Depression. I hate the word. Also, not in my repertoire of lovely words: consistent low mood. melancholy, apathetic, stuck, frightened, darkness, sadness. Lovely words, perhaps a thesaurus would give me two hundred more. But that is not the topic of this blog.
Your psychiatrist can define depression, but in a clinical way. The language used cannot describe how a depressed person feels. Instead, person must exhibit specific symptoms: change in sleep patters, appetite, a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, isolation, sadness. When I tell my psychiatrist I am depressed she asks me how I feel. Often, if you are experiencing depression, it is hard to articulate your feelings. Sometimes, I tell her I do not know how I feel. I feel sad. I don't think I felt this way a couple months ago. But it's confusing. Working to compare how you felt before you started to feel down.
While your psychiatrist can work to pull words, full sentences, out of you to determine if you are, in fact, depressed, you wish you could scream that you don't feel well. You need help. But screaming requires a lot of energy when you are depressed. Walking is work enough. Surviving the day, a goddamn miracle. That is why it helps to have a few tools.
Tools to Recognize Mood Changes
It is easier to define depression if you track your mood. Sure, it seems fruitless and like a lot of work when you are stable, but chronic mental illness does not guarantee you will be well forever. If you write down changes in your mood, maintaining stability is much easier. It can stop a slow progression to relapse, and keep your life on track. If you have a mental Illness it's important to understand that you need to monitor it. Your life depends on it.
Often, those who struggle with mental illness have a hard time noticing symptoms that might indicate a change in mood. This makes sense: a change of mood is often gradual. You probably do not wake up one day unable to get out of bed. It is a slow process and one that makes it hard to view objectively. This is why having friends and family alert you to changes in mood is important. But accepting help from those who care for you is often not easy.
Accepting Support from Family and Friends
I will admit, I get irritated when my partner suggests I visit my doctor. Often, I storm out of the room and tell him he has no idea what he is talking about. I am just fine. I am permitted a few bad days. But once the anger passes, I consider what he has said. Yes, maybe I have been feeling a little bit low. I may be having trouble leaving my home. Working. Doing the things that make me unique: art, music, writing. Usually, with quite a bit disdain, I make an appointment and my psychiatrist suggests we tweak my medication, and in doing so I avert disaster.
Educate those in your support circle on your illness. Give them permission to tell you when they are concerned. Mention that you might become defensive, that is a completely normal reaction. Nobody wants to be told that they need to get help. But sometimes we do. Recovering from mental illness is difficult. Recovery often implies remission and tracking your mood, allowing people who care about you to express concern, is as important as the medication you take to stay well.
Jeanne, N. (2011, November 7). Tackling Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, September 28 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2011/11/tackling-depression