13 Things No One Tells You About Depression

Features

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1. It physically hurts.
Although depression is a mental illness it can cause physical pain too. From muscle ache and joint pain to stabbing sensations and that physical dull ache you feel in your gut when totally overcome with misery.

2. You literally feel like you are going insane.
Depression manifests in various different ways, including panic attacks, irrational thoughts and social anxiety. It can make you feel like you are crazy, you’re not you’re just sick.

3. You can’t differentiate between which thoughts are rational and which are the depression speaking.
Suddenly your head is filled with intrusive, depressive thoughts. Identifying these against your rational thoughts is tough and confusing, but an important step towards recovery.

4. Depression often makes you feel nothing at all.
People assume that depression means you are sad or “down” but it can actually mean not feeling anything at all. Feeling numb and emotionally exhausted is a definite a symptom of depression.

5. Except guilt, you feel guilty all the time.
If suffering from depression isn’t bad enough, imagine feeling guilty for suffering from depression. The guilt is a depressive emotion that makes you feel selfish, ungrateful and a failure, but the illness is out of your control, it’s not your fault.

6. The future is the most terrifying thing out there.
The future is a huge black, meaningless void that you cannot bear to even think about.

7. No matter how much outsiders try, they will always lose an argument with depression.
However much they reassure and argue with you, your people will never be any match for the arsehole that is depression. “You ARE worthless, useless etc…”

8. Most things people will say to you are not just not helpful, but categorically unhelpful.
Unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t understand depression which is why we so often here things like “just cheer up” or “don’t be so depressed.” This is not only completely pointless advice but it can also be detrimental to how the sufferer feels.

9. It doesn’t make you sad all the time.
Believe it or not, depression doesn’t have to mean lying, weeping in bed in the dark for months on end. Many people living with depression go out, carry on working and even make jokes. Stereotypes don’t allow for this.

10. Likewise, even people with a happy disposition can be depressed.
It is a medical illness, individual to the sufferer and it can affect anyone.

11. Everything that ever meant something, suddenly means nothing.
In a depressive state, you lose sight of everything that you ever loved or enjoyed previously – hobbies, interests and relationships. It’s like you never even existed before the illness.

12. You can’t just take a pill to make it all go away.
Doctors are pretty quick to prescribe antidepressants these days, but while they can help some people with depression to live a more normal life, they are not a long term or permanent solution. Getting better is a long and complex process.

13. It’s a lonely place.
Depression is a seriously lonely illness. It feels like no one in the world understands, and it’s no wonder, because a lot of people don’t. What’s important is that some people do and some are willing to try. Surround yourself with these people or be one of these people. They’re the ones who matter.

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Time to Talk Day – Take 5 To Blog

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It’s Time to Talk day. People across the nation are taking 5 minutes to have a conversation about mental health, whether it be at work, with friends or online, and the response has been huge. Here is my #Take5ToBlog entry, have you taken your 5 today?

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1. My name is Sarah and I have experienced depression and Anxiety and have also suffered from the eating disorders Anorexia and Bulimia.

2. My mental illness has affected me in both positive and negative ways. Over the years, it has negatively affected every aspect of my life including family, friendships, relationships, and university. However, it has also helped to shape the person I am today. I would never choose to live with a mental illness but it has strengthened my character and become the source of inspiration for much of my work.

3. My greatest source of support has been… I wouldn’t say I have had one consistent source of support. More recently, there is one friend who has seen me at my absolute worst, never judged or abandoned me and was the catalyst for my recovery. After feeling consistently let down by the NHS over many years my blog has been my main source of support and motivation for getting better and staying healthy. Then there’s my boyfriend, who is responsible for making me happy on a daily basis.

4. My hope for the future is that people will no longer feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about their mental health and that mental illness will be recognised and accepted just as physical illness is. I believe that if we can diminish the stigma we will save more lives. Mental health is not a taboo.

