The Symptoms of Depression Nobody Talks About

Depression is often very misunderstood. Some believe it means simply being sad and unmotivated, when in reality, the symptoms of depression often have a way of infiltrating everything, from the smallest, most unsuspecting details, to the biggest, most significant aspects. And trying to explain this often feels like trying to hold onto water.

I did a lot of research on this, both as a curious person and a sufferer of mental health illnesses, which is why it took me over two weeks to publish it.

By opening the dialogue and trying to put words to these symptoms, we can continue to deepen our understanding and unveil the misunderstanding that leads to stigma. 

Here is what I found out:

  • Wanting to say what’s on your mind, but can’t explain it, so you just cry because you don’t even know what you’re feeling
  • The exhaustion is equally mental as it is physical. Mental exhaustion from having to apologize for who you are, from trying to convince yourself you deserve to be alive. The physical and mental exhaustion from living in general
  • The black hole felt in the core of being. It sucks in life, motivation, concentration, etc. It’s drowning in the the ocean in the middle of a tempest
  • Not showering, combing your hair, brushing your teeth or changing clothes for a long time. Basically, all hygiene just goes out the window
  • When having an episode but you are not so far gone, and part of your rational mind is telling you there’s no reason to feel that way, yet the dark part of your mind still won’t release its grip
  • You can see and take in your surroundings, but you don’t feel a part of it, as if in a dream
  • When you’re depressed, your ability to feel joy from the things you normally love fades, but the worst days are the days where you are so numb you can barely even feel compassion or empathy
  • Your aching body from staying still all day, whether from laying in bed or just sitting. People think people with depression are just lazy for doing so
  • Disassociation. When you are so depressed and consumed you are no longer yourself. It feels like you are in a videogame. There is no emotional connection to reality
  • When you are so tired you do not manage to get to places in time. It takes you a lot of energy to get up, get ready and go
  • Not knowing that something is wrong in the early stage, and hurting other people with your behavior, and this is of course not done on purpose. This results in people accusing you of the things caused by the illnesses you could not control
  • The amount of migraines you struggle with when you go through depressive episodes which makes dealing with everything a million times harder
  • Anger, agitation, irritability and the feeling of having little to no self-control. This often gets to a point where you cannot bottle it up anymore, and you go down a downward spiral over the simplest, smallest of things because you cannot manage your emotions. Basically, depression is anger turned inwards
  • Thinking depression will be passed on to your children, and you cannot explain this because it is not tangible. Fact: children are more likely to develop mental health problems if their parents experienced them
  • This one is for the ladies: your period reacts to your emotional stress level and depression can cause you so much stress because people don’t understand, your period sometimes either stops or it just keeps going and becomes super irregular and painful
  • You are not able to talk and voice your thoughts because depression makes you believe your opinion does not matter
  • Sometimes you think: am I just exhausted because of my sleep schedule? Or because my mind hasn’t stopped working or stressing for days? That constant need to rationalize your mental health makes the depression symptoms even worse
  • Preoccupation. Depression can make you preoccupy yourself with game apps and simple things I know I can do or change because I feel that I can’t change or control anything else in my life
  • Promiscuity. You get so down and depressed you just want to do anything to feel better, even though you hurt yourself at the same time
  • The internal frustration that you are too scared, guilty or embarrassed to speak out because there is still so much stigma and lack of services, and people who say they are there for you when actually they aren’t. So you just end up drowning in your own thoughts and your depression or anxiety worsens

