Before reading this, please note that I am not a medical professional- just a survivor of depression. I am sharing my symptoms in hopes of finding connection and hope you won’t have to feel alone. Please approach this as such and read my disclaimer.
Depression has become the mental health cliché of the 21st century. The word is thrown around more than “swag” or “on fleek” or whatever is the common saying of the day. On any given bad day, when someone is struck with a bolt of bad luck, they are suddenly depressed.
However, it’s not fair to those of us who have to fight the dark veil of depression and attempting to lead normal lives. Despite the fight, we must be mother, father, wife, husband, sister, or friend. There is a lot of dragging involved: dragging to get yourself out of bed, dragging to get to work, and dragging to be present in life.
Depression looks different for everyone. Some people have become experts at hiding their depression and it is becoming more difficult to tell what people are truly feeling.
In this post, I’m presenting insights that may help those who need to identify the symptoms in themselves as well as in family members. More importantly, sharing this may destroy the stigma that depression is this invisible figment of everyone’s imagination, or just as common to everyone as a bad day.
This is what depression looks like for me and I hope it enlightens you.
1.The Struggle to Wake Up
According to Dr. Frederic M. Quitkin, depression can come with some atypical features. One of them is oversleeping. I know I’m getting depressed when I sleep later in the day, disregard my blaring alarm, then panic-awake when it’s time for me to walk out of the door. When I finally make it out of the door, I’m also struggling to stay awake throughout the day. The feeling of tired and worn out constantly weighs me down despite going to bed early and waking up later than I should.
No amount of sleep is ever enough.
2. Crying with no real purpose
Crying is a very normal reaction to being upset about something. We cry when we’re sad or there’s been a death in the family or the loss of a relationship. However, when you start losing control over when you cry, then there’s a deeper issue.
Despite crying being so common, this is also probably the most downplayed symptom of depression and yet one of the most frustrating. It’s difficult not to have control over what is going on inside, but crying is an outward sign of losing control when I’m depressed.
I have moments where I’m watching my favorite T.V. show, or in the shower, or waking up in the morning and there’s a sudden flood from my eyes. I can feel something welling up inside of me, but with no definite source. Sometimes, I try to warn the people around me that I’m going to burst, but that just prompts a freight train of questions as to why I’m crying, which is only terrifying and noisy when I can’t sort it out myself.
The factual answer is- I don’t know.
3. To eat or not to eat
Depression comes with a lack of self-care and eating falls under that category. Some days, I frankly forget. I am so consumed with the depth of darkness I’m in that the hours float by me and sustaining myself isn’t a priority. I don’t think I ever do it on purpose, or that anyone with depression willingly avoids food. It just isn’t a priority. On the opposite end, I sometimes eat constantly assuming it will help what is happening on the inside. I gravitate to sweets like brownies or fatty foods like burgers and fries trying to fill the void I’m feeling.
Whether I choose to eat or not, nothing seems to help.
4. Not showering
This also falls under the realm of self-care. I have many years of physical trauma in my past which has caused me to be uncomfortable in my own skin. Showers can be terrifying as my mind decides to explore all of the trauma at once in those moments.
The shower is the most hazardous place in my home. I avoid the shower when I’m depressed because it only furthers my mental health issues. I stand there with a blank stare thinking myself into oblivion instead of focusing on the task of showering.
Just like eating, showering just isn’t a priority. There’s just not enough energy in my being to make it all happen. I would rather sleep or lay somewhere than to get up and find clothes, shower, and change. That is such a daunting task when I’m depressed that I can’t fathom doing at all.
It took a long time for my family to understand that I wasn’t doing it on purpose.
5. Loss of interest
I have 2 jobs that I love currently which is teaching and being a mom to two beautiful babies under the age of 7. I just couldn’t wait to be a teacher and mother when I was young and generally, they bring me great joy.
However, on my bad days, it really doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. I am so consumed by the darkness that I can’t find the joy in my children or my students. On those days, my kids notice and tell me I’m moving slower than usual or not as enthusiastic as usual. I really do try to protect my babies from my depression, but the loss of interest is painfully obvious in the way I am with others.
I love my life, but when I’m depressed, it’s hard to show.
6. Negative Language
My most obvious cue that I am depressed is my negative language. Depression places a filter on my mind and I see everything through these black and white glasses that I can’t remove. I think it can also be a subconscious warning for those around me who are paying attention. I say things like “nothing matters”, “who cares”, “no one cares”, etc. When I start talking like this, that means I am utterly hopeless and I see everything through that hopeless lens.
The one that always sticks to me is the thought that “no one cares”.
Being annoyed is something I have gotten used to when I had my first baby. Kids are just always up under me and I don’t get a moment of peace.
When I’m experiencing my depression symptoms, this annoyance is heightened. Everything on Earth gets on my nerves!
People on the streets can’t drive fast enough and I can’t get to work fast enough and my mom is yelling at me to change lanes and why is she always yelling and the kids are singing baby shark again and by this point, I’m screaming. Sometimes on the inside, most of the time it’s on the outside.
I’m yelling at everyone within a 5-mile radius whether I knew them or not and they will feel my wrath! I can’t even believe it after it leaves my mouth.
Then I start crying, stuffing my face with chocolate, forgetting to shower, calling myself a loser, then losing interest in everything because I refuse to wake up in the morning. Ugh.
I find that these symptoms come in waves and not necessarily all together. At this point, my family members understand me well enough to see these issues and try to help me remedy them. Sometimes, the best thing they can do for me show me the way I’ve been treating myself and it gives me an opportunity to get self-reflective and pray.
Which one of these symptoms have you seen in yourself? Which have you seen in your family member? Comment below!