The leading cause of disability among American adults aged 15 to 45, Major Depressive Disorder affects more than 16.1 million people. Despite being so incredibly widespread, depression is largely stigmatized and misunderstood.
Often people picture the distraught individual curled up in bed, unable to get up and face the day. While this is one way that it can present, to believe that it is the only sign of depression is to miss the opportunity to support friends, family and loved ones during their time of need.
Depression isn’t always tears and lack of motivation. It’s not always feeling so broken that you refuse to carry on with your daily routine. In fact, many people living with depression put on a brave face and convince their friends that they are ‘fine’ while inside they fight one of the greatest battles of their life. Often, they want to reach out for help, but the fear of being a burden on those they love or being judged for their struggles, choosing instead to face their demons alone.
If you are living with depression, I see you. I know what it’s like to lay alone in the dark trapped within your own mind. However, with each depressive episode, we somehow find the strength to pick ourselves up and crawl back to the surface. Climbing out of a depressive episode is no easy feat. It takes strength, courage, and determination, and it can leave you feeling exhausted and completely drained. This is the point in time where a little extra support from those we love can make all the difference.
The question is, however, how are you supposed to support someone who won’t ask for your help? How are you supposed to know when they need you most? While your loved one may not be able to outright ask for assistance, there are a number of things that people often do while crawling out of a depressive episode that can help you to identify this time in their lives. If you notice these signs, the best thing you can do is to be there for them. Don’t push, judge or put pressure on them, but offer them support as they work through this trying time.
12 Things That People May Not Realize You’re Doing Because You Are Fighting Your Way Out of a Depressive Episode:
#1 – You begin to spam all your social media accounts with motivational quotes, images, and videos.
Often as we are pulling ourselves free from the darkness, we look to the world around us for motivation and encouragement. The world of social media introduces this at a whole new level with the wealth of motivational content available at the click of a button. While your followers on social media may believe that you are sharing all this content in order to encourage and support others, the truth is that you are trying to remind yourself to be positive and keep pushing forward. If this is helping you, don’t hold back! There is nothing wrong with sharing a little more positivity in this world!
#2 – You are easily overwhelmed.
When you are first breaking free from your depressive episode you need to remember to be incredibly patient with yourself. You are still recovering, and that can be incredibly difficult. You are likely dealing with intense and often confusing emotions, triggered at times by the smallest of things. Taking steps out of the darkness won’t mean that your emotions are suddenly magically in check. It is normal to find yourself feeling overwhelmed by larger group settings, social gatherings, or any situation that may present with a lot to process all at once (louder situations, those that appear disorganized or unknown, or those that require you to step out of your comfort zone). Know when to step back and give yourself a much-needed break.
#3 – You have music going constantly.
Your music serves multiple purposes in your life. Having music going at all times offers you a distraction from the negative voices in your head. It isn’t easy to drown them out, but you do know that time alone in the quiet is an open invitation for them to return stronger than ever. Also, for many, music is able to express thoughts, feelings, and emotions that we struggle to put into words. It can help us to feel understood, as though we aren’t alone through life’s struggles. Plus, upbeat and fun-loving music can create feelings of happiness and positivity, elevating even the darkest moods. Music is like a language all of its own, and it’s one that resonates with everyone.
#4 – You start to put extra attention into your appearance.
When you are going through a period of depression, many people find that they stop caring as much about their appearance. Trapped in your own darkness, you stop caring about what you’re wearing, whether you wear makeup or how you style your hair (if you even washed it recently). Stepping out of this darkness and reclaiming your life will allow you to turn this around. You may find yourself putting extra attention into your appearance, getting a new hairstyle, buying some new outfits or trying out some new makeup techniques. If this is making you feel good about yourself then go for it! Don’t feel pressured, however, to look a certain way just because you are recovering. Listen to your heart and follow it, you will know what you need.
#5 – You sleep longer, or you struggle to sleep.
Changes in sleeping patterns are often associated with depressive episodes. For some, the constant overthinking and negative self-talk is too much to shut out, keeping them awake all hours of the night when they would normally sleep well. However, for others, the impact is completely the opposite. Overwhelmed and exhausted from a day of fighting your demons, you can’t seem to get enough sleep. Even 10 hours in bed is met with waking up and trying to convince yourself that you can’t stay there, crawling out from under the sheets only to spend the day counting down to when you can fall asleep once again. If you are recovering, your sleeping patterns will eventually balance out, but it certainly takes time.