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  • Paranoia. You think that people are getting annoyed with you and the awful symptoms
  • One minute you’re having fun with your friends and family, and then it hits you hard and begin to shut down without an explanation, nothing to have triggered it. Suddenly you have trouble enjoying yourself with people you are happy around
  • Foggy thinking, making it impossible to concentrate or remember anything
  • Gaining weight because you don’t know what else to do. Or the weight loss because you are just not hungry and don’t have the energy to cook
  • You’re guilty all the time. Hurting friends and family, lying about why you can’t do something or go somewhere, not going to work, staying in bed all day, not taking proper care of your responsibilities… It’s consuming and never ending
  • The uncertainty. You don’t know if you’re going to wake up in the same horrid mood, a worse or better one. Not knowing if one day you’re going to stop functioning. Not knowing whether you will be able to keep your job while keeping your head above water
  • Cancelling plans last minute, having your friends and family think you don’t love then when this occurs constantly
  • You don’t know if your thoughts are real of just effects of depression feeding you lies. You feel betrayed by your own brain and you’re not able to distinguish the true and depressive thoughts
  • The need to put on an act so everyone thinks you are OK, but inside you feel worthless. Sometimes you just want to shout that you are suffering and cannot cope, but you’re made to feel like you are not allowed to show weakness. The exhaustion and the physical pain caused by holding back tears because you have to appear to function well at home, at work and in social situations
  • Not knowing how to explain why you are depressed. People constantly ask you “What’s making you depressed?” or “Why are you depressed?”. It’s hard to keep saying that you have no clue. Because if you knew, you would have loved telling them and fix it, but it’s tough… you just don’t know why. You just are
  • Awareness. Awareness of all the things that are wrong, but the inability to fix any of it
  • The physical and emotional pain and weariness and feeling like you have to apologize for all of it. It’s exhausting!
  • Wanting to put yourself in dangerous situations. Depression isn’t always about laying in your bed, it also can be the urge to be self-destructive. People don’t talk about this because it’s a kind of a grey space. You’re not really suicidal, but you have a kind of urge to put yourself in dangerous situation
  • When you’re typically a super responsible, organized person, and you slowly feel all of it start to unravel. You start showing up late to work, falling behind on tasks, stop eating, start praying that your kids (if you have them) won’t notice and you put on that fake smile and try to keep it all together. Through tears and self-doubt, you pull through for them because they need you
  • Thinking you’re no longer in love with the love of your life. Becoming paranoid of them thinking they’re bad for you. It causes the partner to feel unloved, no matter if you still say ‘I love you,’ they can feel it
  • When every decision, no matter how small or big, becomes an insurmountable burden because of your indecisive mind. Then the guilt of having made a decision that always seems to be the wrong one. And then more guilt that makes you think you are useless to anyone in the world including yourself
  • Selfishness. You tend to isolate yourself and put your depression first, and the rest second. Depression takes the spotlight, and everyone and everything else is in the backseat
  • Constipation. Whether it’s because of something bad you ate, the medication or because all you do is sleep. It takes you weeks to start getting back to normal, and nothing prolongs the cloud in your head than feeling bloated and sick on top of lack of motivation and self-deprecation

It is important to remember that no matter how much you are struggling or how overwhelming your symptoms may feel, you are never alone and you are worthy and deserving of help.

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Dim the Spotlight on… Audrey Hepburn [#4]

THIS IS A NEW SERIES WHICH CONSISTS OF ME LOOKING BACK AT ARTISTS I LOVE AND HAVE INFLUENCED ME THAT ARE UNFORTUNATELY NO LONGER ALIVE.


If you don’t know who Audrey Hepburn is, then where were you all your life? She was dubbed the most beautiful woman year after year. And, well, look at her!

This is the person in question in the late 1950s. Now you recognise her? Perhaps you might know her from this photo then…

I have seen her most popular movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is where this photo is taken from, just last weekend and… wow. I can see why people loved her. Her energy, charisma and chemistry on camera with her costars was undeniable.

What some might not know, however, is that behind the cameras, she battled clinical depression and a speculated (therefore not diagnosed) eating disorder.

Let’s get on with it shall we?

Rough Upbringing

A teenage Hepburn bravely ran missions for the Dutch resistance and dramatically escaped from Nazi soldiers herding her off to a labor camp by hiding for a month in a rat-filled cellar, living on scraps.

Although she binged on Belgian chocolate as a youngster, her wartime near-starvation drove Audrey Hepburn to “resent” food: the beginnings, of an eating disorder that would affect the wafer-thin actress for the rest of her life.

