It’s an everyday word – depression. It covers from sadness and lethargy to persistent low mood preventing you from enjoying life, (often felt more acutely in the morning or at night). Sometimes described with metaphors like having a black cloud hanging over your head, or a heavy cloak on your shoulders. It changes the way people see themselves. Other feelings can accompany it like, irritability, frustration, and, or anxiety.
This is such a big topic that I’m only able to give my reader a glimpse into it in this post. One in four of us will suffer at some point in our lives regardless of who we are in society, poor or rich, old or young, clever or not, educated or not, male or female, regardless of religion or race. Although, when we’re down, it may take some time to grasp, there are things we can do for ourselves, ways of thinking we can adopt and ways we can learn to be in life which will help us, recover, survive, manage; even grow and blossom.
Perhaps you’re ashamed of feeling awful about life, awful about yourself? Do you feel guilty even for feeling as you do? Maybe this ‘thing’ of ‘depression’ is o.k. for others but you wouldn’t/couldn’t admit to it? So you hide how you’re feeling, somehow. Maybe you would be penalized at work? Workmates may talk about you? You fear being given the less sexy work? These are examples of how stigma is perpetuated in society.
Some turn to a doctor eventually and may be prescribed medication or referred to a psychiatrist. You may be entering the Mental Health ‘system’ of your local Foundation Trust, which, may help or suit you. You may find yourself on a waiting list for talking therapy. Help may turn out to be a computer programme or self-help literature or a limited number of sessions with a Cognitive Behavioural practitioner.
Some people arrive in counselling having been given a medical diagnosis by their doctor or a psychiatrist. That may work for them, or it may not. Sometimes I am asked my opinion. ”What do you think? Am I depressed?” I don’t give you a diagnosis of depression. I am not likely to give you a label, although I may agree with you if you describe yourself feeling in that state.
The thing that counts is that you are accessing the opportunity to tap into your own feelings and thoughts. In conversation with your counsellor, you can explain how you feel about yourself, people, events and situations in your life, in complete confidence and without fear of being judged. (Although there are legal exceptions of danger to life when counsellors must disclose information to the appropriate authorities.) Particularly in Person-centred counselling, the counsellor is interested in your experience, what that means for you and what you are feeling about it.
As a Person-centred counsellor, I am not attempting to tell you what to do, although if I have some helpful and relevant information, I will share it with you if in some way you indicate that you are open to that. I certainly don’t think you’re mad. That idea is long obsolete. I support the Time to Change initiative (see link below).
In counselling sessions it can be hard to find the words to speak about the things that are worrying you, especially when you’re not used to doing this. It can be hard to admit that you need to talk about these things. Some people get off to a slow start but grow used to the ability to put things into words. As a counsellor I am empathic with this difficulty as I have had to learn how to talk about my own concerns and issues in my own therapy and training. It’s a very private thing to let another person into your private thoughts and yet, it’s also a very releasing and unburdening experience. That same experience can also lead you to change your mind or feel differently about the very topic you have brought to talk about.
You may be seeing yourself as useless, inadequate or a total failure. You may believe you lack what it takes, and your self-esteem and confidence are likely to be at a low ebb. Indecision, dwelling on past errors, mistakes, sins, crimes may be examples of negative thinking that is around. There may be physical symptoms too, such as sleeplessness or wakefulness, or sometimes sleeping lots. Appetite changes can happen to either eating loads or little. Loss of energy, motivation, interest in things. Maybe you’re even having trouble reading or watching television. Or the reverse, sitting in front of the tele is all you do. So you may have given up your interests and hobbies. You may not be able to face the day on waking.
Another form depression may take is one of increased energy, fast talking, restlessness, maybe with grandiose thoughts, careless spending, loss of social inhibitions. Sometimes energy levels become noticeably active and in ways which make your life difficult for you, your family or those around you.
There are different degrees of severity but only you know how badly you feel and how much this is affecting your life. It is rarer, but sometimes people hear voices or see things that are not there – hallucinations. This can be a frightening or annoying experience.
A good counsellor for you, will be one you feel comfortable in relating to. It may be they are based close to you and you feel he or she is good enough for you or you may want to travel further to find someone particularly suited to your concern. Either way, engaging in the process of therapeutic conversation with a qualified counsellor or therapist is likely to help you move from the isolated and lonely state that accompanies depression, into one where you like yourself more, can be more responsive to others and can move on with your life. Of course your therapist should only be interested in helping you to a more comfortable way of being and will follow any choices you may decide to make for yourself in the process.
Or I may be just that person you can talk with as a trained professional.