As I mentioned last week, staying home for the foreseeable is bound to take a toll on your mental health. And while there are resources out there that provide helpful information on how you can manage your anxiety or channel it during this quarantine period, sometimes it’s just easier to see a list full of things you can do that have been proven to alleviate stress and anxiety. So that’s exactly what I made.
It’s been difficult to know how to start this post because it’s a weird time right now (“weird” being one of the biggest understated uses of a word that I’ve ever made). But social distancing and staying at home are becoming more and more imperative with each passing day, and with it comes the fear, panic and anxiety that’s unlike anything we’ve ever really dealt with. Since this is something that we’ll be facing for the foreseeable future, how do we adapt? What can we do to reduce some of the stress and calm ourselves down? Well, friends, I’m not an expert but I am here to help!
So an interesting thing happened over the weekend – I broke my laptop. Nothing major, just a cracked screen. I took it into the store the next day, they confirmed that’s all the damage was (no hardware issue), and I should have it back by the end of the week. When things like that happen in my life, events that warrant a reaction of any kind, I tend to use those as examples on my blog. It’s kind of a ‘lesson learned’ for how to react to certain things. But before I could get to writing, someone who’d been going through my blog (shoutout to the new reader!) gave me a helpful reminder that made me laugh out loud: I’d already written that post before.
How’s 2020 treating you so far? Maybe you’re thriving, crushing it in every way and absolutely loving life. Maybe it’s the opposite and you’re just hanging on for dear life. Or you might be like me – hopelessly stuck in the middle and uncertain of which direction to go. I usually wait until later in the year to tell myself what I’m about to tell you, but I didn’t feel like waiting. It’s time for a public service announcement:
Whatever is going on in your life right now – you’re just as human as everyone else.
When I’m facing bouts of depression and anxiety, sometimes it’s hard to see things outside myself. And if I’m spiraling, it becomes almost impossible. If all you’re trying to do is hold on and survive the next minute, hour or day, it’s easy to forget that you aren’t the only one going through this. But as statistics show, you are not even close to being the only one. But I’m different, I would tell myself. No one is suffering in the same way I am. And I know why I thought that so much when I first faced depression. Even now, years later, there are still moments where that’s in the back of my head when I’m in a tough spot. I never viewed myself as a person just like everyone else, so the way I spoke to myself was extremely terrible (it’s still not great now, but it used to be much worse).
Whenever someone weans off a medication, there are side effects to the process. Whether they are mental or physical, going from taking any medication consistently (or daily) to not taking any at all will come with different outcomes. Part one of this post spoke to the physical side-effects I’ve noticed most – mainly, that my energy levels are different and I am much more tired than I used to be. Now I’m here to talk about the mental aspect.
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” – Stephen Fry
It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed. This might sound obvious, but if you aren’t well-versed in mental health or mental illness, it’s not. It’s easier to help someone who’s depressed when you’re in the moment. It’s easier to help them find a psychiatrist or a therapist. It’s easier to help them get help. But to be their friend – to love and support them through what could be the darkest points of their life up to that point – is hard.
One of the most common symptoms of clinical depression and other depressive disorders is feeling worthless. I’d delve more into why this happens and how this affects people, but that’s not my main point today (though I have written before about recognizing the signs of depression).
The symptoms might be similar, but each person’s experience with depression is unique because of their personality and life experiences. You and I might both be feeling worthless right now, but the way it manifests itself in our daily lives could look extremely different. However, there’s one important aspect of this struggle that is overlooked, underrated and 100% true: your experience – whatever it is – is worth something.
TW: This post discusses suicide
Typically when I post about suicide/suicide prevention, I focus on the issue in America. That’s mostly because when awareness weeks/months happen, it’s mostly about the topic of suicide as it pertains to America. So when I decided to write about World Suicide Day this year (which I’ve never done before), it was one of the first times that I looked at suicide as a global issue. And yes, it is a global issue. Just see what the World Health Organization has to say about it.
The reason that reading about suicide statistics in the United States was troubling for me in the first place was that it had me thinking that the situation was worse in the United States than it was elsewhere. But as I looked up statistics, facts, and figures from other countries, I learned this is just as big of a problem all around the world. And while strategies for suicide prevention have improved in a big way, suicide rates have not decreased in recent years. In fact, it’s estimated that around the world there is a death by suicide every 40 seconds. Every. 40. Seconds.
