It is common to think that everyone’s symptoms of depression are exactly the same. When you read information on the illness, it lists the symptoms, and we believe that must be how everyone else experiences it, but everyone is different. Some never leave the house when depressed, others may sleep for hours on end, and still others may stop taking care of themselves. We may have the same symptoms, but we each react differently. So when you’re going through a good period or recovery, it is important to be aware of your illness and signs of when you are having problems and when you need help.
When I went through the worst of my depression, I often felt like lying around all day, but my willpower wouldn’t let me. I put on a fake smile and forced myself to go to college and work. I felt this deep darkness covering my soul like a storm cloud and inside I hurt, but I couldn’t miss classes or call off from work. I deeply wanted to sleep all day and give up, but I’m not that type of person. I believed I must push on no matter what, but I internalize my pain. I do tend to neglect myself like not eating properly, pushing myself too hard, skipping showers, and forgetting to take my medication. I make mistakes I normally wouldn’t, like on keeping track of finances.
Through years of struggling with depression, I learned to keep track of the symptoms of my depression. I keep track of them mentally and in my journal. I have the number to crisis services if I ever need them, and I follow up with a psychiatrist every two month. Even though I am in recovery, I must be prepared for bad days and signs of when I’m slipping down that hole again. Being pro-active can save me from falling all the way to the bottom of the hole again. I have worked too hard to allow myself to hit bottom.
As you have read in my blog posts, I recently lost my grandma. During the time she became bedridden and death began calling her, I started noticing my signs of depression. I began to make mistakes in my bill register. I’d forget to subtract things and missed paying bills on time. Then I felt that dark cloud seeping in, and I had to push myself to get out of bed. I cried easily, and I began to neglect myself. I pushed myself to go to work even when I didn’t feel like it. I even pushed myself to exercise with a friend when I had little energy.
I felt during the circumstances with my dad being in charge of Grandma’s affairs and her care, it would be best not to tell my parents. Instead I told my husband about my symptoms. We discussed steps we would take to assure the depression remained under my control. I journaled my feelings, decided I could no longer visit my grandma, and Lou would help make sure I took care of myself. I also leaned on my support system. I had to be sure I didn’t stop doing my regular tasks like writing my speech for October 18 and working on my book proposal. I had to keep myself busy so my mind wouldn’t take over.
My husband and I also talked about what symptoms to look out for that would indicate I needed professional help. Signs like talking about dying, not eating, stopping doing things I enjoy like writing, thoughts of self-injuring, and canceling plans with friends and family and inability to sleep even while on medication. There is also crying over small things and worrying so bad I am continuously sick with anxiety attacks. Anxiety attacks for me means I am unable to keep food down.
Lou helped me monitor my symptoms, and I kept track of them in my journal. I practiced coping techniques I have learned in therapy. Like keeping busy, writing my feelings in my journal, changing negative thoughts to positive, and leaning on my support team. I knew my grandma would not want me to hit the bottom of the hole over her, and I worked too hard to let the depression take complete hold of me.
Being aware and pro-active helped me keep my depression under control. I fell apart at Grandma’s viewing, but kept it together for her funeral. Days fallowing her funeral I took care of myself. I spent extra time with my husband so I wouldn’t be alone. I made sure I talked out or wrote out my feelings with my husband and friends. I took extra time to do small things for myself like watching a movie I liked, taking a break from my writing for a few days, snuggling with a shawl my mom saved from Grandma’s room, and allowing myself time to just sit and cry. My husband and I even took a four day vacation to Dayton, Ohio just to get away and have fun. We had a great time exploring a Packard car museum and an airplane museum, spending time together, and exploring the area around our hotel.
Because I kept track of my depression, monitored my symptoms and practiced coping techniques, my depression is fading. I’m still missing my grandma and I’m still grieving, but the darkness is no longer pulling me down that hole. I’m making less mistakes, and I am feeling more at peace with my grandma’s death. I am very proud of myself for being aware of my symptoms of depression and taking care of it before I hit rock bottom. I was able to get a hold of my illness without getting professional help.
Being aware of your symptoms of depression and the things you do while you’re slipping down the hole can help you handle your illness or get help before things get bad. We are never cured of depression even in recovery, and knowing when this illness is threatening to take control can help you fight it before it overtakes you. You must always be aware of the symptoms of your illness even while everything is going good and especially during rough times in your life. Being pro-active can help you better manage depression and save you from hitting rock bottom. If it helps, write down the symptoms and give a copy to your support team so they can help you. The key is you must always take care of your depression even when you’re dancing in the light of success. Ignoring the signs that you’re having problems and getting help when you have already hit bottom will make the climb to recovery even harder.
Because of my awareness of the depression I faced, I was able to avoid hitting bottom and once again took control of my illness. I am doing much better and I am relaxing in the light of recovery.