#6 – You look for something to focus your attention on.
One of the ways that many people will try to distract themselves, making it easier to get out of their head and leave the negative thinking behind, is to find something tangible to focus their attention on. This may come in the form of a new hobby, a new routine in life, crafting or getting involved in the community. You don’t want to take on too much leaving yourself feeling overwhelmed and unable to keep up but finding a positive way to channel your energy and attention is definitely a positive! Try out a hobby that you were always interested in but never had time for before in your life such as getting into community sports, learning to play an instrument or painting.
#7 – You go out of your way to avoid being alone.
You may have been, at one point, someone who could respect the importance of alone time. However, as you pull yourself free from your depression the very idea of being left alone with your thoughts can be frightening. You will go out of your way to keep people ‘around’ at all times, whether it is in person, on the phone, by text message or through social media. As long as you have someone to talk to, you can distract yourself from your own internal dialogue, providing you with a much-needed break from that constant negativity. While you are eventually going to have to work through those negative thoughts, maintaining a healthy distraction and safety net is completely understandable and can be a very positive thing while you are healing.
#8 – Your eating habits are all over the place.
Food can be an incredibly emotional experience for many people. When you are dealing with heightened or difficult emotions, some will respond by eating their feelings away, while others will notice a complete drop in appetite, occasionally going all day without eating anything at all. The process of breaking free form your depression is going to involve a lot of ups and downs, highs and lows. This is likely going to cause some confusion when it comes to those eating habits. Don’t be surprised if one day you’re out with friends chowing down on your favorite fast food treat, truly enjoying it, and the next you aren’t interested in anything that even remotely represents food. Try not to put pressure on yourself, but, at the same time, encourage yourself to at least eat something to keep moving forward towards overall better health. Your mental and physical health are surprisingly closely connected.
#9 – You start laughing, really laughing, about anything even remotely funny.
This is one change that you likely won’t see until later in the recovery, but when you do, it’s one to hold onto and enjoy. One day you will wake up and realize that you can laugh again, genuinely laugh. A great feeling that you haven’t had for some time now with all your struggles, you likely aren’t going to hold back. Instead, many people in the later stages of escaping the darkness allow themselves to laugh at anything that is even slightly funny, enjoying that short period of time in which nothing else matters, all your worries drop away, and you can just feel ‘good.’ This is a good sign. Don’t worry about what others might think, just enjoy it!
#10 – You find that you are feeling overly sentimental about everything.
You may not have always been the most ‘affectionate’ individual among your friends, in fact, you may have even worked so hard to keep up a strong front that you come across as less emotional than the average person. However, as many people break free from the darkness of depression they have a new appreciation for their loved ones. You may go out of your way to reach out to friends more often, trying to get together or saying hello ‘just because.’ You may also become sentimental, thanking them for being there, asking for hugs at random times or reminiscing on memories from the past. This is one of the lights in your life, and you’re holding onto it, which is great!
#11 – You spend a lot of time cleaning and organizing your home and workspace.
This isn’t to say that you weren’t a clean and organized person before, but you have suddenly crossed the line into obsessive. You spend a great deal of time worrying about cleaning, organizing and decluttering everything around you. There are two reasons people tend to gravitate to this. On one hand, it will give you a sense of accomplishment, helping to boost your mood. On the other hand, there have been connections drawn between clutter and negativity, so decluttering your life can feel both freeing and uplifting. This is one of those responses that can be incredibly positive, just try to remember to take a break from time to time, and not to obsess to the point that it starts to cause you anxiety.
#12 – You engage in some much needed ‘retail therapy,’ even if you don’t need anything.
There is something unexplainable about the power of retail therapy, but you know firsthand that it can work! Whether you are window shopping, online shopping, or treating yourself to a little something special, there are positive emotions that are often tied to the shopping experience. If you can break free from your computer, getting out to your favorite stores will also get you out of the house. Need a little pick me up? Some new makeup, a new outfit, or a pair of new shoes can do wonders when it comes to giving you that boost and making you feel better about yourself. Sure, don’t go blowing your rent money on new clothes, but if you can work it into the budget to treat yourself a little, then go for it!
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