Depression

Can depression numb your feelings?

As with all my posts, any helpful sites or information I have found through my own research I have linked on this post. The world will be highlighted in blue with a line underneath it. Attached content is not my own but well worth a read. Please feel free to explore these sites for more information.

Do you ever have days where you don’t feel happy, you don’t feel sad, you just feel nothing? A numbness has overcome you and a thought drifts by “Get up, read a book, do some exercise, do something”.

Depression
I drew this a few months ago. I felt like every time I tried to move forward and fight against feeling numb I always had something weighing me down, dragging me back.

You visualise moving your arm or trying to stand up but then feel a weight increasing on you. Your shoulders become tense; your head heavy… too heavy. You need to lay down. The weight forces your eyes closed as you try to resist sleep. Another thought crosses your mind “Don’t sleep, you’re wasting the day. This won’t help, it never does… get up”. For a brief moment you consider listening but that invisible weight pushes you down further. It’s too late now, you’re exhausted and so you lay there. You’re paralysed in the grip of depression with no desire to do anything about it.

A common misconception about depression is that someone who suffers from it just ‘feels sad’. Whilst that may be true for some, that may not be the only way it affects someone. You may feel sad; you may feel angry… or you may feel nothing. This is my experience of depression and for me it is by far the most debilitating. When you feel nothing, you feel no desire to do anything to try and change how you feel.

When you’re angry you may shout, you may hit something. Likewise, when you’re sad you may cry. You have more desire and energy to do something about how you feel as you’re feeling it quite intensely and want it to stop. You may reach out to someone to talk or express yourself through a creative project, such as a drawing (or writing a blog!). However, when you feel numb there is no outlet. There is no driving emotion pushing you to do something about how you feel, there is just nothing.

I have lost countless days to feeling nothing and just waiting to go to sleep. Going on social media to distract myself from boredom, putting on a mind-numbing show I really have no attention span for. Just waiting until I can fall asleep and go through the same routine the next day. It’s uncomfortable, but you end up feeling so crippled by feeling tired that you can’t do anything.

I don’t think everyone starts off by feeling numb, but rather it creeps up on you when you continuously cycle through feeling low. Looking back for me, I can see it came through habit, through routine. I would choose to indulge in an easy activity which didn’t require me to think much, such as playing a video game instead of challenging myself or working toward a goal. I would then feel bad for not doing anything productive.

Initially this wouldn’t last for long; I would feel low but then bounce back to feeling like my normal self. However, the more I chose the easy option, the harder it would get and the longer it would take for me to bounce back. Then the feelings of guilt and sadness started to become overwhelming, so I would try to distance myself from them. I would distract myself by going on social media or binge watching a TV show. I was opening the door and welcoming in the numbness. Then, before I knew it, numbness had become an unwelcome guest in my home. When I would ask it to leave, I would see sadness lurking behind it and waiting to come back in. I would immediately slam the door shut and ask numbness to once again take a seat.

The cycle of feeling numb continued for months on end, each time getting worse and worse until I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. I uninstalled Facebook on my phone, I prevented myself from watching any video game streamers online and I sat there in bed and let myself think. Then, sadness slowly creeped back in and I found myself in tears not knowing why I was crying. I felt awful, but this needed to happen. I needed to feel something. After about half an hour of crying, I switched on my laptop and started looking up why I felt so numb and began my journey with my fight against depression.

I’d like to say “from that day I was cured, I realised that I needed to feel to make myself do something about my situation” but that wasn’t true. It made me realise that I couldn’t carry on feeling nothing. I had to take away the things that made me feel numb and it was tough. Some days I succeeded and felt like crap, some days I succeeded and felt good, and others I gave in and fell back into my routine which led me to feeling numb. It’s still a daily challenge for me now, but there is definitely progress from this time last year.

Today I woke up feeling low, so I jumped on a video game to make me feel better. However, I knew in my mind that it wasn’t what I should be doing. However, I spent half a day playing it and to top it off, I ordered a Dominos which made me feel awful as I am trying to eat better. The numbness very quickly came creeping back in when I started to feel horrible, it is well versed in knowing when to take over my mind.

However, I stopped it from taking any further hold as I knew where this road went. I couldn’t write my blog, I felt far too tired, so I went outside to sit in the sun and listened to an audio book (too tired to physically read a book so listening was the next best thing!). After about an hour of doing that, I turned on my laptop and wrote this blog post. I then took a break and did a workout outside which was a goal I’d set myself to do yesterday. I may have messed up half the day, but I wasn’t prepared to let the whole day be a write off.

This discipline that I’m working on developing came from firstly recognising my patterns. Understanding what was leading me to feel numb. Secondly, I tried and ‘failed’ a countless number of times with breaking that pattern. Initially it’s very demotivating when you fail as you feel like you’re back to square one, however you’re not. You’ve gained experience from trying and failing today, and tomorrow that will be in your head. You may win or you may lose tomorrows fight, it’s different for everyone, but what’s important is to recognise that you are trying and remember those failures. You can learn from them.

