So, I’ve got a new article for you. It was written by an acquaintance of mine who I do not know well enough to comment on his life and all the things he’s obviously been through on account of mental health and depression, but I will say that on a day when I myself have been feeling pretty low and worthless, reading what Daniel has written made me feel a lot better. I hope it will have the same effect on you too!
It’s a fact that 1 in 4 people have a mental illness…sometimes it’s said to be 1 in 3 people. When you think about it, that is a pretty staggering number and as I ponder this thought which is screwing with my head, as well as the fact that I may have had some alcohol to drink and a few pills, I have decided to write an article for this page. It should be hopefully an easy read.
So what does depression feel like? What does it make you do? Well, sadly depression has such a huge spectrum of reactions. Some sufferers feel lethargic and not reactive, others may well scream at the slightest provocation. In my case, I would describe it as a feeling of heaviness and despair as if I am trapped in a pit, chained to the wall. One can hardly move, stuck in the darkness and ultimately there is no escape. So why do people feel like this?
I would say from a personal experience that the reason we react in such ways is due to these factors (there may well be more):
- Stress of everyday life
- Hatred of oneself
I shall explain these in the order above in a sort of pop psychology way (just let me get my glasses and let me prepare my best Sigmund Freud accent!).
In terms of the stress of everyday life, this is very much a personal theory, and please do not take anything I say for gospel. I am not a trained psychologist, merely a human being with – possibly stupid – thoughts. But anyway, I digress. How do we get depressed? Part of it may well be genetic. My family has had its fair share of alcoholics and manic depressives for generations, each coping in varying degrees of success (or cleverly hidden up by family members ashamed of the stigma… we’ll get to this later). However I do believe life’s experience can be a reason, such as traumatic and extreme experiences such as the loss of loved ones, bullying or witnessing a horrific event, to name but a few. But when it comes to all the depressed teenagers, I am going to put this forward.
We have so much stress on our shoulders…think about it. Our grandparents and parents were some of the most fortunate generations in history. When they were around money was (for the most part) in abundance; people could get jobs by working their way up from an untrained bank clerk to the head of a massive corporation, many parents were easily employed and earned good money, and paid for their kids to survive, eat well, study and be comfortable. Then they turn around and say “Well, time for you to go to the best university ever, get the best degree, the best job and make loads of money!”
I beg your pardon…
Now, not all parents do this. But, and no offence to anyone of an older generation, they kind of mucked things up. Even Jeremy Paxman has admitted this. They screwed up the planet, through their foolish choices and due to greed, they made a recession and thus made jobs harder to find, the amount of salaries less, and also, there’s a lot more people in our generation than theirs! We are all fighting for placements at universities which may not even be of good quality and not even guarantee us a job!
Now if you have a predisposition to depression, tell me, did you just go to DEFCON 1? I have been there. Life out there is not easy and our generation has so much to put up with and endure. But we can do it. Do you really need to make billions? Or do you just want to be happy?! Don’t delude yourself and let your parents’ expectations control your own! You want to be a doctor, be a doctor! You want to go to art school even though you may not be a famous painter, go to art school! Don’t get into anything for the money, because money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. Consider what makes you happy, and be realistic. You may not make millions with what makes you happy, but as a hobby or way to keep you sane or even a low paying job, as long as you can survive and be happy, do it. Who knows, you may even surprise yourself!
However the above may be hard to swallow, because depressed people hate ourselves. This is a problem as this means we lock ourselves away, believing no one wants to help us. And being alone with our thoughts is dangerous. Second bit of imagery here, but imagine a gremlin continuously pulling your hair and biting you as he screams in your ear “You are possibly the most pathetic creature alive! You are stupid! You are talentless! And nobody loves you!” Wouldn’t you love to kill that gremlin? Just stab him? Throw him from the rooftop of a skyscraper? Shoot him? Now remember that this gremlin is living in you…
These are the thoughts that I, and many others, have had to deal with. They drive us away from people; make us prisoners in our own houses, our own rooms and our own minds. We feel that we are hated but also misunderstood, as if we must be mad or crazy. “We should be away from people!” we say to ourselves. “I am a piece of shit to whom people don’t want to talk and not only do I think this, but everyone else does too! Everyone is better than me.” We end up making ourselves alone, and sometimes saying horrid things to people or doing stupid things in order to separate ourselves from others, to punish ourselves, or find a way to feel good.
In my family, a young man did commit suicide but everyone kept it secret, because they were worried what people would think. Some people will think that you are just being lazy or just miserable and you should just shake it off, and that hiding is just a sign of being introverted. Hearing this must make you feel confirmed in your idea that maybe being alone is better.
But please, and I know how hard it is as I’ve been there, you must not feel ashamed. 1 in 3 people feel the way you do and ultimately you need to talk to the people you feel safest with. Even if it’s just a text, a letter or not even any words, just a brief moment of silence and watching a film or a phone call. The people you feel safest with, like your friends or parents, are probably people who love you deeply (insert Community “Gay!” here). They might not understand, but if you can talk to them, and they are willing to listen, maybe they can help you as people who love you and do not want to see you hurt. Don’t feel guilty for finding it hard to talk to them or feeling like locking yourself away, maybe at least let them know so maybe they could come over for a cuppa and a hug.
If alone, do some work, listen to a song that makes you happy, watch a film, express yourself by writing a poem, a story, a song or a short film! Who knows maybe you could make millions, like that git Morrissey! Or most songwriters! And please, please, get help. It could be medication or an hour with a therapist, just don’t let yourself get into a place so dark that you really do feel like it’s the end. Be safe, since someone out there does love you and would do anything to make you feel safe.
“For now, I just want all things safe and familiar. My life may not be perfect, but it is what I have known.” ~ Ann M. Martin, A Corner of the Universe
For those of you who have read this, and do not have depression, then may I say this: do not judge. Mental illnesses are awful and painful. Please support these people you know, do not assume it is just a bad day, sometimes all it takes is one bad day (yes, Batman quote!). If you love them, make sure you let them know that you will be there for them. I was very fortunate to have many friends and my parents support me. Now gradually, although I may always have some horrid thoughts, I’m getting through life (sometimes in tears, sometimes silent and sometimes because of their love) and laughing like a complete and utter fool. Your support and love and willingness to get them somewhere safe where they can be help could well be what saves them.