“I decided to master food; I told myself I didn’t need it,” Hepburn said of her war years. “Of course, I took it to an extreme. I forced myself to eliminate the need for food.” For years after, she suffered survivor’s guilt, haunted by images of friends and neighbors being dragged off to die.

More on this later.

Love and Depression

While she went on to fame and an Oscar in such movies as “Roman Holiday” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” she was trailed by depression as a result of several miscarriages and her failed marriage to actor Mel Ferrer.

Also chronicled in the book Audrey Hepburn: An Intimate Portrait is her affair with a then-married William Holden, whom she dumped after finding out he had undergone a vasectomy and would never be able to provide her with children. Her second marriage to Italian psychiatrist, Dr. Andrea Mario Dotti, was short-lived, a victim of Dotti’s incessant philandering.

The ED that wasn’t?

One of the biggest sources for the rumor that Audrey Hepburn suffered from anorexia and possibly even depression is her youngest son, Luca Dotti’s, Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen (excellent book with personal insights, by the way). In this book, he states that for much of her life she was very underweight, weighing only 88lbs. He also said that she had very strange eating habits, that were part of her disorder.

Wolders, Audrey’s last partner before she died, totally dismisses the claim about Audrey being anorexic by saying that it is “absolute bullsh_t, she had a good metabolism.”

Even Audrey’s second ex-husband Dotti, a psychoanalyst who specializes in these types of eating disorders, agrees with Wolder by saying she always maintained a “healthy but disciplined diet, based on her youthful training as a ballet dancer.” – Source People Magazine 1994

Up until Luca Dotti’s book was released, most people thought her slender figure was due to her intense ballet training. Ballet dancers are usually slim and slender, and often have boyish figures. It was not unbelievable that this was a natural result of the training and exercise that Audrey Hepburn went through in order to become a dancer.

Audrey Hepburn Anorexia ?

As said above, as a child, Audrey was known for her love of chocolate. She was said to have loved Belgium chocolate so much that her mother had the kitchen staff hide her favorite treat. Audrey herself was even known to have said that chocolate was her one and only true love. It is hard to believe that a child who loved chocolate so much would grow up to be naturally thin. As several people, have pointed out, at the very least Audrey Hepburn had a strange relationship with food. While there is little concrete evidence that she was anorexic, she certainly had some known strange behaviors when it came to what and when she ate.

Reasons that prove Hepburn was NOT anorexic

  • Her closest family members, two sons, two ex-husbands, and last recent partner who spent time with Audrey the most claim that she was not anorexic
  • Her close friends and people who she hung out with on the sets of movies claimed that she always ate pretty good portions and had a good appetite, especially for spaghetti
  • She was a ballerina. In other words, she was an athlete. This is not just some hobby of hers, she trained to become a prima ballerina as her career
  • She was very energetic and didn’t complain about having chronic fatigue, which a lot of anorexic people complain about having

And that’s basically it!

Did Audrey Hepburn have an eating disorder? And why do you think so?

Let me know in the comments below 🙂 See you in the next one

XXX

Mental Health First Aid

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This makes it official, right?

Well…! I’ve finally done it! The first of many steps towards breaking the stigma surrounding mental health problems in Malta:

I am a Mental Health First Aider!

Confetti it’s a parade!

Celebrations aside, this has been something I’ve wanted to do since forever. And it’s finally done. 2 Saturdays. 6 hours each. Lots of laughs and new friends. Breaking the stigma, one person at a time.

Why should one take a mental health first aid course?

