Do you often feel low, down or sad? Do you find yourself struggling to concentrate, lethargic, tired, stressed, angry, irritable or lacking in motivation? Have you lost enjoyment or enthusiasm for usual activities and started to withdraw from your social network?
Depression is common as we juggle life in our current global pandemic. It can affect anyone regardless of age or background. Statistically women are twice as likely to experience depression as men, whilst men are more likely to commit suicide as a result of depression. This may be because many men tend to avoid asking for help with mental or emotional issues.
The symptoms of depression manifest themselves in a variety of ways and intensity which can affect you on a mental, physical or social level. It is a progressive condition – you do not just wake up with it one day from having had no previous symptoms or signs. Instead, it gradually develops over time. What starts as feeling low or sad, can build over time until you experience hopelessness, can’t sleep and lose interest in doing anything and interacting with anyone.
What’s your trigger?
The root causes of depression are as varied as the symptoms. They are often triggered by stressful events, continuous life pressures, concerns for job or financial security, illness, bereavement, relationship changes or breakdowns, trauma or loss of identity.
When we are feeling down or depressed it is easy to see only the darkness and believe that there is no end to it. We become harsh and demanding on ourselves just when we need love and tenderness the most. Instead of being kind and caring we beat ourselves, go into a state of helplessness and hopelessness and don’t see a way out.
My advice is to take it one step at a time. Start being by kind to yourself, let your loved ones know how you’re feeling even if it’s only – my chest feels tight, my stomach is constricted or I feel nauseous, my head is foggy. Articulating your symptoms is a good starting point to understanding and being able to move forwards.
Evelyn and Bill
To illustrate how depression can impact on a relationship, I want to share Evelyn and Bill’s story.
Evelyn was referred for psychotherapy after her doctor had diagnosed her with clinical depression. Evelyn had been having periods of depression for over ten years. Initially they were mild with a gradual increase in frequency and intensity, over three years. Evelyn was 65 and had been married to Bill for forty years. Together they have three daughters, who all married with families of their own. Bill was a successful businessman; he sold his business and took early retirement. Evelyn was a homemaker since the birth of their oldest daughter, returning to work part-time when their youngest was at secondary school.
Evelyn became aware of feeling low and anxious around the time her youngest daughter moved away. She talked about how empty the house felt and how she had lost her purpose in life without her daughters to care for and not having a career to fall back on. Her part-time charity job was a distraction, but when it was time to go home, she felt heavy in her stomach. Gradually she went out less often, reducing the number of times she met up with her friends and eventually, due to the frequent and severe bouts of depression Evelyn quit work altogether.
She often spent her days gazing into the garden which would cause a rift between her and her husband. Bill would often say ‘pull yourself together and get on with life’. Evelyn gradually cut herself off from her friends and from doing all the things she had previously enjoyed. By the time I saw her, she was struggling to get out of bed and was not interested in taking care of the house or herself. She was underweight, weak and lethargic and would only brighten-up when one of her daughters came to visit.
Although Evelyn came to see me out of her own free will, she admitted she was only going through the process to ‘show’ her husband she was ‘doing’ something about her condition. Evelyn was struggling with the changes in her life – not only when her daughters left home, but also, since her husband’s early retirement he took over the daily running of the home, organising it as if it were a project he was managing. Evelyn said her territory had been invaded and she felt useless, rejected and unwanted.
After much persuading Evelyn agreed to bring Bill to a session with great trepidation, we started to make progress. Whilst Bill had taken over the daily running of the home to help and support his wife in her recovery from depression, what he had failed to do was ask Evelyn what she needed and assumed that by doing the household chores it would be helping her.
As a result, the more Bill did the more inadequate Evelyn felt, the more she withdrew from life and the more depressed she became. Consequently, the more Evelyn shutdown the further frustrated Bill became, yet neither would communicate how they felt or what they needed.
Evelyn identified herself as a mother, homemaker and the wife of a successful businessman. Her identity was connected with her social network of friends and family who knew her as such. When her role changed, she felt she lost part of her identity and social status.
There are many root causes of depression; Evelyn and Bill’s story is just one example. If you’re finding yourself feeling down, depressed, wanting to hibernate and not engage with the world around you, start by keeping a daily journal of what’s been good today – write only what you’ve enjoyed, even if it’s something as simple as a nice cup of tea. Keep it simple; this is not about making big changes in giant steps. Then set yourself one task for the following day; again keep it simple – pick up a paper or pint of milk from the corner shop, or get out of bed, have a shower and get dressed.
Small simple steps taken one day at a time allows you to gradually build positive foundations and trigger the feel good endorphins.
Make the call
If you have been experiencing bouts of depression, regardless of the root cause, I suggest you consult a medical practitioner. You may also find it beneficial to have a few sessions with a qualified therapist to help you get back on track.
With so many people suffering with depression brought on by Covid, lockdown, financial concerns and many other reasons, it’s vitally important to seek professional help before you become overwhelmed. Call Carla Devereux on 0121 745 9044 to book an appointment.