Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The 9 Signs I Missed That I Was Depressed

Being depressed doesn't just happen fleetingly and pass you buy when it's finished wreaking it's havoc on your body.  It lingers, lies dormant and lets you function before it strikes again.  It's not the flu.  It's depression.  In cancer terms, it can go into remission, but you'll want to keep tabs on yourself and frequently check in with your head and your heart to see that you're still ok.

When I finally had the episode that kicked my ass out of work for 14 months, I had to get to a point where I could understand this had been brewing for a lot of years.  I mean A LOT of years.  I would say it was at least 17 years in the making.  And so there were a million signs I missed that would have told me to take pause, catch my breath and if I'd even had the right coping mechanisms, to yank them out and use them before things got too far out of hand.

  1. Your jokes aren't funny.  That's because they are laced with the anger in your face, and the hurt in your heart.  Even you don't think they're funny, but to claim so allows you to speak truth without getting into further trouble.  When you're trying to joke things off, and no one is on side with the humour of it, well, it's time to check in with your coping mechanisms.
  2. You focus on the negative stuff at work, or someone actually has the heart at work to take you aside and talk to you about your approach to certain situations.  Either you're annoying them, or upsetting them, and you're not even trying to do that.  You're just trying to get people to listen, to hear you, you're just trying to do your job.  Whatever the case is, when they pull you aside to have a gentle conversation with you about your approach to your colleagues and the work situation, then it's time to check in.
  3. You're unhappy most of the time.  At least there's something to complain about at least once a day, likely 20 or 30 even.  Someone who has complaints is not entirely happy.
  4. You're tired and you don't feel like doing anything.  If this is you, and you feel like this say 6 out of 7 days, then, well, it's really time to check in.  The human body and mind is pre-wired to enjoy life and live it.  We're really not meant to hibernate all the time.  And if you're body is telling you to hibernate, it's trying to flee the stress and that means - you're not well.
  5. Avoiding friends/family/events.  It is entirely possible to want to go out and do something reckless and fun, at the same time as avoiding it, and finding excuses not to partake.  It's too hard to find a sitter, it costs too much money, I'm tired, sore or just plain weary.  Again, avoidance is the body and mind's way of escaping more trauma.  No animal runs into the bear cave knowingly.
  6. Your body is in pain - sometimes localized and sometimes generally achy.  But there is pain or illness, and it's persistent and chronic.  Typical pain management treatments don't even touch it.  There's more to it than that.
  7. You're eating more or eating less.  You're not eating the right things because the right things aren't comforting you.  
  8. You explode over the small things and walk away from the big ones.
  9. Your spouse can see it and is begging for you to see the doctor about your moods.  

Everyone who experiences this has different triggers...but everyone who experiences this has a whole host of reasons why they would.  Some are obvious (like dealing with the grief at the sudden passing of my father at a young age).  And some are not.  Some reasons have even been covered up with a million excuses for why it shouldn't affect us and why it would be silly to hold angry or hurt feelings for them.  But they are always 100% valid and nevertheless contribute to our feeling happy, sad or simply unaffected.

A good friend once told me that "feelings are never right or wrong, they just are."  That quote carried me through a lot of days when I was at my darkest and ever since.  Feelings are an instinct.  They are our body's way of translating our experiences into something we can understand.  The head is affected by our feelings, as much as we often try to rationalize our feelings.  Feelings are how we interpret the world around us.  Acknowledging their presence and giving them credibility allowed me to let go of some of the regret that I was carrying for feeling them.

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