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My experience

Over the past two sessions, I learned a lot of things about mental health, and took note of them. Having been through mental health problems gave me a good background of certain things, but some things were new to me, including ALGEE:

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ALGEE – the life-saving acronym

Algee, the mascot of MHFA, is this cutie pie:

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Algee the koala

Despite having the MHFA manual, which was given to us free of charge, I still took notes of my own, and they will be listed down below…

  • Mental health problem – not diagnosed but displays symptoms
  • Mental health illness – diagnosed
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  • NEVER leave a person alone if they need help!
  • Say you went through a “similar situation” NOT “same thing”
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  • Attack the behaviour not the person
  • Make sure of the following:
    • You care and want to help
    • Empathy
    • Help is available
    • Thoughts are very common
    • Encourage the person to do most of the talking
    • No threats/guilt
    • NEVER KEEP SUICIDE A SECRET
    • There are ways to address specific problems
    • Involve the person in who to be told about the problem
  • When person is in crisis – first aid
  • When person not in crisis – ALGEE
  • Panic attacks are
    • frightening but not dangerous
    • not all triggered
  • When in doubt, assume person is experiencing a panic attack, NOT a heart attack
  • When person says they’re having a panic attack and recovers – no intervention
  • Slow breathing helps BUT focusing on breathing can become an emotional crutch leading to difficulty with eventual treatment
  • Panic attack – not more than 10 minutes
  • Types of traumas:
    • Individual
    • Ongoing
    • Mass
    • Witnessing/hearing
    • – (I didn’t get the last one unfortunately)
  • Dissociative Identity Disorder = Multiple Personality Disorder but NOT = schizophrenia!
  • Psychosis = loss of contact from reality
  • Neither confirm nor deny someone with psychosis!
  • Schizophrenia should be diagnosed early – teens to early 20s
  • Borderline Personality Disorder NOT = Bipolar!
  • Schizoaffective – schizophrenia + bipolar/depression (mood disorder)
  • Helpful actions: *
    • Seeking help
    • Offer tea
    • Didn’t go inside
    • Good memories
    • Friendship to help
    • Calm + firm tone
    • Gave options
    • Showed concern
    • Seated
    • 90-degree angle
    • Listened/emphatic
    • Minimal reaction (present)
  • Unhelpful actions: *
    • Sarcasm
    • Judgemental
    • Showed fear
    • Tone of voice
    • Remained standing
    • Arguing with delusions
    • Anxious
    • Insane
    • Calling help behind his back
    • Speaking about Peter in front of him
    • Facial expressions
  • What is affected by substance use disorders? The 4 Ls
    • Livelihood
    • Love
    • Liver
    • Law
  • Three types of substances:
    • Depressants
    • Hallocages
    • Stimulants

* Points taken during a video about MFHA: Psychosis taken from the MHFA Australia DVD


So these were all the points I jotted down throughout the 12-hour course, including some pictures used during the presentations. As a disclaimer, I would like to point out that despite this certification, I CANNOT diagnose ANYONE, but simply ASSIST the person in case of mental health problems. For a diagnosis, please seek professional help (GPs, psychologist, psychiatrists, psychotherapists, etc.)

 

Why I Still Go to Therapy… and why it’s OK

This is probably one of those posts where I had a thousand of ideas, and yet I never really knew how to form those ideas in a decent post. That, and I found it really difficult writing this post. Because the stigma surrounding mental health is still there. I was told by my family not to write about this, but I refuse to be silenced.

I am recovering from depression and anxiety. I’m happier than I ever was, and am in a good place, both physically and mentally.

Yet I still go to psychiatric therapy. And I still take my medication.

And it’s okay.

Continue reading “Why I Still Go to Therapy… and why it’s OK”

Dim the Spotlight on… Chris Cornell [#1]

This is a new series which consists of me looking back at artists I love and have influenced me that are unfortunately no longer alive.

My earliest memory of Cornell is when I heard the song ‘Black Hole Sun’ playing on VH1 Classic when I was a pre-teen. As I usually do with every song I like, I searched all I could about the band, lead singer and songs.

You could say I was instantly hooked.

Black Hole Sun

The lyrics, particularly those of ‘Black Hole Sun’ really spoke to me, and I could tell from both the lyrics and my research that what Chris Cornell was singing truly came from his heart and how personal it was.

