Life has many challenges, and for each individual each challenge or obstacle is different. What is easy for some can be very difficult for others. Each person will face a challenge with a different mindset; take a different approach or attitude and hopefully (eventually) gain a small victory and continue on in life better for the experience, hence the saying what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
However there are some challenges by an individual that go largely unnoticed by their peers, colleagues and family; sometimes even unnoticed by your spouse.
Symptoms can be hidden or even ignored, and sometimes the symptoms aren’t even recognised by the person. It is when these happen that most of the damage starts to occur.
Depression is at first a subtle illness, initially and sometimes for years it’s hard to put a finger on why you are lacking sleep, lacking energy, feeling down, and really struggling to enjoy the things you normally would. You start to lose confidence in yourself; coupled with feelings of nobody likes me. The individual begins a slow downward spiral into depression, that if left untreated or ignored can ultimately lead to suicide.
I was diagnosed with depression nearly eight years ago. In hindsight I would easily say it would have been the last ten years, but it took two years for me to figure out what was happening to me physically and mentally. It also took two years for me to put aside my male ego and talk to my family, and my wife that something wasn’t quite right. It was so hard to walk into the doctor’s office and talk about what was happening, and hear the words you’re clinically depressed. It was like being hit by a train. How does this happen? How on earth did I become depressed? I thought I had everything together and under control. It wasn’t until I really sat down and had a good long look at myself, and looked at many of the events that had shaped my life, good and bad, that I began to see how and when it began to start.
What I found surprising later on is actually how many people suffer from it, however for the better part of the eight years I have kept it largely hidden, and rarely talked about it until recently.
The problem with depression though is just because you know you have it doesn’t mean it’s an easy fix to overcome. You can’t approach it the same way you would normally tackle a problem, because it affects you mentally. Sometimes the job of trying positive thinking, or telling yourself that everything will be ok can be overwhelming. Your brain is at odds with itself, and trying to be positive can have a negative result.
It is a gradual process to understand depression, and it takes time to recognise the symptoms and the triggers. It’s all very well popping a pill and hoping for the best; but I believe to really manage it, you need to live with it or overcome it, and then a complete paradigm shift must take place in your life.
There has to be recognition of the triggers that set things off, and then finding ways to remove or lessen those things in your life. If you are in a marriage, it is vitally important that you both understand what depression is and how it can be managed. Especially if it’s the male that is depressed. I know from experience that this is a topic that was very difficult to discuss, let alone even acknowledge.
So how do we manage depression?
Firstly, acknowledge that there just might be something wrong.
Secondly, seek medical help. There is no shame or embarrassment in being diagnosed with depression. It is becoming widely recognised in sports stars, and even in the workplace. I spent a couple of years in construction, and even in most of the site inductions, depression or mental illness is discussed.
Thirdly, find family or close friends that you can talk things through with. You will have bad days; its ok, and it is very helpful to have people you can sit down with and be open and honest with. Understanding depression means you can recognise that even though something happened that set you off might be very small in the context of general life; it can drag you down for days and weeks. Therefore it is important to have a network of support to help you through.
Lastly, you are not alone, and you are not a lesser man or woman because of it.
There will be things in your lifestyle that may need to change. It could be your career, bad habits, or relationships. Look to put into your life things that take you up, not down. Don’t let the negativity of others determine your future.
You might be depressed, but that doesn’t mean you still cant smile.