I’m depressed help: learning the basics

Depression: Symptoms

One in eight of us has experienced clinical depression at least once in our lives, and absolutely everyone feels symptoms of mild depression from time to time. How do you know when to sound the alarm? Is it possible to get out of depression if it does happen? And what are the symptoms of depression? Psychotherapists Derek Draper and Cecilia D’Felice on one of the most common ailments of our century.

Depression slows thoughts and movements, takes away dreams, and paints everything black. Life seems hopeless. You feel immense loneliness, as if you were on a desert island – no one can hear you, much less help you.

You are cut off from friends, you do not feel interest in work, you do not enjoy hobbies and interests, although they may still be present in your life. If you are familiar with this condition, you may have fallen under the influence of one of the worst epidemics of the 21st century.

Here are a few symptoms that can help you recognize depression and distinguish it from depressive anxiety, a short-term condition that can be managed on your own, without the help of a specialist.

Apathy and helplessness

Lack of energy is one of the symptoms of depression. People who have not been through it find it hard to believe that sometimes apathy reaches such proportions that it costs a person enormous effort to even just get dressed, brush their teeth and tidy themselves up. Depression brings with it a decrease in energy levels and extreme fatigue.

Negative thoughts

Research by cognitive behavioral psychologists shows that underlying depression are persistent negative beliefs about oneself or relationships with others. These may include feelings of guilt and feelings of worthlessness.

Many speak of unrealistic negative beliefs about themselves, experience feelings of guilt or anxiety about what has happened in the past, and endlessly reflect on their own mistakes and lapses.

Sleep and appetite disorders

Depression permeates all areas, undermining the basics of life, so any changes in eating, sleeping and resting patterns can help diagnose it.

Insomnia or early awakenings are alarming, though not the only symptom. Lack of appetite and refusal to eat are often symbolic expressions of rejection of life. Just as excessive sleepiness can sometimes be a way of withdrawing from an unsatisfying reality.

Loss of attention

Being depressed decreases one’s ability to concentrate. For some people, reading a book becomes an impossible task – they momentarily lose track of what is going on, often distracted by their negative thoughts. Many also complain that they have difficulty making even the simplest decisions.

Suicidal thoughts

We all from time to time think about what life’s outcome awaits us, and suicidal thoughts visit everyone at least once. But if they are accompanied by apathy, unwillingness to get out of bed and go outside, or if you are contemplating a concrete plan of action for quitting life, it is a serious reason to seek help.

If you are experiencing two or more of the above symptoms, you may need professional help. Depression can be treated quite successfully if it is taken care of in time.

Also, no matter how lonely and lost you may feel, you are not alone. You have friends, family, acquaintances who can support you in times of need, and something even more valuable: a healthy and strong part of your personality that is unaffected by depression.

Even if it is very difficult to realize right now, your task is to remember it and let it show. The more often it makes itself known, the sooner it will help you get out of depression.

Personal Story

“I’ve lived with manic-depressive disorder most of my life – suffered from it, but didn’t know it was an illness. One day, 11 years ago, there was a crisis. I had just started acting in a new theater production and immediately received angry reviews from critics. Already after three performances I left the play. Early the next morning I went to the garage, shut the door with a comforter and got in the car. I sat there for two hours. When you physically feel like you can’t do it anymore, it’s not just words, it’s reality. I would have killed myself if I hadn’t had the opportunity to disappear for a while. I didn’t see any other option. When I’m depressed, my self-esteem drops to zero. I hear my inner voice telling me that I am worthless and untalented. These periods of self-deprecation and numbness happen to me 3-4 times a year and last from a week to 10 days. Still, I often rely on my manic part to give me a taste for life and adventure, and I think the best part of me is the consequence and inherent part of my mood swings.”

“I’m a rabbit, and predators won’t find me.” How people live with depression

Since mid-September there has been a flashmob #faceofdepression (#depressioninetface) all over the world – social media users 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 is 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 . Everything seems to be 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 get high, go to the gym, but the children in Africa are even worse.

Meanwhile, you’re the person who doesn’t brush your teeth or go out the window for a week simply because your mother can’t handle 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 this 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 this 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 that it wasn’t a bliss.

We are too often asked not to get worked up, to tune in positively, to just love ourselves, not to freak out over the fat, 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 a very different issue.

Depression taught me to always be on my own side: to take care of my feelings and my health, not to 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 won’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 the recommendation to be extremely attentive to the appearance of the animal. Rabbits hide the symptoms of disease 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 am still a rabbit. And the 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 be 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 it is sometimes unbearable to live, and with two small children it is hard to live with.

From the unrelenting fatigue of hell and all that ensued from my condition, the children’s whining and tantrums were driving me to the brink of exhaustion.

I put the baby 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 and very pleasant summer, I was working and selling books. I went out for 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 the face of it is still different.

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