As promised, my next few posts will be tackling mental health problems I have, in the hopes that it may help some of you understand mental health problems a little better. Please note, however, that what I am about to write is my opinion and experiences only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. I am not a professional,
So, what is depression? Depression is perhaps the most common of all mental health problems. It goes beyond the normal ups and downs we all have. It is remarkably difficult to describe, but Harry Potter can help. For those of you that have watched the films or read the books, you will be familiar with the ‘Death Eaters’. These suck out everything good in your life, the good memories, hopes for the future, things you appreciate, they are all gone. Even the colours seem to turn black.
Depression leaves you feeling like there is no hope for the future. No light in your life. It makes you feel like you are worthless and unable to accomplish anything good in your life. It makes you feel like you are nothing but a burden to your friends and family, and that they would be better off without you. It can lead to over sleeping or insomnia. Lack of appetite or eating too much. You no longer enjoy the activities you used to, nothing seems fun any more. It is sort of like falling into a very deep hole, with no hope of rescue and no chance of survival.
There is also another form of depression (Post-natal depression) found in women who have recently had a baby. Again, this is different from the normals ups and downs that are expected when you just want to sleep! If someone you know is struggling to bond with the child, has been very teary and low for some time, is not coping very well with the demands of parenthood etc, then it is important to get it checked. The health visitor should be giving you a quick questionnaire to fill in which will help indicate whether you might be suffering with post natal depression. But, again, it is often the friends and family of the person in question that will notice something is not right. Getting help is vital.
If you could just take a minute to read that again, it would be appreciated. I want the information to really sink in, and I want you to try and imagine what it is like to live like this? I am not exaggerating when I say every single day is a struggle.
The good news with depression is that there is a lot out there to help. In a lot of cases, medication can be used to effectively reduce symptoms. And therapy and counselling are effective at getting to the root cause of the problem and giving you the tools to cope with it. Whilst depression will never truly leave, there is no reason why people that suffer with it can not lead a normal and happy life.
The bad news is that people with depression do not always know they have it, and may be in denial about their symptoms. This presents a difficult dilemma for the friends and family that want to help their loved one. If you think your loved one is suffering with depression, approach the subject delicately with them. Ask them if they would like to go to the doctor with you there to support them. Let them know it is no sign of weakness, and there are ways to make them feel better again. Some will be hesitant to take medication, which is fine as there are other ways to help combat depression such as counselling.
I have received a lot of questions from parents who are worried about their children. There is no easy answer here, as puberty has a funny effect on teenagers, as does growing up and getting independence. It can be hard to judge the difference between normal behaviour and signs of something more sinister. It is also a worry as many mental health problems start to surface around the teenage years and the early twenties.
In these cases, the best thing you can do is be vigilant. Try to keep lines of communication open for your children. Try to draw them in to family activities so that they have opportunities to talk. Don’t be afraid to talk to them if you are worried. Ask them how the are feeling. Of course, often you will be brushed aside, and that is perfectly normal. As your children hit puberty, they suddenly go from your babies to little adults. Their personalities will change, and you will find yourself having to learn who they are all over again. It is going to be hard work, but it is important you do this. That way, you will be aware if anything changes.
If you find your child no longer wanting to participate in activities they once enjoyed, no longer wanting to eat (or eating too much), spending a lot of time on-line (computer usage should be monitored anyway, as a protection against predators and on-line bullying), becoming aggressive, tearful or withdrawn or any other unusual behaviours, then it is best to be proactive rather than waiting for a big problem to appear. Talking to your child is the most important tool you have, but you have to listen to what they are saying. If you are concerned, then speak to your GP about getting them some help and support. You can also call the NSPCC for help, and ask Social Services for some support.
My parents found getting the right support for me exceedingly difficult, so be prepared for a battle and sticking to your guns if you know something is wrong. You know your child better than anyone else, and as their parent or guardian it is your job to act as an advocate for your children.
If you, or someone you know, suffers with depression, then it is important to realise there is a long battle ahead. It wont be easy, and at times giving up will seem like the only option. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there are ways to improve your quality of life. If you want support, feel free to message me, and I will do my best to help.
One of the most important things to have if you suffer with depression is a great support network. And while professionals play a huge role in that network, your family and friends are vital if you want to get through it. I know my parents can often tell when I am about to go downhill before I do, and they can then encourage me to get support and help so I don’t fall down. They can’t stop it all the time, and when they can’t they help me back up again, but I would be lost without them. So don’t be afraid to reach out to people for help. Those that are unwilling to be supportive are doing you a huge favour, as you don’t need people like that in your life. In my experience however, once you get over your fears and speak out about it, you end up getting more rewards than you thought was possible.
Be vigilant and look for changes with your loved ones
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Try to expand your support network
Remember things WILL get better