You know what the worst thing about clinical depression is?
Well, there’s several things. Starting with the length of time it takes to do very simple, everyday tasks. Like taking a shower, brushing your teeth, doing your hair. Thinking about leaving the house….
‘Normal’ people can shower in 5 to 10 minutes. They undress, walk into the cubicle, and just… do it. If you are suffering from a bad phase of depression, doing simple tasks like these turn into two or three hour affairs where you have to work out if you have the energy or the motivation to shower.
Or the first few thoughts you have after you wake up. For some of you, it might be the ‘modeh ani’, ‘it’s 5am, go back to sleep’, ‘I wish I didn’t have to go to work today’ or even ‘I’m so glad I woke up from that nightmare where I was being chased by a two-headed raccoon.’ Well, when you are depressed, in a severe, clinical way, waking up is the nightmare. You wake up into a cycle of exhaustion, apathy, sadness and desperation, and you just wish that somehow it would end.
So, why am I writing about this on the Internet? It’s not because I like airing my dirty laundry in public, wish to sabotage my career, or draw attention to myself. I genuinely do prefer writing about hasbara, honest. But, deep down, I know that this is an issue that we need to start talking about. In England, in Israel, in the US…
Because clinical depression has been and is a public health issue, and because, tragically, many people experiencing the symptoms for the first time do not know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
They do not know that it gets better.
I am living proof that it does. And here are some things I’ve learned along the way:
– If you are experiencing an episode of mental illness, it is not your fault, and you do not have to be ashamed.
Chances are that you’ve maybe experienced something traumatic at some point, or have maybe just fallen into a pit of negative thinking that your brain has taken to be reality. These feelings are really, really common (more so than you might think) and there is no shame in admitting to your doctor that you’re feeling them.
– You may feel powerless in the face of what you’re experiencing, but you’re not.
Anxiety disorders have been explained as feeling helpless, like you don’t know what to do, and clinical depression can be expressed as feeling hopeless, like there’s nothing you can do. And, sadly, both conditions can occur together, feeding each other, sabotaging your battle against the other.
But there is hope. Most people with these symptoms recover, and those who don’t, learn to manage their symptoms so that they can deal with daily life a bit better. Also, whilst you’re recovering, you can try your best to take good care of yourself (a proper diet, exercise, leaving the house, making times for things you enjoy, or enjoyed). Bearing that in mind will help.
– You will get better.
You might feel like your life has crashed and burned and taken a detour off a cliff, but it hasn’t. You can get back your awesomeness again. Believe it or not, some of the greatest and most powerful people have been where you are, and got better. Case in point – Kjell Magne Bondevik, former Norwegian Prime Minister, who took three weeks off work in 1998, admitting publically that he was suffering from a depressive episode. He received thousands of supportive letters, got back to work, and even went on to serve a second term as Prime Minister from 2001 to 2005.
As Bondevik will tell you, you can recover. I recovered. I do things now that I previously thought unthinkable. I can wake up at a reasonable time. I enjoy going to work. I can concentrate on my favourite TV comedies long enough to get to the end of an episode. I’ve recovered my sarcastic sense of humour. I learned another language, and got a BA. I read, I travel, I joke a lot with friends.
I spend most days excited about what’s next.
And I never worry about taking another shower.