5. I’m taking 5 on Time to Talk day because openly speaking and writing about my experiences has helped me in overcoming my mental health problems and facing some of my biggest fears. I consider myself extremely lucky to have survived my mental illness and to be in a position where I can help others to do the same. My hope is that my words will encourage just one person to speak out, seek help or even simply, to not feel so alone.

Is Depression Affecting Someone YOU Know?

Features

depression-13061 If depression affects one in five adults at some point during their lives, then the chances are we will all know at least one person to be affected by the illness. Recently, I learnt of two separate situations, where someone close to me could be suffering from depression and this compelled me to ask the question, had I not been made aware of it, would I of spotted the signs and symptoms before things went too far?

This thought process then escalated. If I, as someone who would consider themselves to be relatively familiar with the illness couldn’t spot the signs, then how could we expect someone who has never come into contact with mental health problems before to recognise someone close to them was suffering?

The signs of a mental health problem can be screamingly obvious to the sufferer but almost impossible for an outsider to spot, and when treating someone the focus is often on what has led to the illness, rather than how to prevent it.

On World Mental Health Day this year, Radio 5’s Stephen Nolan led an insightful discussion about the need for us to understand the range of mental health problems, just as we do for physical health. The answer to this is obvious yet proportionally absent, education and awareness.

If the people surrounding the sufferer, be it friends, family or colleagues, have been educated about mental health, have a good understanding of illnesses such as depression, and can recognise the signs, this gives them the ability to intervene in an appropriate way and begin to break down the three overwhelming thoughts in the sufferers mind –

“I’m the only one to feel like this”

“Nobody cares”

“Nobody wants to listen”

Here’s a list of symptoms for clinical depression, taken from the NHS website. Take it seriously, depression is real.

“The symptoms of depression can be complex and vary widely between people. But as a general rule, if you are depressed, you feel sad, hopeless and lose interest in things you used to enjoy. The symptoms persist for weeks or months and are bad enough to interfere with your work, social life and family life. There are many other symptoms of depression and you’re unlikely to have every one listed below. If you experience some of these symptoms for most of the day, every day for more than two weeks, you should seek help from your GP.

Psychological symptoms include:

• continuous low mood or sadness

• feeling hopeless and helpless

• having low self-esteem

• feeling tearful

• feeling guilt-ridden

• feeling irritable and intolerant of others

• having no motivation or interest in things

• finding it difficult to make decisions

• not getting any enjoyment out of life

• feeling anxious or worried

• having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself

Physical symptoms include:

• moving or speaking more slowly than usual

• change in appetite or weight (usually decreased, but sometimes increased)

• constipation

• unexplained aches and pains

• lack of energy or lack of interest in sex (loss of libido) •

changes to your menstrual cycle

• disturbed sleep (for example, finding it hard to fall asleep at night or waking up very early in the morning)

Social symptoms include:

• not doing well at work

• taking part in fewer social activities and avoiding contact with friends

• neglecting your hobbies and interests

• having difficulties in your home and family life

Depression can come on gradually, so it can be difficult to notice something is wrong. Many people continue to try to cope with their symptoms without realising they are ill. It can take a friend or family member to suggest something is wrong.

Doctors describe depression by how serious it is:

•mild depression has some impact on your daily life

• moderate depression has a significant impact on your daily life

• severe depression makes it almost impossible to get through daily life – a few people with severe depression may have psychotic symptoms”

If you’re worried that you or someone close to you could be suffering from depression there are various websites and helplines you can go to for advice: www.mind.org.uk www.samaritans.org  (08457 90 90 90 24-hour helpline) www.rethink.org www.youngminds.org

Why Are We Still Waiting?

News, Opinion

When statistics were released this week, revealing that one in ten mental health patients are on a NHS waiting list for more than a year before they are assessed for treatment and one in six have attempted suicide while on the waiting list, it quite rightly made shocking headlines. The latest evidence of the mental health crisis, the latest betrayal by the NHS.

