Sometimes it can be hard to figure out if your low mood is just a one-off, or if something more sinister is on the horizon. In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness week I’ve shared this quick little guide to some depression-related symptoms and little suggestions on how to diffuse some of the grenades the daunting mind-field (get it?) of poor mental health can throw our way…
While I am no medical expert, I’ve found that I can now identify when I’m suffering a poor episode with my general wellbeing. Sometimes I’ll come home feeling like I’ve left my ‘true’ self behind somewhere and what remains is someone I don’t exactly know how to control – or worse, that this is the person I’ve become forever.
The first thing that I usually notice is my severe increase in sleep (although some people suffer with the opposite, where they can’t even get to sleep for weeks on end!). Changes in sleep patterns of any kind are usually an early indication that something isn’t quite right- and let me tell you, I can sleep 12+ hours sometimes when things really take a downhill spiral.
When I’ve had a bad day at work, especially if I’ve cried, I can fall into a deep, deep sleep and then I feel groggy and utterly horrible when I wake up (puffy red eyes optional). Some swear by the before-bed cuppa and biscuit, but the one thing that has definitely helped me is investing in one of these Lumie Bodyclocks.
Especially when winter starts to draw in, these body clocks increase levels of cortisol in the morning by mimicking a sunrise and slowly waking you up with the light – just like you would in the summer. They’re actually designed to treat SAD and regardless of whether its the seasons that are throwing my zen off, this lamp helps me all through the year! (As a bonus, for those of you who become depressed insomniacs, it also mimics a sunset and increases the body’s melatonin production to help put you to sleep!)
The other big problem that I’ve found that may or may not be directly related to my over-sleeping, is I become massively irritable. My mood changes so much so that my boyfriend is sometimes ill-prepared for the tongue lashing he gets some mornings over the most trivial things, which in turn leaves me feeling incredibly guilty after the storm has passed. Rapid or dramatic shifts in emotions are not okay, and can really kick the wind out of me.
Keeping a mood diary can help you to spot triggers and warning signs in yourself to help you recognise when you are becoming unwell. This is definitely not a quick-fix, as it can take a while to figure out the patterns. From here, you can work on a self-management plan to come up with to calm these feelings and ground you. For free templates, check out Mind’s website here , or if you fancy a cute little diary then check out a few options here:
Withdrawl,apathy and a feeling of being disconnected are also on the other end of the scale with my irritability and they’re also good to track. I bought a new car a few months ago, and my boyfriend was more excited than I was. I didn’t even want to drive it. It upset me more than it should that I couldn’t even drum up any enthusiasm, so I just sat on the sofa, mindlessly staring at the TV.
I know not all of us have someone there for us, and my boyfriend has been the saving grace I’ve needed in my life for so long, as he genuinely does try and get me out of the house and doing stuff, but even if its a mundane task like shopping, its really important to get out of the house. Brittany Ernsperger recently took to Facebook with this post, highlighting just what depression looks like. You don’t want to do anything- and its okay to ask for help! I’ve sorted out the ‘yarn bomb’ that took over the living room (with the help of A and a few vacuum bags) and its gone a long way to help my brain…
Your head can become a mess when your mental health isn’t okay, and I’ll never forget the day I mis-spelt the word ‘simple’ as ‘sympol’. Its very scary when you develop problems with logical thinking that you can’t explain and can’t simply pass off as being tired…
If you find yourself struggling to function as well as, or as a result of, being withdrawn, it may be useful to get in touch with a mental health professional, or to reach out to a friend of family member. A GP (General Practitioner) will be able to refer you on to an appropriate service. Check out this page from charity, Mind.
Admittedly, I’m a crier. A full-out, snotty-faced, red-eyed crier. The first time my boyfriend saw me cry, I was inconsolable. He thought it was the end of our relationship I was crying so hard. Increased sensitivity is something I struggle with regularly. I take offence at the most minute things, and cry at anything.
On my Instagram I regularly share my story about how I’m affected by my depression and anxiety, and losing my job last year has really messed with my emotions. I miss everyone I used to work with, and I used to find it difficult that A still worked for the same company, and came back with stories. It brought me to tears when he said that someone asked about me. What’s worse was knowing that when he got this wet reaction from me it lead to him bottling up stories from the office- again, making me feel guilty. We end up in a vicious circle, and while, in my case, time seems to be the best healer, its was- and is- a painful process and a lot of tissues have been sacrificed in the process.
I’m still on my healing journey, and there have been many bumps in the road. I encourage everyone reading this blog to speak out, whether to a mental health professional, a friend, family member or peer, or even email in to firstname.lastname@example.org
What changes do you see within yourself when your experiencing a pitfall? What coping mechanisms do you use? I’d love to hear your comments below!
If you’re having suicidal thoughts, please call Samaritans (UK) on 116 123 or 1-800-SUICIDE (USA)