Depression: It Is An Illness I Have, It Does Not Define Me

depressionDepression is one of the most common mental illness in our society. In fact 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men will experience depression at some stage in their lives. It is not racist, sexist, or age discriminatory. Depression is a brain illness that impairs cognitive function to varying degrees depending on the severity. A depressive state can last weeks, months and sometimes even years.

A lot of research has been done and huge progress made in the understanding of the brain function and what affects the neurotransmitters and hormones. Direct causal links have been made between these and other biological functions and the development of depression. Despite this, there are so many who still think it is a choice.

depression

depression

Depression is not simply feeling down or sad, it is an illness that can have serious effects on the body as well as the brain. Loss of appetite, erratic sleep patterns, chronic fatigue, muscle aches and pains, headaches, lack of energy, poor concentration and feelings of guilt and low self esteem are all symptoms that can affect day to day life.

depressionAccording to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015 saw suicide the 13th leading cause of death in Australia. 33.9% of deaths amongst those aged between 15-24 was due to suicide. 27.7% of deaths were due to suicide in the age bracket of 25-35, and 16.9% attributed to suicide for those between aged between 35-44. Sadly 3,027 people took their own lives in 2015 in Australia. One of those was a girl in my daughter’s year at high school. If attitudes and resources were better I  wonder how many of those people would still be here?

I was first diagnosed with depression many years ago and have since been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. They sound like they must be two different types of depression, but it’s simply newer terminology. I’m most susceptible to negative, hurtful words and actions against me. The level of understanding I have as to why I’m being treated like that, combined with how much it hurts, seems to determine how bad each depressive episode is.

depressionMy appetite is affected first, but general anxiety does that too. I got down to 37kgs in my last bout. I couldn’t sleep for more than 4 hours no matter how tired I was. As soon as I’d stir my brain switched on and thoughts started swirling. I didn’t want to sleep because I dreaded waking up to that. Some days breathing hurt, and as overly dramatic as that sounds I know those who’ve been through it will understand. It took huge effort to move from one room to another. My goal each day was to at least shower, and if I did that I felt I’d achieved something that day. It’s like living in a heavy black cloud. Each day is too long to have to be with my thoughts. It’s such a huge effort trying to talk myself around, there are too many tears to cry, and it’s so lonely.

My EMDR treatment is working, healing one issue at a time. I have a lot to deal with, some self inflicted due to foolish choices, others beyond my control. I’m sensitive as well so it’s a learning process accepting that and embracing my strengths. My psychologist left me with something to think about last week. She suggested to me that I don’t have depression. What if it’s just that I’ve had trouble coping with the string of really challenging life experiences I’ve had? It’s a concept I’m open to! I actually currently believe that as the EMDR takes the memory out of the body, my depression will go away as well.

depressionMy proactive choice is to continue to learn how to learn from life. Experiences can make us stronger – if we know how.

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