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Personally, I wasn’t shocked at all. I didn’t need a survey to tell me that patients can often wait over a year, with little to no medical contact. Nor, that in order to receive any sort of immediate help from the NHS the patient must be considered desperate – think attempted suicide and self-harm. I didn’t need the statistics to tell me all this because I have been experiencing it first hand for the last two years, when I initially gathered the courage to seek help for my own mental health.

When I was 17, after various trips to the doctor proved disappointing, a friend said to me, “You need to tell them you’re going to kill yourself or they just won’t do anything.”

As extreme and dispiriting as it sounds, this has turned out to be drastically true. During the sixth months I waited to be assessed and the further year before I was offered any form of treatment, I often felt the need to lie and exaggerate my symptoms at doctors appointments, in a desperate plea for help. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted them to do, I just wanted something to happen.

When I finally began assessment with the Community Mental Health Team I actually felt that the whole process was having a negative rather than positive effect. The lack of appointments was such that I didn’t see anyone on a regular basis and therefore never built up any of those trusting relationships I so often hear about. The Mental Health Nurse was supposed to be my support, someone who I could call at any time, but I didn’t feel that this was the case. Seeking help for a mental health issue is extremely difficult and took every inch of strength I had in me. I constantly felt like I was putting everything in and getting nothing back in return. When I actually did have appointments, I always left feeling despondent, wanting to give up.

I can think of only one way to describe the evidence and my own experience and that is, for want of a better word, depressing. I think of myself as lucky that I found the strength not to give up on life, but the bottom line is nobody should be left feeling this desperate, especially when they have reached out for help. Waiting lists can’t be avoided but patients shouldn’t be left feeling abandoned and even worse, as though they may as well of not sought help in the first place. Waiting until someone has attempted suicide before taking any action is just unfathomable. What is it they say? Prevention is better than cure?

Now my mind is much healthier and I can actually say that I am happy place, but I don’t put this down to the NHS. I put it down to finding ways to overcome battles on my own, including writing this blog. Just last month I finally received an appointment with a psychologist in the post, a year and a half after I first went to see a doctor. I laughed when I opened the letter.

 


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Murdered by Anorexia

News

Image copyright of orangetreetheatre.co.uk

One year ago, 56 year old actress Briony McRoberts took her own life, jumping in front of a train. Her real killer? Anorexia.

After suffering with the eating disorder in her teenage years, Briony had lived a normal life, relatively free from Anorexic tendencies until she reached her 50’s and the illness began to develop again, this time fatally. On BBC Radio 5 Live this morning (see link below) her husband, Downton Abbey actor David Robb gave an incredibly moving, influential interview discussing Briony’s struggle, in a bid to raise awareness of the fact that Anorexia can effect anyone, at any age and it is not just a phase which is going to go away.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p022tvgd

Although eating disorders may be more widely discussed now than a few years back, it is still generally thought that Anorexia is a ‘teenage girls illness’. Briony’s tragic story brings to the forefront just how real and dangerous Anorexia is. I personally, found the discussion extremely difficult to listen to, it really hit home hard, as I’m sure it did for many other listeners, but I felt an overwhelming respect for David for speaking so bravely, with such depth and understanding and for bringing the issue to attention. As harrowing as stories such as this are, society needs people such as David, and the other women who called in to the show to share their stories, to speak out. This is the first step to making people aware of the reality and creating some sort of general understanding.

A woman, also in her 50’s and a sufferer of Anorexia since her teens, spoke honestly and openly on the show of how the Anorexic voice in her mind is stronger than her love for her four children. It is completely unfathomable to a non-sufferer but it is the brutal truth.

Just as a sufferer of alcohol or drug abuse can overcome their addiction but it will still stay with them, lurking in wait of an opportunity to show up again, a knock back in life, a moment of weakness, Anorexia is the same. It never goes away, it can be overcome, but there is always a chance that the sufferer will resort to those same coping mechanisms (starvation) again, giving the illness the power to manifest again.