Historically as soon as I felt numb that would be it, the day was written off. However today, for the first time, I fought it off. I let myself feel and allowed myself time to work through that by choosing something easier to do but was still a goal I had for myself: to read more books… listening still counts!

I’ve learnt a lot over the last year and progression doesn’t always seem apparent, but as long as you are trying, and you are remembering those failures (even if they hurt) and are learning from them then you are progressing forward.

Recognise your pattern.

Fight against those thoughts keeping you locked in your pattern, they are not who you are.

Keep fighting, you will overcome them.

Depression

The ‘D’ word

Depression, where to even begin?

TreeImage by Craig Parker

It has taken me half a year to get to the point of typing this blog post. In fact, I started writing a post a couple of months ago but then lost any momentum for it. The initial thought of writing was exciting and filled me with a burst of energy and enthusiasm to write and express myself, and maybe even help some other people too. Then, the all too familiar feeling of tiredness and negative thoughts came flooding back in and I found myself crawling back into bed, pulling the duvet over me trying to recoup the energy I had just spent stressing over how to start the blog post, let alone plan future posts.

I want to start off by saying that I am by no means on the other side of it (I’m currently in the “I may have depression but don’t want to label it, also I have no reason to be depressed” phase). I’m writing this blog post, fully in the midst of it but with sight on the way out. There is so much content online with people who have beaten depression and want to help guide other people out and, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great they want to share their experiences and help. Reading about other people and what they have done has helped me a lot, but I wanted to share my experience of being in the middle of it. A completely honest account of how it feels, but also methods and ideas I’m exploring to find a way out of it.

You may be right at the start of your journey with depression, or years into it desperately trying to find “the answer” and a way out. The first thing you probably did was Google depression and look on the NHS website (or your health service equivalent!) and read through the advice given to try and help you find a way out of it.

“Exercise regularly”

Seems simple enough. The first time I read it I felt really enthusiastic about exercising, chucked on some shorts and a t-shirt to go for a run along the beach. Or rather a walk, run for 1 minute, walk for 5 minutes, run for another minute, walk for 6 minutes, run for 1.5 minutes, walk home. It was something. It was great, I felt great. Then comes the next time I plan to go for a run and suddenly it feels like the weight of the world on my shoulders, dragging me down. I suddenly feel really tired and can’t get out of bed so just go back to sleep. Very quickly, exercising regularly doesn’t seem so simple. It seems like a hugely unattainable goal I’ll never have enough commitment to meet.

“Try and find a hobby you enjoy”

This one isn’t so simple. When you feel low and low on energy, things you used to find fun now seem a lot more difficult. Sleep is easier. Watching Netflix is easier. Watching Netflix from bed with the possibility of falling asleep whenever you want? That sounds like a great low energy, mind numbing choice.

“Speak to a professional”

Speaking to a professional will no doubt be of benefit in some way, but the problem of time and cost arises. Speaking to someone professionally can be really expensive if you go private, or there can be long wait times to be able to talk to someone, and you want to talk to someone now. The thought of waiting all the time can be stressful. Likewise, the thought of talking to someone can be stressful. I’m in the process of going through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It took 6 months to be able to talk to someone (I’m a few sessions in) and she’s given me a task to do and I’m stressing about not having done it. Another thing I don’t have energy for.
All of this advice itself is good advice, however it’s really not practical as it’s often not as straight forward as it seems. So, where does the blog come in?

One thing I am good at is analysing my own thoughts and researching new things to try and find ways to progress forward from how I’m feeling. I want to share this blog with everyone as not only a way to help myself through this more challenging time in my life, but to also share ideas and thoughts about different suggestions online. It can be very daunting coming to terms with feeling low, let alone labelling how you feel with the ‘d’ word, so I’d like to try and make it a little easier for those reading my blog so others can also begin to develop themselves.

However, before we get started it’s important to note two things:

  • Be open minded

When I first started feeling quite low, I was very closed off to ideas I thought were silly or weren’t really practical. Stuff like yoga and mindfulness I disregarded before I even gave them a shot. However, upon being more open minded and seeing what they were about I found these areas really helpful.

  • Everyone is individual

There is no one fix for everyone. Something I may find helpful, you may not. We can be open minded when looking at these things but sometimes they’re just not practical or do not work for us. That’s okay consider this a journey and acknowledge that you’re going to have good days and bad days. You’re going to try ideas and then them not work for you and feel like you’ve failed, but you haven’t. You’ve simply explored a different road on your journey and found it wasn’t the way you wanted to go. You’ve learnt from the experience and you’ve progressed forward and that’s all that matters.

We’ve got this.