“I’m a rabbit, and predators won’t find me.” How do people with depression live?
Since mid-September there has been a flashmob #faceofdepression (#depressinetface) all over the world – users of social networks talk about their illnesses and how they struggle with them.
The editorial staff of the Moscow 24 portal gathered five stories of Muscovites trying to fight depression and together with Larisa Ovcharenko, psychologist, associate professor of the Institute of Psychology, Sociology and Social Relations, figured out how to identify depression, at what point a bad mood turns into a serious illness and what happens if nothing is done about it.
The first thing with which depression begins – a persistent low mood for no reason: nothing cheers, does not cling, and for quite a long time. Second, there is a drop in motivation, to the point where even those things that used to make you happy seem pointless. Thirdly, there is a decrease in the level of social contacts and, as a consequence, rapid irritability and increased aggression. One of the brightest criteria are suicidal thoughts, actions – everything that is connected with autoaggression, i.e. self-harm.
There are several varieties of depression. One of the most common is latent depression . It seems that everything is fine, the general background seems to be normal, there are no depressing events, but it is difficult to get up from bed, and the person feels constant weakness and fatigue.
One subspecies of this illness is depression with a smile. The patient himself is not aware of the problem, but the results in life are very low. Usually all this is accompanied by motivational deceptions: “I’m strong”, “I can do anything”. But in reality, there is a constant struggle going on inside. All of this can greatly aggravate the overall condition: there is not much of a step between a bad mood and a serious illness. For example, depression can turn into mutism, a pathological condition characterized by complete silence while retaining the functions of the speech apparatus, hearing and the ability to understand speech. Today, depression can also be detected on a physical level by taking hormone tests (serotonin, endorphin, creatinine).
When a person stops coping with his own moods, it all goes into the psychosomatic, and here the main thing is to see a specialist right away. Depressive reactions can develop into cardiovascular disease, up to and including stroke.
“I was drowning my depression with pills and alcohol.”
Photo: DPA/TASS/Jochen Eckel
Only my closest friends know that I have had difficulty leaving the house for a couple of years now. When I did go out, it was with various blisters of various antidepressants. And alcohol. You can’t, yes, I know. Depressed people are like that, they masterfully disguise themselves, often because society is unable to understand, much less accept their illness: “Don’t be dopey, go to the gym, but the children in Africa are even worse.
Meanwhile, you are the person who doesn’t brush his teeth or go out the window for a week simply because his mother won’t stand for it.
Some people get to the stage where it doesn’t matter if you survive or not. If your friend says he’s depressed, if he’s been saying it for more than two or three weeks, if there’s been a divorce, job loss, etc. – look for a doctor, take him by the hand and take him to that doctor. Under no circumstances should you take pills without a prescription. It can just end up in a corkscrew.
Depression is not about laziness or bad moods. Depression is about the chemistry in your body. Lifecycle: the doctor can be bad too, and a second try is needed. That’s what happened to me. I’ve been on the pill for three years. With interruptions and the hope that someday I could live without them.
“I went to work to have an excuse to get out of the house.”
Photo: Moscow 24/Alexander Avilov
My heaviest depressive period has no face or any normal memories. I just did not leave the house for almost six months, although every day I was going to do it. I almost dropped out of uni because I just didn’t show up for exams and retakes. When I did go, I joked and laughed with my classmates, and the last thing you’d think was that I was sick.
I came out of that period the wrong way, don’t make it so: I went to work so that I necessarily had to leave the house.
Every task during that period was unbearably hard, and the constant thought that I was failing only made it worse. And then I just had no energy left for anything, including the depression itself, and it receded. And there was already another job, and then suddenly sports, which opened up a whole endorphin waterfall and thus helped a lot. At some point, amid the euphoria of my new lifestyle and graduation, I even caught zen and calmed down. It was still sometimes difficult to leave the house, but it was already episodic. None of the reasons for this condition were resolved: I just didn’t know it wasn’t a bliss.
We are too often told not to get overwhelmed, to tune in positively, to just love ourselves, not to freak out, so it’s very easy to miss the real symptoms.
The depression came back, and I only found out about it when I went to a therapist for an entirely different issue.
Depression taught me to always be on my own side: to take care of my feelings and my health, to not waste my time in toxic relationships, to trust my own feelings, to recognize, live through and let go of my emotions. These seem to be basic skills, but I ignored them for a very long time. The main thing depression has taught me is that it’s not my enemy, it’s a signal.
“I’m a rabbit, and predators can’t find me.”
