Updated: Sep 24, 2021
If you were to ask a group of people who've suffered from depression to define the illness, and the symptoms they might have and you'll hear a variety of answers. Depression is a very personal experience that affects millions of women, in various ways all across the globe.
Different people manifest different symptoms, men may experience a completely different set of symptoms than women, older people may have different symptoms than younger ones, etc. But one thing is certain: depression is a difficult illness that can crush you and maybe even destroy your life if left unresolved, and that is true no matter who you are.
Some people with depression describe it as a sense of despair that engulfs everything they do and everything they feel. Others say they just lose interest in their lives, their jobs, families, etc., they often feel disconnected and will withdraw from those around them. In my personal experience, there was a combination of despair, and hopelessness and I completely withdrew from my life, (even though no one noticed), and went into a place of darkness.
I used to think that being depressed was just feeling sad from time to time about things that go wrong in everyday life. I had no idea what suffering from true depression was like until I felt it myself. It's so much deeper and more invasive than just a little sadness or frustration, there is a darkness that engulfs you and swallows you whole and there are times when you don’t know if you will ever see light again, or if you even want to. At least that’s what it was like for me, even though I never felt like taking my own life, I would feel lost and hopeless, and some days couldn’t even muster up the energy to get up and shower or participate in my life at all.
Depression took everything away from me, it left me drained me of my energy, my focus, my concentration, and most especially my joy. I just didn’t care about anything; nothing mattered to me, even the people I love became unimportant. What I was feeling was so hard for me to understand and accept because it was the complete opposite of who I really was, and how I had always lived my life for those around me.
When you're depressed for a long period of time, you become accustomed to the feeling and any other emotion becomes unfamiliar and even frightening. My problem was that I had been depressed for years but I didn’t really know it because I didn't think it was a real illness. I just allowed myself to sink deeper and deeper in the hole until one day I looked around and I was completely surrounded by darkness. That’s when I finally decided to speak to my primary doctor for help.
Physical Concerns of Depression
Dealing with depression doesn't only take its toll on your emotions and mental state; it can cause you to suffer serious physical problems as well. You might lose your appetite and end up losing weight, or it may cause you to eat incessantly and gain a bunch of weight. That’s what happened to me, I would eat mindlessly and of course, I had no energy to get moving so I gained at least 50 pounds! When I looked at myself in the mirror, I hated what I saw and that made me even more depressed, it was a vicious cycle.
Sometimes, depression can lead to:
1. Lack of sleep. Depression can cause insomnia, which strips the body of the necessary sleep to function properly.
2. Poor nutrition. When depressed, many people fail to take in proper nutrients. It takes too much effort to plan and prepare a meal. This can cause several health problems.
3. Aches and pains. If anyone tells you that your mental state has no effect on your physical state, they're wrong. When you're depressed, the chemical in the brain that signals pain is as affected as the chemicals in your brain that help you feel happy. Physical aches and pains are increased, which in turn, kicks in the sad feelings and the cycle begins again.
4. Hygiene issues. Someone suffering from depression doesn't have the energy or the motivation to be concerned with self-care. There were days when I didn’t wash up, get dressed, comb my hair, etc. I didn’t really care what I looked like and I didn’t think anybody else did either.
So, What are Some Symptoms of Depression?
These are some specific things that, those with depression might experience:
· Constant and severe sadness about everything
· Insomnia or trouble sleeping
· Trouble concentrating
· Loss of interest in things that once interested them
· Feeling worthless, useless, and strangely guilty for no reason at all
· Serious change in weight, one way or the other
· Lack of energy and fatigue
One thing is certain: depression is a serious condition and should be taken seriously.
As a black woman, I felt like I was expected to be strong and suck it up right? I felt as if I would be showing myself to be weak if I told anyone how I was really feeling, besides I didn't have time to be depressed. I had to go to work, pay the bills, buy, and cook the food, make sure the kids were good, and on, and on, it went. I had what seemed like the weight of the world on my shoulders, but I couldn’t let the world know my pain. A lot of times mental health issues are swept under the rug, and we are made to feel ashamed or embarrassed for the way we feel, so we go on without getting the help that we need. That’s exactly what I did, and I paid the price for it.
As depression progresses, it feeds on itself like a snowball rolling downhill. The longer someone is depressed, the worse the depression gets until they see no way out of it at all. They become resigned to being miserable all the time, and some even take their own lives so they can escape the despair, I thank God that I decided to get the help I needed before I went that far.
Depression can be caused by a certain event, the change of seasons, the loss of someone close, or even a chemical imbalance in the brain. It could also be the result of years of suppressing emotional trauma and pain until one day something just breaks inside. The treatment usually involves counseling or medication that helps alter brain chemistry. For me, it also involved the practice of mindfulness, meditation, and gratitude, which helped me to learn that one of the causes of depression for me was holding on to past hurt, instead of letting go and being present and grateful in the moment. I also found that journaling and reflection was a way that I could release some of the stress and tension that led to my depression in the first place.
When I finally got the help I needed I was relieved, and it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my spirit. It took a couple of weeks, but once the medicine started to work, and I began journaling and practicing meditation, I was able to smile and laugh again. I looked in the mirror and started to love who I saw looking back at me. It's going to be a struggle, but it's worth it and you'll be glad you took the steps to get back the joy you deserve.
If you know someone who is depressed, one of the best things you can do is be his or her friend. Talk to them and help them through this period and help them seek medical care to treat their illness.
If you think you may be depressed, talk to a health care provider. Depression doesn't have to ruin your life! With help and support, you can conquer your depression, move past it, and go on to live a joyful life.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional and this is not medical advice. I am only sharing my own experiences. If you are struggling with your mental health please contact your health care provider.
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