People do make full recoveries from Anorexia and live a life free from the illness, but it doesn’t just disappear. Anorexia can affect anyone, any age. It isn’t just a fad and it isn’t going away.

Overcoming the Post-Holiday Blues

Features, Fitness

They say all good things must come to an end, so what happens afterwards?

I hadn’t thought much past the four flights and two days of travelling which I faced in order to get home. When I had thought about returning home, it consisted of the very basic and shallow luxuries such as sleeping in my own bed, not having to worry about toilet roll and eating copious amounts of cheese. It hadn’t occurred to me that after the jet lag had worn of, reality would kick in and I didn’t have a plan for reality.

After a few flight extensions I had spent a total of four months in South East Asia with little else to worry about apart from what I would have for dinner that night and whether I would get any sleep on the night bus. I hadn’t had a moment on my own (aside from showering) the whole time and this was perfect for me. When you’re on the other side of the world with your whole life confined to a backpack, problems I faced at home on a daily basis were non existent. My own head was no longer the enemy, it was my survival kit.

Life was much simpler and I had subconsciously gained perspective and a contentment with myself, but on returning to the UK, familiar feelings of anxiety, emptiness and a lack of motivation had me wondering if this had just been circumstantial.

Most people are familiar with that impending feeling of dismay that surfaces in the final few days of the holiday and sticks around for at least a good week afterwards. Returning to reality after having a week – or a few months in my case – of escapism is an anticlimax to say the least, everything seems dull compared with the sun-soaked greener grass. It seemed I had an extreme case of the post-holiday blues.

I’m sure I won’t be the only one to find themselves suffering this summer, so here is my tips for dealing with a case of the blues.

 

1. Sort your life out

I have a terrible habit of not unpacking when I return from a trip, usually because I’m depressed and I hate unpacking. Actually, as soon as you get home you should unpack your clothes, do your washing and de-clutter your life. It will give you so much space – both physically and mentally – and make your home a much nicer environment to be in.

2. Relive the memories

As painful as it may seem at first, getting all your photographs together and looking through them is a great remedy for holiday blues. Put a slideshow together to show your family and friends, they will appreciate it, plus you get to relive all the best times through them, you’ll soon be laughing as you try to explain that photo!

3. Go outside

If you’re lucky enough to have a bit of British sunshine, make the most of it. If you’re not working have a day out, go on a picnic or even just sunbathe in the back garden. It might not be as spectacular as your previous surroundings but the sun has the same effect wherever you are, and vitamin D is your best source of happiness.

4. Catch up with friends

Make time to see friends you haven’t seen for a while, this will cheer you up instantly, they will be dying to hear your stories and you’ll find yourself eager to tell them.

5. Eat well

Summer is the season of strawberries – and all other fruits – so there is no excuse not to be consuming them by the punnet. For me, coming home meant I could indulge on all my favourite foods I had craved whilst being away, but getting back into the routine of eating a balanced diet is so important to help you feel good. If you’ve overindulged on the all-inclusive, make sure you go back to a balanced diet as soon as you get home. Eat well and you’ll feel well.

6. Get moving

This point needs little explanation, but get exercising (outside if possible) and you’ll have your positive frame of mind back in no time. Especially if you’ve spent the last two weeks lying on the beach, it’s time to get moving again. The longer you’re stopped, the harder it is to get going again.

7. Grab a new book

The bookworm that I am, finding a new can’t-put-down novel always cheers me up and keeps me occupied. Summer is a great time for new releases and must-reads so engross yourself in that book you’ve been meaning to read, to help pass the long summer hours.

8. Think positive!

Thinking positive can seem impossible when you feel surrounded by negativity, but it is so worth it. Just one small positive thought can make a world of difference to your mood. Try and look for the positives in every situation, you might be feeling miserable because your trip is over but that is only because you had such a damn good time.