It’s just sort of a surreal dreamscape, a weird, play-with-the-title kind of song. He also that “lyrically it’s probably the closest to me just playing with words for words’ sake, of anything written. I guess it worked for a lot of people who heard it, but I have no idea how you’d begin to take that one literally. It’s funny because hits are usually sort of congruent, sort of an identifiable lyric idea, and that song pretty much had none. The chorus lyric is kind of beautiful and easy to remember.

Other than that, I sure didn’t have an understanding of it I was just sucked in by the music and I was painting a picture with the lyrics. There was no real idea to get across.” the song was misinterpreted as being positive, No one seems to get this, but ‘Black Hole Sun’ is sad. But because the melody is really pretty, everyone thinks it’s almost chipper, which is ridiculous!

Mental Health

Cornell battled drug addiction at a young age (13 years of age), to the extent of starvation. He starved so badly he had to be sent to rehab for a while to recover from both his drug addiction. He only got clean when he met his second wife, Vicky. Of this, he says, “It was a long period of coming to the realisation that [being sober] is better. Going through rehab, honestly, did help… it got me away from just the daily drudgery of depression and either trying to not drink or do drugs or doing them.

“They give you such a simple message that any idiot can get and it’s just over and over. But the bottom line is really, and this is the part that is scary for everyone, the individual kinda has to want it. Not kinda, you have to want it and to not do that crap anymore or you will never stop and it will just kill you.”

Demise

He was found dead inside the bathroom of his Detroit hotel room just mere hours after performing with Soundgarden. I found out about his death on my way to work and I was distraught. I couldn’t believe it, and it seems, neither did his wife, friends or fans all around the world. It was later revealed that he took his own life by hanging.

And this is why I wanted to start the series in the first place, because people would think something like “Kill himself why? He had everything: a great career, wife, family, money, fame…! What more could he possibly want?!”

You need to realise that famous people are also humans. They bleed like us, they have feelings like us, and they breathe like us. They feel happiness, anger and sadness just like the rest of us. So don’t you dare say “He had it all”.

No.

He had everything and nothing. He was happy and sad. Living and not. (A metaphor which makes complete sense in my head but not in the writing, but I wrote it anyways because I don’t know how to explain it).

#BreaktheStigma… from the Survivors

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“People think that OCD is all about being a neat freak or washing hands.”

“My friends and I were having a discussion about suicide, and one said that anyone who commits suicide is a selfish.”

“People think that anyone who commits suicide is selfish because they don’t think of the pain their family and friends go through.”

“I think that people in general think that mental health is not as important as physical illnesses. That’s why people are embarrassed to talk about what they’re going through, especially men.”

“For me, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) is like being imprisoned – caged even – in my own brain to rules and such that I have to abide to to avoid something wrong from happening!”

“People think that just because I smile and joke a lot, that I am ‘normal’ and don’t have any type of mental disorders…”

“When people talk to me, it takes me a while to actually talk, if I actually manage to. They would just say ‘Oh she’s just shy’.”

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“Reality is way more than anyone thinks. Intrusive thoughts galore and never a quiet moment in your head… guilt of past mistakes, obsessing over health issues and an irrational thought which makes it so scary you end up having a panic attack… What else…? Ohh, seeking reassurance from someone means you’ll be ok for a minute and then the thoughts come back and you ask again for reassurance. It’s a vicious cycle; it never stops.”

“You’re scared that you might hurt someone although you still know you’re not going to hurt someone but you still live with that fear….”

“I have read that some people were scared being around children . Because they are scared they hurt them.”

“Obsessing about sexual orientation. If you’re straight, you think you’re gay and vice versa . I haven’t had all of these but, I know they happen.”

“In reality, in some cases, the person thinks that the world will be a better place without them.”

“… The truth is, we smile and laugh a lot to hide and bury our sadness deeper and deeper, out of fear of judgement.”

“I am not just a shy person. I am just scared of being judged for seeming vulnerable.”


Disclaimer: What you just read have been and are in present time experienced by real people. If yourself or someone close to you are suffering from any of these symptoms, consult with a doctor and take it from there.

Y O U ‘ R E [N O T] A L O N E

B R E A K T H E [S T I G M A]

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