Photo: Evolve/TASS/Manfred Danneger
I am silent. I’m ashamed. It has to do with my profession: I’m a psychologist. I can’t get rid of the thought of a real psychologist who should. Should never get depressed, otherwise how can you let someone like that near people? Should heal all the old wounds, and better yet not have them, and be born in a radiant, sparkling with love family, and then suddenly all the clients will ruin everything.
Or at the very worst, forgive everyone, hold no grudges, understand, accept responsibility for your life and love the beautiful and generous universe. Or just keep quiet and pretend. Being a rabbit.
I love rabbits very much. When I bought myself a pet, I reread all the books that exist on rabbit breeding. There I came across a recommendation to be extremely attentive to the appearance of the animal. Rabbits hide the symptoms of illness until the last moment, so that a predator will not notice their infirmity and eat them. They are suffering, but to the observer they look active and frisky. Only in the last hours before death does the rabbit’s weakness become visible.
And I’m still a rabbit. And predators won’t find me.
“I just want warmth.”
I saw a therapist every week and took about ten pills a day: an antidepressant, a stabilizer, vitamins, and sedatives. The medication gave me regular headaches, tremors, and rashes. All I wanted to do was to lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling. But I continued to work, study, and go out with friends. Only those closest to me knew that I was on pills. No one saw any changes in my behavior.
It seemed to me that I was alone in outer space and that there was no hope for rescue. I lost my appetite, I stopped sleeping, I was suffocating due to panic attacks. I was like a bird that had been locked in a shoebox.
It was beating to the blood against the cardboard, but with each passing day the strength was getting less and less. But I held on, because I knew for sure: this condition can’t last forever. During depression, what a person needs more than anything else in the world is another person – someone to hold. The sound of a voice that will become a beacon and help get out of the damn maze.
But these days it’s very hard to ask for help and almost impossible to open up to anyone. You desperately want warmth, but you reject it. And I never tire of thanking my loved ones for being there for me. In spite of everything.
“The face of depression is different after all.”
Photo: TASS/DPA/Frank May
My depression lasted five years, from the end of my second pregnancy until my youngest son’s fifth birthday, respectively. What it was, I realized pretty quickly when the baby was three months old. I stopped sleeping, I could stay awake for two nights in a row, despite having two small children (the oldest was 3.5 years old when my youngest was born). I was not allowed to take pills, because I was breastfeeding my baby. Everything they write about depression is very similar. You can’t always tell from the looks of it, but life is sometimes unbearable, and with two small children, it’s hard beyond belief.
The incessant hellish fatigue and all the ensuing from my condition children’s whining and tantrums drove me to the brink of death.
I put the child on the window sill. Looking out the window, he stopped whining. I take a step to the side for a second, turn away, he falls. I pick him up, he didn’t hit the floor. But there’s blood all over him, terrible crying. I understand that he hit the edge of the bench. I saw that he had knocked his teeth out. We had to remove four teeth under anesthesia.
Another memory: it was a warm, very pleasant summer, I was working and selling books. I went out to lunch. For the first time in three years, I suddenly felt the wind, happy with the sun. It was as if the thick glass behind which I had lived for the past two years had cracked. I was sure it was finally over, but it was far from over. It was only the beginning of recovery.
Next came antidepressants, psychologists, psychiatrists. The fact that everything had passed, became finally clear only a year ago, when I felt good without antidepressants for a few months. On the plus side, my life now is much better, more interesting, freer than it was before the depression. But it does have a different face.
I can’t, I don’t want to, I won’t: signs of emotional burnout
What is emotional burnout and where does it come from?
The term “emotional burnout” appeared in the 1970s – it was how psychologists described the condition of employees of crisis centers for homeless people, Vietnam veterans and wives of abusers. Physically their work was not difficult, but from morning till night they had to support and listen to those who were very unfortunate in their lives. Soon the volunteers became depressed and absent-minded, and began to be rude to their charges. The word “burnout” came into use, and so began to be called the result of any overexertion.
A burnout is not just an imaginary disease that can be used to justify laziness. Recently, WHO included burnout in the catalog of the International Classification of Diseases. It is described there as “a syndrome resulting from chronic stress”.
What can cause burnout? There are many stress factors: experts from the American Mayo Clinic emphasize the inability to control your life, lack of understanding of what others expect from you, regular work overtime, uncomfortable schedule, unhealthy atmosphere in the team, lack of balance between work and personal life.
Last year Deloitte surveyed 1000 professionals and found that 77% had experienced professional burnout. And among young people aged 25 to 40 the figure was even higher – 84%. The survey showed that enthusiasm in no way protects against burnout – 87% of respondents said they loved their work, but 64% said they lived in constant stress.
