the very thing that makes that all a struggle. 

What advice do you have for people who may have recently been diagnosed?

It gets better! In the pit of depression when you can’t even imagine how any future could be any better, probably only a worse one, this is a hard thing to hear. Keep opening up. Keep taking. Keep doing things you enjoy. Keep your supporters close. Keep taking you medication even when you don’t want to. Keep fighting for yourself.

One of my favourite phrases: “everything good is worth doing badly.”

Meaning if you are really struggling… going for a 10 minute walk is better than not leaving the house at all; brushing your teeth for 30 seconds is better than nothing at all; reading one work email is better than not trying to get on top of them.

What methods do you use to help cope with your condition?

Over the years I have tried lots of different things to try and help. I kept the methods and techniques that work for me so I have a range of stuff at my disposal when I notice myself not coping well. These have included formal things like: medication, GP visits, counsellors, psychology and cognitive behavioural therapy. To more informal/personal things: Art/painting/craft, reading, yoga, mindfulness, music, dancing, the gym, family and friends. 

When I am struggling with anergia (abnormal lack of energy/motivation) or overthinking or despairing I have found the “just do” technique useful. You only focus on the very next thing you’re doing and pull your thoughts back to that one thing every time your mind wanders. It can be as simply as “boil the kettle”. Either do it till you have done what you need to, or till a specific time rounds out or until you simply feel tired and stop. I find this useful for looking after myself or doing chores. 

Do you feel like there are misconceptions or stigma around clinical depression?

Massively ! I could talk about this all day.

  • People can associate mental illness with being a weak person (nothing weak about fighting and standing up to your own mind every single minute of every day). 
  • People can confuse your mental illness as your personality. I am not lazy, disorganised, sleepy, disengaged, apathetic, uncaring – but my illness is!
  • People assume you are just sad all the time. The best phrase I heard on this is depressed people are not sad – we are intense. We feel all emotions intensely. If anything the emotion I feel the most isn’t sadness it apathy. Complete inability to care, even if I want to.
  • People think it is all in your head. Yeah it may be but your brain controls everything in your body and therefore the symptoms can be psychological or physical.

Many think that it is either all psychological and therefore will be completely resolved when you deal with the “core issues”. Or its all genetic and biological upset and therefore medication and changing your brain neurotransmitters will solve everything. 

In reality it is a combination of social factors (childhood, struggles, trauma, current difficulties that put you at risk), Biology (strong family/genetics predisposing you to lower level of the happy neurotransmitters) and psychology (coping strategies, how you think of things, perception of self, others and the world.) 

I hated being told to deal with my issues, when in reality I have multiple risk factors in each of these areas putting me at risk. And as many people know, despite therapy and their greatness effort to resolve issues some can’t be resolved and therefore have to be managed as best we can. 

Medication:

This concept of sorting the “core issues” to resolve your issues leads to a massive stigma against the use of medication. If it is all psychological you can talk and think your way out of it. But the more your thoughts are negative the less you use the positive neurotransmitters. Your body makes less of them cause your not using them. This in turn makes it hard to do any of the things that will help you out of depression (talking, exercising, sleeping, eating well).

And if you can solve the core issues, then you manage it. Osteoarthritis can’t be cured, so people take pain killers to deal with the symptoms of pain. Or a type one diabetic who does produce insulin and needs insulin to replace a lack of something there body doesn’t make enough of. Using antidepressants can be much like this. 

The example I often give people as a comparison is the fact that I use glasses to aid my sight. I am pretty blind without them. Now, I could squint, move closer to things to see them, bang into things, get headaches and put up with all that. No one expects me to when I can simply put my glasses on and stop the need to struggle so much doing the simplest things. The same goes for anti-depressants I could struggle to get out of bed every morning, to struggle to have the concentration to read one page of a book etc.. and just put up with it or I can use a simple aid like medication to reduce the struggle. To put me on a more even playing field as everyone else.

If you feel like you can relate to the symptoms above or are struggling with your mental health, a list of useful websites are located in the link below.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

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