Whenever I give speeches or interviews to the media I'm almost always asked what it feels like to have depression. I usually tell people this: Imagine how you felt on the absolute worst day of your life when something really bad happened to you or somebody you love. Now take away that horrible event but keep those intense emotions in place; that's depression --- at least it is for me.
Last year I posted a blog called Inside My Anxiety Attacks, which I wrote as I was in the middle of an intense -- you guessed it: anxiety attack. For the past two weeks I have been living with really bad depression and as a way of educating people, I thought I'd give you some insight as to what's been going on in my life and what I'm feeling like.
I was first diagnosed with depression over 10 years ago and while it's constantly a part of my life I've found I go through an intense period every year that lasts anywhere from two weeks to two months. If there's anything that I've noticed it's that for the past three years my depression has hit its peak in October and November. Why these months I don't know; perhaps it could be the changing of the weather, which can be rough for many people.
A common myth is that something really bad needs to happen to somebody in order to trigger a person's symptoms. That couldn't be farther from the truth for me. This year has been one of my most successful years. I've done plenty of speaking engagements and media, and I was promoted at work. Yes I've encountered some roadblocks too, but in my opinion they were not enough to derail my success.
You're probably scratching your head wondering, "What does he have to be depressed about?" It is a question I ask myself every morning when I wake up feeling like junk; so do millions of other people who have depression.
Living with depression goes beyond feeling sad. Everybody's experience with depression is different and unique but here's a glimpse into what's generally like for me:
Loss of appetite and rapid weight loss: I love to eat; my family doctor cringes when I tell her what I normally eat. Fast food chains make a lot of money off of me. But when I'm depressed I probably eat a snack-sized portion of food over the course of a day. We're talking a cup of water and the equivalent of 4 or 5 cookies, which in turn means I shed about 10-15 pounds. It's not that I don't want to eat, it's that when I try to eat I get very nauseous, gag, or vomit. It isn't uncommon for me to get an IV or two over the course of a long period of depression due to dehydration.
Lack of sleep or too much sleep: I either sleep a couple hours per night when I'm depressed or sleep 14-16 hours per night. Neither is healthy over an extended period of time.
Moodiness and irritability: Almost everybody who knows me would swear on a stack of bibles that I am the happiest, funniest and most outgoing person around. However, when I'm depressed I snap at people and the littlest things annoy me. If things aren't done to the tee when I'm depressed I get mouthy quite fast.
Loneliness and isolation: This is a catch-22 for me because when I'm really depressed I tend to cut myself off from everything and everybody because I want to be alone. Yet when I'm alone I feel like junk. I guess you could say I prefer to be reachable via phone and email but I don't want anybody in my presence. I tend to lose interest in things I typically love and enjoy doing whether it be participating in my favourite activities or watching my favourite TV shows.
Alcohol consumption: I'm not a drinker, but when I'm depressed I tend to self-medicate with liquor and I ensure my liquor cabinet is filled to capacity. It is something that I know I shouldn't get into the habit of doing especially when depressed; but hey I'm being honest that it's something I do when I don't feel so hot.
Physical: A lot of people don't realize that depression is just as physical as it is mental and emotional. When I'm depressed I get migraine headaches, I'm achier than somebody with the flu, and my legs and arms feel so much heavier. When I walk I feel like I'm wearing bricks instead of shoes.
So what do I do when I feel like this and what should somebody do in a similar situation? Unfortunately I don't have a stable healthcare team but I do check in with my family doctor. In addition I am blessed to have a close circle of friends who encompass me and do whatever they can to make me feel better.
I have not spent the last 10 years feeling like this, I have only spent a small portion of that time feeling like junk. And while it feels like it will last forever I know history dictates that it will pass; it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when. It also helps to try to maintain my daily routine as much as possible.
If you or somebody you know is living with depression visit DepressionHurts.ca
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