Depression by Alan O.

Somebody once told me that a person doesn’t cry because they’re weak, but instead because they’ve had to be strong for too long. I wish I could say for sure who that was, because it’s one of the most true statements I’ve ever heard, but at the time I was in no state of mind to remember specific details about much of anything.

For those who don’t know me, or have never read anything I’ve written, I suffer quite severely with depression. I have done for many years now. Thinking back I’ve probably suffered with depression since I was about 13, but I was never an especially outgoing or happy person so nobody really noticed at first. It wasn’t until I was about 15 that it became really bad and my family noticed that what was wrong with me was more than just “teenage angst”. On so many levels I wish they had noticed before or that I didn’t have the idea in my head that somehow mental illness was a bad thing.

Depression, while it no more defines me than any other single factor in my life does, is a part of me. Realising this has been one of the most beneficial things I’ve ever done. I suffer with depression and I’m not ashamed. No one should be. Mental illness is just that, an illness.

That’s not something I always realised. For years I was ashamed of the thoughts I had, of the fact that I was almost completely numb and that the only thing which helped was to cut myself. And sadly the more shame I felt, the worse everything became. I can say with a great deal of certainty, considering the attitudes I’ve been met with when people find out I suffer with depression, that it’s most likely the same for many people out there who suffer.

Society, though things are becoming much better now, still seems to stigmatize mental illness. People are afraid to talk about it because it’s “not normal”, they are afraid to admit they suffer because they might be seen as “crazy”. Because of this discussions don’t happen, people don’t get the help they need and ultimately lives are lost. And that’s why I talk about my depression. I don’t want sympathy from anyone, instead I want people to look at me and realise that it’s okay to be “crazy”. I want a person to look at me and say “he’s crazy, but so what?” because honestly, with the right people helping you, mental illness is no worse than an irregular heart beat. Sure it’d be great not to have it, but as long as you take care of yourself it’s not going to be an issue.

The hardest part of depression is to admit you are suffering, or to admit someone you love may be suffering. It’s difficult for many reasons, some personal and some societal, but the reasons really aren’t important. What is important is knowing when someone is suffering. There are many different signs that point to depression, some are noticeable by the person who is depressed and others are noticeable by those around them, here are a few things to look out for in both yourself and your loved ones.

1. Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
The feeling that nothing could ever get better and that there was nothing I could do is one of the first I can remember.

2. Sleep changes.
Sleep patterns can change significantly when someone suffers with depression. Both insomnia(difficulty sleeping) and hypersomnia(excessive tiredness and sleeping) could occur. I, personally, once slept 70+ hours in a 4 day period.

3. Anger or irritability.
Feeling agitated, annoyed or possibly even violent is not uncommon. Your mood is bad, your tolerance low and your temper short.

4. Reckless behavior.
Putting yourself in situation which are dangerous or could negatively effect your life isn’t uncommon. Drug and alcohol abuse, excessive gambling or even deliberately seeking fights is not unheard of.

5. Self loathing.
A very common symptom but a hard one for anyone to really notice or acknowledge. Beginning to dislike, or even detest, yourself is a hard thing for somebody else to see so this is an important one to lookout for in yourself. This can also lead to self harm, which is a little more noticeable though most people go to a great deal of effort to hide it. If someone suddenly goes from wearing sleeveless or short sleeved tops to keeping their arms constantly covered they may be harming themselves.

These are not the only symptoms, there are many and you should know what to lookout for. For more information check out: http://m.helpguide.org/articles/depression/depression-symptoms-and-warning-signs

If you experience any of these signs please find someone to talk to, friends, family, loved ones, even “mental health helplines”. Most, if not all, countries have at least one. Please find yours and get help: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines

If you notice any of these signs in someone you know, please talk to them. The worst it could do is leave you a little embarrassed because they are not actually depressed.

You can reach Alan O. at his blog and Twitter.

Editorial Note: I was going to run with this but waited. It was the week Robin Williams died. The internet was filled with news about his death, mourning, thoughts on mental health and many comments about suicide. I spoke with Alan and we decided to wait. We didn’t want publicity from a trending headline. We wanted to be respectful of other people’s lives. But more than anything, I wanted Alan’s voice out there right because it’s strong and genuine. I believe if only one person reads this and it changes their mind, helps them hang on and get help, it’s worth doing right. Thank you, Alan, for this piece. It’s beautiful and so are you. – Gen Xavier, GenXMedia 

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