“When my walls are crashing down
When my feet can’t touch the ground
And when I scream but there’s no sound
And I wonder what will happen now
That my walls have crashed down.”
These lyrics by singer/songwriter Maddie Vance perfectly describe how depression can feel. Depression isn’t just feeling a little sad and unmotivated. Depression isn’t “just a phase that will pass.” Depression isn’t just something to be ignored or taken as inconsequential. If you haven’t ever felt depression before, there’s a good chance you may not understand the complexities of it. Depression is a very real, very serious mental health issue that needs to be understood by everyone in order to help and support those living with this often debilitating issue.
So, what is depression really like? Nicole Carmen, a mental health advocate who has Bipolar II Disorder, depression, and anxiety has been living with depression for nearly a decade. She’s been generous in sharing her feelings and others’ feelings about the depression they struggle with every day.
“To me, depression feels like a dark follower. I can turn my head and see him following at a distance, or peeking his head around the corner, watching me. When I’m at my worst, it feels like he’s right behind me, so close that he can touch me. The closer he follows, the more intense the negative feelings are. Depressive episodes are both emotionally and physically draining. It can be crippling, even. It can prevent us from thinking rationally, taking care of ourselves, taking care of household chores, having normal social interactions, and in severe cases, even working.” Nicole Carmen
“Like trying to live life, while walking in mud. Some days it’s ankle deep, some it’s waist deep and most times, it’s somewhere in between.” @TiredInOntario
“Nothing. You feel nothing. You don’t feel what you’re supposed to feel. You do feel a mild blandness that makes you want to medicate with stuff you know you shouldn’t do.” @AutisticPriest
“An overwhelming sense of dread that never leaves, coupled with a tightness and pressure over my heart. Like looking at the world with storm-cloud colored glasses.” @WhatiCanChange
“Depression. It’s hard to describe. I’ll have to put it like this. U ever have that dream where you’re falling but you never hit the ground. Just like that, only you’re blindfolded + you don’t know why you’re falling + you don’t know if you’ll ever hit the ground.” @jeremyemery1984
“Where everyone’s normal or average state of their mood is what you experience on only your happiest of days. And then you feel like you’re not human since you hardly ever reach the surface so you end up sinking deeper. Like the world is at light speed and you can only crawl.” @moondoll
“The lead blanket the dentist drapes over you during x rays.” @TerminallyNice
“Like a very big black dog on my shoulders, snarling, barking words of hate and shame in my ear. Constant barking and snarling, pushing me to the very edge during my waking and sleeping hours. When it’s gone I feel lighter.” @crybabybunting
Depression is a serious mood disorder that causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and deal with daily activities, and it can occur at any age. Depression symptoms can vary in type and in severity, and if felt for more than two weeks, you may be diagnosed with depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, below are some of the most common symptoms of depression:
If you feel five or more of the above symptoms at least once a day for at least two weeks, you could be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, which is also known as clinical depression.
There is no blueprint to depression symptoms. In other words, everyone experiences depression differently. Some may feel all the symptoms all the time but at varying intensity levels – sometimes severe and other times mild. Others may feel just a few of the symptoms but at an extreme intensity.
There are different types of depression, usually due to how the depression develops under certain circumstances. Let’s look at a few common types of depression:
Seeing someone go through a depressive episode, you might leave you feeling ill-equipped to help them. You might feel like you don’t know what to say or do, or you’re afraid you’ll say or do the “wrong” thing. However, if you learn about what depression is, you have the ability to help someone suffering with it, even if it means just empathizing with them.
With that being said, the bolded items below are usually a sign that someone has or is actively thinking about harming themselves or suicide. This may not be true for everyone, and it varies from person to person. Speaking from personal experience and after speaking with others who have had suicidal thoughts, I am trying to give you the best advice possible. If your loved one is, in fact, exhibiting signs of any of the bolded symptoms, I highly suggest not leaving them alone.
SOME (NOT ALL) SIGNS OF POTENTIALLY SUICIDAL BEHAVIOR
If there is an asterisk (*) by the item, please take extra, extra care, and be sure that you get help if necessary. Suicide Hotline – If you or someone you care about is in crisis and needs immediate help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1- 800- 273- 8255. The phone lines are answered by trained professionals available 24/7; the call is free and confidential. If emergency medical care is needed, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. Please know, you don’t have to feel suicidal to use the above hotline. If you just need someone to talk to, use that lifeline too.
Remember, depression is not something to take lightly. It’s a very real and very serious mental health illness, and it’s important that we understand the illness and how to help those who are suffering with it. If you listen and act, it can mean everything to someone with depression. Listen to what they have to say, but don’t try to “fix” them. Take action and send them a kind message, bring them a small token of your affection, or offer to do some chores or errands for them. Even the smallest action can make all the difference and help them get through their depressive episode. By staying present, responsive, and – above all else – compassionate, you’ll make sure that they know they aren’t alone.
If you’re experiencing depression, it’s important for you to know it is not a weakness or a flaw in your character or personhood. Know that you’re not alone and there are people who care. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. If you would like to talk with someone, reach out – (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1- 800- 273- 8255). Again, you don’t have to be suicidal to use this number – they are there to help and provide support and to listen.
It can be exceptionally healing to share your story. Below, Kayla shares hers: