How I learned to manage my depression
Conor describes what depression feels like for him and what his journey with depression has been like
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Three years ago I came to realise that I have been suffering from depression for the better part of a decade in some shape or form. Over time things have improved overall but there can be good days and bad days. For me, the bad days feel like I’ve just got out of a hot shower with no towel or shelter, feeling numb and cold, not being able to connect with myself or anything. On the other hand, the good days feel like I’m experiencing the world through a plastic bubble, with some possible flashes of positive emotions.
What does it feel like?
If I had to describe what depression feels like I would say it feels like a fog surrounds you. It darkens out colour in the world and can dull your emotions. It feels like something is always there that puts you on edge and means you can’t just let loose and be yourself. Having this feeling of being on the edge can also make you more easily irritable. I had always put these feelings down to my current situation, nerves or insecurities. Depression might feel different for other people. But I realise now that beyond that fog there is a world of colour and with time and treatment, I can find it and get my spark back.
When I realised depression might be an issue for me, I went to talk to my doctor. It was not an easy decision to make because I knew that it meant accepting that this was an issue for me. That was not easy to come to terms with, but going to my GP was the best step I ever took.
Before going in for the appointment, I thought he would probably prescribe antidepressants. I found that a very scary prospect because when researching anti-depressants I read all the side effects they can cause and how they were not effective for some people.
In hindsight it was probably not the best idea to focus so much on the side effects before talking to my doctor. Going into the appointment I felt like I wouldn’t trust myself to take a tablet every day as the fix and I didn’t want to rely on a tablet for my well being. I know it works for many people, but I wanted to see what other options were available for me to try first.
My GP suggested I go to counselling but I was about to go away for three months to work in a summer camp in Vermont. Neither of us wanted to just leave it there so he prescribed antidepressants and we decided I would bring them with me and take them if I felt it was necessary. But I also had to keep in touch with home and update them on if I was taking them and how I was feeling as well.
I decided that going away that summer could be a new start and an opportunity to focus on my thoughts and feelings. I focused on finding techniques to address what I was feeling and the thoughts I was having. I later found out many of these were cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques. Using these techniques was the start of my journey to addressing the underlying issues that were causing my symptoms of depression. I started to find some stability and sense of self through these techniques and finding joy in what I was doing over the summer and never took the anti-depressants in the end.
When I returned home after the summer, I continued with the positive steps I’d taken in addressing my depression and also started going to counselling. I found that using talk therapy definitely helped but it was tough to do. Facing my thoughts and feelings, with someone challenging them from that outside perspective, was really good for me.
I’d love to say that whenever I chose to go out of the house and spend time with friends that it makes me feel better, but sadly that often isn’t the case. However, I have had times where symptoms are less severe, but that sometimes fluctuated.
At the moment I am reading different material that give me advice and using what my counsellor has taught me. There are still good and bad days, but I am finding things that help all the time. The good days are becoming more common and I am understanding myself more and more. I think talking out my issues and alongside journalling have allowed me to address any deep seated issues as I am being present and acknowledging my feelings rather than just letting them pass me by and never addressing them.
When it comes down to it I believe that we all have our own stories that affect us negatively and ever since we were born they have been affecting us in some way. Some of my biggest strides on this journey have come from taking my past insecurities and working through them. The best revelations I took was reading the book “You Are A Badass.” Funny name I know but it really had me look into my past and challenge my thoughts and use affirmations and other techniques to challenge my thinking and correct it.
My journey has been long and challenging but every step feels like a big reward and now I know when times like that happen again I have the ability to get that sense of self back.
If you see yourself in anything I’m describing, I would say to you that action speaks louder than words. Take action, see a GP, or remember stuff you loved and do more of it. Be with people who you know should uplift you. Take one step at a time and you’ll end up looking back at some of the best decisions you’ve ever made.