 

 

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Fashion Mocking Mental Health, Now That’s Depressing

Fashion

Imagine my horror when, scrolling down my news feed yesterday, I came across a link to this petition:

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/urban-outfitters-we-are-urging-you-to-halt-all-production-of-their-eat-less-and-depression-t-shirts-both-of-which-are-glamorizing-mental-illnesses-and-could-have-potentially-devastating-effects-on-your-young-target-audience

The petition is fairly self explanatory, to halt the production of these T-shirts from – what happens to be one of my favourite high street stores – Urban Outfitters. Although Urban Outfitters is famous for its novel, “edgy” brands and slogans, this back and white crop top emblazoned with the word “depression” is more than just a step too far. It is just not okay, and has quite rightly sparked great uproar, accusing them of mocking and glamourising mental illness.

This is not the first time Urban Outfitters has been involved in a scandal like this. In 2010 they sold a T-shirt with the words “Eat Less” in bold letters across the front. The best word I can find to describe the production of these T-shirts, repulsive.

It turns out, regarding the current issue, Depression is actually the name of the clothing brand that designed the T-shirt, however I still struggle to see the need for Urban Outfitters to sell this top in a society where one in four of us will suffer from some form of depression in the next year. Each designer to their own, but I can’t say I agree with mixing a serious mental illness with a lighthearted fashion brand. Fashion is supposed to be fun but not when it is making fun of an illness which destroys lives and especially not when it is at risk of glamourising that illness to young girls. As for the “Eat Less” conundrum, well, you don’t really need me to go into that one.

As someone who feels passionately about both mental illness and fashion (in very different ways, obviously,) I hate to see the two being entwined together in such a sinister and negative way. Fashion has endless potential to portray positivity, inspiration and creativity, I just can’t understand what would possess someone to design these clothes, let alone sell them and – heaven forbid – wear them.

So as it seems this is a recurring sales technique for Urban Outfitters, with various other clothing designs causing outrage over the last few years, it seems there is only one option. I must boycott Urban Outfitters. Just as we would any other brand or media form which shocked and disgusted us in this way. I can’t say I’m not disappointed, the idea is really quite depressing.

My Walk To Freedom, 2013

Features, Food, Opinion

As 2013 draws to a close, it wouldn’t be right not to finish the year with the obligatory reflective blog post.

For me, this year has been a significant one. I graduated from university, began a new relationship and began recovery from an eating disorder. As much as this year has perhaps been one of the most important and successful years of my life, it certainly hasn’t felt like that a lot of the time.

As proud of myself as I am that I finally sought help for my eating disorder, recovery isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t quick. Recovery is a lonely, confusing and scary place to be. Without the comfort blanket of the eating disorder for reliance, but still without a healthy attitude towards food, it is easy to relapse and even easier to beat yourself up when you do. That was my reasoning for setting up this blog. I wanted to reach out to others in recovery and talk about eating disorders.

This blog is perhaps my greatest achievement of the year. Speaking openly and publicly about eating disorders, is something, which 12 months ago was completely unfathomable to me, yet somehow, at the end of 2013 here I am, writing this post. It may not reach many readers and it may not be a national phenomenon, but to me this blog in a success in its own right. I still have that overwhelming sense of sickness and fear every time I hover doubtfully over the ‘post’ button, and I still worry constantly about how others will react to what I’ve written, and if I’m being really honest, what they will think of me and how they will judge me. Simply the fact that I am writing this blog means that I have spoken out and tried to make a difference, even if I haven’t managed to reach out to anyone else – which I sincerely hope that I have – I have definitely reached out to myself.

I will leave 2013, still worrying about how many calories I ate yesterday, but feeling proud and lucky. Proud, because I have achieved something I never thought possible, and lucky because I have began to overcome something which too many people do not. I will also leave thinking of those who haven’t been as lucky as I have and those who are still suffering and I urge them to have the courage to seek help.

2013 was the year I realised that I hadn’t failed at anorexia and bulimia, I had beaten them.

 

SARAH