How to know the signs that you don’t know what the signs are. #MHAW15
Let’s talk about perspective.
Back in 2009, I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety. Two very common mental health issues that often occur together, and even exacerbate each other. My condition had actually appeared at least a year or so earlier than that, but it took me a long time before I went to see a doctor about it. After all, it’s hard when to know you need help, when you don’t even know you need it!
Firstly, I think it’s important to note that everyone, at some point in their lives, will know what it’s like to be really down and/or to feel very anxious. While these experiences are similar, they would not equate to having clinical depression and anxiety. And this (imagine me gesturing wildly into the air) adds to the whole dilemma of differentiating between having a bad week and actually being ill.
For me, it started with a lack of sleep. I had begun to feel tired a lot and was not sleeping much at night. I was starting to lose the ability to concentrate on daily activities like reading, watching TV or even listening to other people talk to me. After a while, things became blurry, my thinking and moving literally went into a kind of ‘slo-mo’ mode, and I attributed my current state to not sleeping enough, despite the fact that not sleeping was more a symptom than a cause! After a few months, I was officially on about 3 hours of sleep a night and hallucinations and delusion were beginning to work their way into my daily thinking — BUT, I didn’t know at the time that they were delusions and hallucinations. My brain was functioning so far below base level that it was unable to realise that it had it’s own wires crossed!
A fun fact to keep things light hearted: I once exhaustedly hallucinated a lamp post falling down. Convinced it was real, I stood dead still, waiting to see where it would fall, only to ‘snap out of it’ when I got hit by the wing mirror of a passing bus.
A big side effect of chronic psychological stress and sleep deprivation is memory loss (due to atrophy of the part of your brain that, amongst many other things, converts recent experiences into memory). So all the above mentioned factors combined had left me in a state of ‘fuzzy thinking’; a very infamous symptom of depression, which feels exactly how it sounds.
IFLS recently released a good article about ‘fuzzy thinking’ in depressive mood disorders. Read it here.
As a direct result of my entire way of thinking about and interacting with the world around me being distorted from the inside, it took me almost a year and a half to get diagnosed, and subsequently, get help.
What’s the point I'm trying to make?
It’s really great that more people want to be aware of the symptoms of depression and be able to spot it if they had to. However, if one day you realise a friend is in need of mental health support, just know that getting them to get help could be very difficult. They may not share your enthusiasm for their wellbeing, because their brain isn’t doing the normal, sensible things yours is. Gentle/forceful nudging may often be advised. ;)