I recently found this depression-related questionnaire floating about online so I thought I’d answer it and do a blog post based on it. The usual disclaimer applies that these are purely my opinions based on my own experiences. I hope you find it interesting.
How long have you had depression?
‘Officially’ since my early twenties, but that’s only because that’s when I first became aware that there was this thing called ‘depression’ and that I had it. Looking back, I was already struggling with it when I was 18 and first went away to university. It’s been with me for about half my life.
Does depression or other mental illness run in your family?
What are your symptoms?
I suffer from both depression (unipolar) and anxiety. The former means low moods, feelings of worthlessness, guilt, self-loathing, a lack of energy and direction, feeling everything is pointless and hopeless and a profound sense of emptiness, loneliness and shame. The latter means feeling twitchy, irritable, unable to concentrate and a desire to scream and run away from whatever situation I am in. Panic attacks usually result if I’m around other people I don’t know for too long.
Do you feel friends and family understand?
The only members of my family who know are my parents – none of my other living relatives do so far as I know. My close friends are all understanding and many of my less-close friends are, too. I have been fortunate that way. I have had unsympathetic friends in the past but none of them are still in my life.
Have you ever been suicidal?
Yes. I had a nervous breakdown some time ago and seriously considered crashing my car while driving home one day. I felt my hands start to move on the steering wheel. I have no idea what stopped me, but I’m still here. I have also had plenty of thoughts along the lines of ‘wouldn’t it be better if I weren’t here any more?’
What was your very worst bout of depression and how long did it last?
I can’t remember them all because for me, depression is always there like a black dog at my heels, but most of the time it’s quiet and I can cope with it. Probably my worst ever time was the breakdown I have already mentioned which lasted about six months. During this time, I rarely left the house, was paranoid people were watching me and felt like crying most of the time. I had a very bad episode one Christmas in my mid-twenties also. I remember being in my house, which was very cold, and feeling disconnected from reality.
What makes your depression better and worse?
Better – taking anti-depressants regularly and on-time, talk therapy with good counsellors, the support of good friends, music, keeping busy (or as busy as I can), eating properly, trying to get outside (even if just for five minutes or so), retail therapy. Worse – pretty much anything can set me off if I am in the full throes. Being around people can be very stressful and when I feel anxious things like noise and people talking set my teeth on edge. All I want to do is scream, run away and hibernate.
What is the biggest thing about depression you would like to tell the world if you could?
That it is real and that those who have it don’t choose to have it. And for those who do have it – that recovery is possible.
Have you isolated yourself for very long periods?
I need a lot of recharge time since I am an introvert, so yes. Depends what you mean by ‘very’ though. For a week or two? Sure.