Burnout or depression?
Burnout and depression can be confused. The main difference is that depression can be triggered by a variety of non-work related events-a divorce, moving to another city, losing a loved one, having a child. Depression has an immediate and serious effect on all aspects of life – family relationships, friendships, hobbies. We feel that family does not love us, friends do not appreciate us, that we are unattractive, unworthy of respect and devoid of a future.
Burnout is caused by excessive work loads and affects us at work — we doubt our professional talents and our choice of career path in general.
Signs of emotional burnout in adults
What is the difference between normal fatigue and burnout? Normal fatigue goes away if you get a good night’s sleep, go for a walk in the park or take a vacation. But when a person is burned out, he wakes up tired and after a trip to the sea he feels even more broken down than before the vacation.
It seems to you all the time that you explode. It seems that everyone is conspiring to annoy you: your partner neglects you, your bosses are picking on you, your subordinates sabotaged your orders, the courier deliberately delivers a pizza crumpled. You have difficulty controlling irritability, even if you realize that you react inappropriately.
Lack of motivation.
It is very difficult for you to start a new business, because you do not see the point in them, and in general your work seems to you nobody wants. So you do not enjoy the successes, on the other hand, and failures do not upset you. You do not care how well you work – the pleasure of work and involvement in the process is somewhere gone.
You’ve been disinterested and uninspired by your work for a long time. It seems that you are occupied with something unbearably boring from morning till night. You do not want to learn new things and join promising projects.
Signs of emotional burnout in children
Lack of control over one’s life, unclear expectations, difficult relationships in the team, fear of failure, uncomfortable schedules and overload – this describes the life of some students. Some children are so busy that they have no free time left: they have to get up at 6-7 in the morning and go to school, where a team awaits them, which is not easy to fit into, and work that requires enormous concentration. And after school, parents send the child to additional classes, after which they have to do their homework. And if kids don’t want to do anything, it doesn’t mean they’re lazy – maybe they have emotional burnout and need help.
Poor academic performance.
Especially if a child used to study quite decently. It is unlikely that he turned from an “A” student to a “F” student for no reason. If his grades are getting worse and worse, and even in subjects that the child loves – it can be a sign of overwork and burnout – a child is simply not able to try, he does not have the resource for it.
The easiest way to trace this symptom is to look at how the child does his homework. He used to do them in an hour, but now he is sitting over his notebooks till night? In a normal state, both pupils and adults can concentrate on a new task and start doing it in about 20-30 minutes. If half an hour has passed and the child is still sitting over a blank sheet, he or she definitely has concentration problems.
Drowsiness and soreness
The child cannot get up in the morning, he is constantly late for classes, and coming home after school, immediately falls asleep. In addition, he regularly complains about his health in the hope that his parents will let him stay home. Some children skip classes and extracurricular activities because of sleepiness and may even lie that fencing lessons were canceled, the robotics club was closed, and the dance instructor was sick. This is not laziness, but a symptom, especially if the child chose these circles and liked them.
Difficulties with communication
Recently the child was always telling you about his friends, and now they have disappeared. Burnout leads to apathy, and there is no more energy left for friends. On the contrary, the child wants to lock himself in his room and have as little contact with the outside world as possible.
How to prevent emotional burnout
Find out what causes a burnout.
It can be one factor or a combination of them. You may have taken on a task that is beyond your power, or become bogged down in routine, or started working more, sacrificing sleep and rest for the sake of your career. Think about what you can do to get rid of ? Perhaps you need to talk to your boss and review your job description or try working remotely?
Drop what you don’t need. Delegate some of the duties at work, suspend marketing courses and guitar lessons, if there is no energy or time for them. Self-development is necessary, but it should not harm and deprive the basic things – a regular meal, a good night’s sleep, communication with those who you care.
Distributing the load, focus only on yourself.
Some people are comfortable working 12 hours a day, but need a lot of time to rest and recover. Don’t compete with others – listen only to yourself.
Change your schedule
Adults can give up the habit of working on weekends or start scheduling a few short breaks during the day. It is more difficult for children – the school schedule does not imply flexibility. But the workload can be reduced by moving classes with tutors online – so the child will not waste time on travel and can study in a comfortable environment and when it is convenient for him.
Online school for children and teenagers Skysmart allows you to improve English and math with tutors who know how to present the material in a fun and interesting way.
Take Care of Yourself
Make time for yourself each day. Turn off gadgets and any distractions. Ask those around you not to disturb you and devote at least half an hour or an hour to something that pleases you: listen to music, play with your dog, read a book that has nothing to do with work.