Just as it was last year, this year’s theme is ‘Working Together to Prevent Suicide’ and I truly believe this theme says a lot about how we need to approach the issue – everyone, anyone can be involved in suicide prevention. Whether it’s checking in on a co-worker or giving a friend a call when you think they might be struggling, we all have a role to play in lifting up those around us and making sure they’re doing okay. But make no mistake, it is not up to just one person – we all have a role to play, and it can come down to three key actions to take:
- Knowing and recognizing signs of someone at risk
- Reaching out to someone in need
- Finding out what resources are available depending on the situation
There are plenty of resources that can provide the best information with specifics on this, but those are the three key takeaways that I wanted to mention because a ton can flow from those three main points. It looks easy on paper, and it some ways it is. But the topic of suicide is so nuanced and complex that the actual discussions can be anything but easy.
It starts with educating yourself, and that’s why days of awareness like today exist. I included so many links today because even though I’m not an expert myself, I know where to turn for information now, and it’s been extremely helpful.
One more thing I think you should do today. If you’re on Twitter, go check out the #WorldSuicidePreventionDay hashtag and give it a read. It might be hard, it might be upsetting, but it will also make it clear how big of an issue this is.
This is real. This is happening. And we have to fight it.
Depression isn’t always easy to spot. It can sometimes be disguised as grief, fear, exhaustion. Sometimes there seems to be an obvious reason; other times it is incredibly subtle. No matter the reason, depression is something that is extremely prevalent in today’s world – major depressive disorder (MDD) is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for adults ages 18-44 according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. And rather than push the evidence to the side, it’s time to pay closer attention to those around us to look for some of the signs of depression (these symptoms, and many more, are listed on the Mayo Clinic’s website).
Tiredness or lack of energy
Lack of energy is a big one for me personally because when depression hits it saps me of my energy. Working out the right medication has helped physically, but it still takes a mental toll to get things done when my mind is full of negative self-talk and resentfulness. Now some people are just tired – life is like that – but when this symptom is combined with other symptoms of depression, it can be a sign of poor mental health.
When you read this I know you’re thinking about your insomniac friend. I know, because I am that insomniac friend. But before you diagnose your friend remember – problems sleeping include both people who don’t get enough and people who get too much. So if your friend has trouble getting out of bed to do normal everyday activities, you might want to ask them if they’re okay.
Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
This is one of the prime symptoms of depression that set it apart from other mental health disorders. That last word – hopelessness – is common among people with depression. We feel empty. We feel hopeless. And we feel like things are never going to get better. As with other symptoms, this might be circumstantial, but when it’s not you should talk to someone about it. Sadness happens. Feeling empty happens. But it shouldn’t consume your life.
Trouble thinking, concentrating or remembering things
I have a terrible memory. I constantly forget things that happen – my camera roll is full of mundane photos that help me remember the things I do in life. Now, I won’t blame that all on depression. Like the other symptoms listed, take this with a grain of salt. But when you combine this symptom with feelings of hopelessness and a lack of energy, it’s possible that you might be having a depressive episode. Your mind can get cloudy when it’s full of self-hate and negative thoughts, and that can easily get in the way of concentrating on things.
Loss of interest in normal activities
I love the game of basketball. I played competitively at a high level until I was 18 years old. It got to the point that I was doing something basketball-related almost every single day. But as my depression got worse in college, I lost interest in playing. I didn’t get burned out. I didn’t fall out of love with the game. I just didn’t get any pleasure out of it. When that happens to the things you love – schoolwork, hobbies, teams or clubs – you need to evaluate why you lost interest. If there’s a concrete reason, it’s okay. That’s life. But when a loss of interest or pleasure happens suddenly or for no reason at all, you might want to ask yourself why that is.
While all of these are signs of depression, you should NOT diagnose yourself because you identify with one of these symptoms. Depression should not be a word to be thrown around lightly – it is a serious issue that affects millions of people. However, if you begin to combine these symptoms and notice a pattern of behavior in a friend or loved one, you should check in on them – not just to talk about to depression, but to make sure they’re doing okay.