The painful irony of depression is that it can often make you feel as though you’re all alone in your suffering, when in fact the reality is that an estimated 350 million people worldwide know just how you feel and can share in your pain.
It is never easy to admit to ourselves that we’re struggling, or perhaps that we might even need to seek some help in order to get back on our feet, and the stigma surrounding many mental illnesses is still pervasive in some areas, a foolish and ignorant idea that it is somehow insignificant or imagined.
This stigma is purely perpetuated by people who lack education or experience in the matter, and should absolutely be ignored. Depression is a very real and seriously difficult issue.
Many of those who suffer from it end up trying to tough it out, which may work occasionally, but what is important to know if you feel like you’re dealing with depression is that you have many effective options for treatment and relief.
You should never be afraid to seek them out. If you aren’t sure that what you’re feeling is depression, listed below are 8 signs that may help you decipher exactly that.
If you can relate to some or all of these signs, you might very well be experiencing depression and should reach out for help.
1. Inconsistent appetite and irregular weight gain/loss
Half of the time you can’t summon the energy it takes to put together a bowl of cereal or chew a hot pocket, the rest of the time you find yourself gorging on high fat, high sugar junk foods in the middle of the night and maybe even eating extra servings regardless of feeling stuffed full.
This is often a subconscious attempt at triggering the reward center in the brain to get those happiness chemicals going, but unfortunately it’s only a quick band aid and won’t actually help in the longterm. Not to mention it’s not good for your digestion.
You might find yourself feeling like the only way to get through the night, the week or the month is to have a drink or take a pill.
This is a very insidious process that can go unnoticed because it’s often so gradual.
Suddenly instead of sharing a single beer with friends to celebrate birthdays or promotions like you used to, you’re at home drinking cheap liquor by yourself just so that you can fall asleep.
Alcohol and other drugs might allow you to block out your feelings temporarily, but they can’t actually make you feel better and they will wreak havoc on your body in the meantime.
3. Sudden waves of crushing sadness
I’m not referring to a bad mood triggered by a stressful day or a tragic event in this instance.
These waves or walls will likely hit you out of absolutely nowhere, you might even feel like you’re having a decently good day and then from one moment to the next you’re filled with despair, emptiness, or actual pain accompanied by extreme sadness.
There’s often no obvious provocation for this, it just hits you without warning and can take days or weeks, maybe even months to shake off.
Even when there is a trigger for this feeling, it’s still a disproportionate over reaction, such as feeling crushed and hopeless because your cat refused to sit with you as long as you’d liked them to or because you can’t find your favorite sweater for work.
4. Difficult and unpredictable sleeping habits
Depression is exhausting in every way there is.
While some people try to cope with it by oversleeping constantly, spending far more time asleep or only half asleep in bed than any healthy person should, others may be unable to sleep despite being overly tired and fatigued.
The mind still races and won’t allow rest. The sleep you do get may be tainted by nightmares and restlessness, you will wake for seemingly no reason and struggle to get back to sleep again all night.
5. Loss of interest
When a person is depressed, it lays a fog over everything they do. Hobbies and activities that once gave you great pleasure and fulfillment might start to feel boring and pointless.
Even if you still feel some desire to start a project or do something productive, it only lasts for a short period before you’ve completely lost all motivation.
You will be unable to focus even when you want to, and finishing anything feels like a daunting task.
6. Thoughts of suicide and self-harm
Depression is an incredibly draining experience.
It leaves us feeling absolutely spent and when a person has been fighting something for so long, it can be easy to lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.
Suicidal ideations can happen to anyone and it does not make you bad or wrong or weak to have such thoughts. We all have our limits and it is okay to be tired, but what you must remember is that tomorrow is always a new day.
The future is always full of infinite possibilities and thousands of opportunities to be happy and whole again.
A battle always feels endless while we’re fighting it, but often as soon as it’s finished we look back and feel as though it wasn’t all that long after all.
If you do have suicidal thoughts or you begin to think of harming yourself, you should always, always find someone to talk to that you trust and express what you’re feeling.
Do not isolate yourself, do not hide your pain. The people who love you want to know and be there for you, believe me.
If you don’t feel like you can or want to discuss these feelings with the people closest to you, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to speak with someone who understands and wants to help.
7. The fog
I mentioned earlier how depression can lay a sort of fog or haze over everything.
It might make you feel unfocused, confused, unable to remember or recall things clearly.
You may even have trouble finding words or communicating as well as you know you should be able to.
This is common in depression and you are neither crazy or alone for feeling it. It is only a temporary inconvenience, it can and will get better.
8. Total exhaustion
You will be tired physically, yes. Depression definitely affects us in many major physical ways, but this kind of exhaustion is all-encompassing.
Emotionally, mentally and deep in your body you will feel fatigue like never before. You may try every trick in the book; caffeine, energy bars, sleeping medications, essential oils and meditation, but somehow nothing helps you rest and recharge.
What you should do in this case is take a trip to the doctor. Explain to them in detail exactly what you’re feeling and be honest about all of it.
It may not be fun or easy, but it is the best and perhaps only way to take your life back and start to feel better.
Do not withdraw or worry about what people will think, this is about advocating for your mental and physical well-being and anyone who cares about you will encourage and support you in whatever way necessary.
You are worthy and deserving of a happy, joyous, healthy life. You should never be afraid to get the help you need to achieve that.
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Higher Perspectives Author is one of the authors writing for Higher Perspectives