I have just typed ‘depression’ into the Google (UK) search engine to see what the definition is according to the official Oxford Dictionary. It wasn’t until page 4 that I found it: “A mental condition characterised by severe feelings of despondency and dejection, typically with feelings of inadequacy and guilt, often accompanied by lack of energy and disturbance of appetite and sleep”. People, me included rarely reach page 4 of the search engine. Our impatience and need for information sees us settling for an answer on the first page, even if it isn’t the answer that we are looking for, we make it fit. Those of us searching for depression looking for information or self-help on the internet more often than not find it on the first page. Especially with a very general term like ‘depression’. It remains to be seen whether the answer we are really looking for is on the first page, we operate under the same veil, we accept what we read, less than 10% of people advance onto page 2 of Google, like they say ‘when the glove fits…’
So what information did I glean from the first page? Well, there are links to the NHS website, several large charities and a self-help website. If you had any doubt before starting your search whether or not you are depressed, you will diagnose yourself after the first few excerpts. Who of us doesn’t suffer with low moods? Who of us doesn’t experience stress at work? Who of us doesn’t have periods of time when you feel tired or you can’t be bothered to go out? I would guess, and it’s only a guess that a large proportion of the population at some time in their lives experience these symptoms. So does that mean we are all depressed? Feeling low maybe, a little worried or anxious about something, but would you be concerned enough to visit your doctor thinking you are suffering with depression?
Whichever website you read, on as many pages you can bear to scroll through, the common denominator is that depression is a mental health condition. How a person behaves, how a person reacts to certain information and situations, what threshold a person has to cope in different situations, their thoughts, feelings and sense of well-being. Not only can these factors alter when a person is depressed, these factors can alter, resulting in depression. A condition that cannot be seen, a condition that is judged, a condition that people loosely use ‘oh, I am sooo depressed’. It is a condition that is very personal. Unique to the person that it is plaguing, treatment varies from person to person, antidepressants might suit one person but another might need a more holistic approach. Some don’t talk and suffer in silence. One thing for sure is that for those suffering with depression, hearing the words ‘snap out of it’, ‘you just need to do something to get over it’, ‘think more positively’ amongst other things, is not only ignorant it is very hurtful.
I am grieving, does that mean I am depressed? Initially probably not, as I succumbed to shock, numbness, anger and denial, you ride on the crest of a wave of grief, and as the wave breaks you come crashing down. At this point reality sets in, I am left to resume what my life is now, having to live life on life’s terms not my own. The pain of being left behind by someone I can’t live without. My natural reaction to grief persists, and will do until my last breath, but depression loiters, how can it not. Do I feel low? Yes. Do I have an aversion to going out or doing things? Yes. Do I feel hopeless, helpless and useless? Yes. Do I feel guilty? Yes. And the worst feeling of all, do I feel suicidal? Yes. These are some of the reasons I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Reluctant at first to diagnose any medical condition, after all, a mother is likely to react in such a way to losing their only child, but I have progressively sunken lower. I function, but emotionally and mentally I’m stuck in a washing machine on a never-ending spin cycle.
Do I suffer with anxiety? Yes. Do I suffer with PTSD? Yes. Do I suffer with insomnia? Yes. I have never been familiar with these conditions, let alone experience them. So this is new to me. Do people understand why? Yes. And I find myself thinking, well my baby died, my beautiful little boy died and I found him, the way I feel is totally justified. But why do I think this. I think this because unless people know what your story is they judge you. Stood behind me in the queue in the supermarket they whisper ‘you’d think she’d brush her hair before going out’, but what they don’t realise is that going out is a major feat on its own, being in an environment where there a smiling, happy toddlers, my mind constantly trying to process what William would be doing in that moment. Would he be running off up the aisle, giggling? Probably. Would the cashier lady comment about how cute he is? Definitely. Would I struggle to juggle my keys, purse, shopping bags and wriggly toddler all the way to the car? Absolutely. So no, I didn’t make sure my hair was neat, because when I got out the house the last thing I thought about was brushing my hair. I got in the car and looked in the rear view mirror at William’s empty car seat, and drove past his nursery on my way to the supermarket. The last thing I was thinking about was the way my hair looked.
My message here? Don’t judge people. When you bump in to someone in the street and they’re in a dream world and they don’t apologise. Don’t think they’re rude, that could have been me walking down the street after visiting my son in the chapel of rest. When you are sitting in a cafe having a coffee and the person on the table next to you is moody, and has a face like thunder. Don’t tell them to ‘smile love, it can’t be that bad’ that actually was me, I was waiting for my grief counsellor. And when you’re stood behind someone in the supermarket whose hair isn’t as neat as you’d expect and you think they’re scruffy. Don’t judge. That was me. If you knew why, would you think the same? Would you judge me as you had done 5 minutes earlier? No.
Depression in all its form’s, largely isn’t visible. Just because we don’t walk around on crutches with a limp doesn’t mean we aren’t suffering. Don’t make assumptions about people, be kind to people, be understanding and compassionate in all that you do. Life is too short in comparison to the length of death.