I was walking from uni recently when I noticed a guy stood looking a little confused. I wondered what was wrong with him whilst thinking he looked pretty fit with his rugged hair and beard (I have a thing for stubble and beards). Anyway… as I got closer it turned out I knew the guy! We had a quick catch up and got talking about life in general. He told me about how he physically couldn’t bring himself into going to a shop across the road. I just couldn’t understand what the problem was. To me it was as simple as picking his feet up and walking in. He started to tell me how he gets very anxious and doesn’t cope well in new situations. Before I knew it I was having the exact same conversation I’d had the day before with someone different.
Both people told me how they’d struggled with depression for a very long time. They had lost their drive and didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. They also felt alone, helpless, worthless, rarely had a good night’s sleep, felt empty and most saddening of all they had attempted suicide.
How on earth had I known these people, spent so much time with them and not even noticed one of these signs?! Hearing it once was hard enough but hearing it two days in a row just made it all scary and real especially because I think I’m quite perceptive. 1 in 5 people suffer from depression at one point in their lives and here I was talking to two people.
I don’t believe we know/learn enough about mental illnesses. I learned a bit in Psychology but not enough because mental illness is still a taboo subject. A few years ago I went to the doctors complaining about pains and God knows what and he sent me away with anti-depressants. I didn’t understand why I’d been given these pills or what was actually wrong or had caused it. Culturally, depression isn’t really an illness so I was told to stop being daft and not touch the pills. I still don’t understand what was wrong with me but I came out of my bad patch alone and by carrying on with my normal life.
I’ve spent some time researching depression specifically and what it does to people around them because before I knew what was actually wrong with one of these people, I thought they were just trying to be mardy and cause arguments over things that seemed quite trivial. Now I know this person quite well and even though I thought they were acting a bit out of character but I would have never guessed they were going through such a hard time.
Dealing with depression is difficult both for the depressed party and for the people around them. I obviously don’t know it all but what I’ve learned is that how they feel isn’t their fault and no matter how difficult they may seem, they’re not their real selves. They don’t see that they’re acting out of character. In their minds it all makes sense and they can’t understand why you’re the one being difficult.
My conversation with the guy across the road from a shop ended with them telling me they couldn’t go into the shop because they felt like they’d be judged. They didn’t even want to look at their own reflection because they didn’t like to look at themselves. I was honest and told him that when I was walking over I noticed him simply because I admired his looks so he can’t be that bad. We made a joke about it, talked a bit more and he went in. All it took was having someone to talk to which made his life a little easier.
My point is, if you’re depressed talk to someone, get professional help. If you notice someone acting out of character, ask them what’s up, be there for them. You can’t miraculously make their depression go away and 9 times out of 10 they’re going to pretend they’re fine in every day situations. It’s alright to feel the way you do and no one should make you feel like you can’t talk about it. For those trying to be there for someone depressed, you may not feel like you’re helping but you are. You don’t need to badger them and they may not reply to your calls and texts but don’t give up. Just knowing someone cares helps. It could literally be the difference between life and death!
If you need to get in touch with someone and don’t want to go to your doctors ring the Samaritans helpline on 08457909090