Updated: Sep 24, 2020
Most of us have a preconceived idea of what depression looks like…but depression can wear many faces. Rain or shine, it can sneak up on you when you least expect it, but it can also slowly chip away at you.
These are the classic warning signs of major depression:
Feeling guilty, hopeless, worthless, low self-esteem
Feeling tired and being low on energy…all the time
Feeling empty…yep it’s that deep sadness in the middle of your chest
Not finding pleasure in the things you usually enjoy
Struggling to get out of bed…or off the couch
Sleeping issues…insomnia or sleeping excessively
Appetite changes (eating too much or too little)…which can lead to weight changes too
Uneven mood…and by that I probably refer to being easily irritable
Reduced sex drive…yep that gets affected too
Reduced cognitive functioning (concentration, memory, decision making)…double whammy if you suffer from a brain injury
Thinking about death or self-harm…please reach out before or as soon as these thoughts cross your mind
But depression is also:
Putting on a smile for others…you don’t want to come across as that negative person
Acting brave and capable…but actually being shit scared of what’s happening internally
Performing well or well enough…even under pressure
Managing to get out and about with friends…when it counts
Keeping up with routines…yep kids are still being looked after and the household doesn’t look too much like a dumping site
Attending and ticking items off your to do list at work…as best you can
Managing to prompt yourself to focus on the positive over the negative…most days
Keeping your moods in check…or managing to keep that inner chatter going to keep them in check
To put it simply, with the other face of depression - call it high-functioning depression or persisting depressive disorder (PDD)*- you may look perfectly in control on the outside, but on the inside, you are feeling low and empty. Deep down, you are feeling physically and emotionally drained out. Everything feels MUCH harder than it should.
So going back to that pre-conceived idea of depression, turns out I had it too. Turns out that until the Persisting Depression Disorder was given to me, I didn’t think that the depression label applied to me. I knew that since encephalitis and acquired brain injury (ABI) I could experience low moods and I knew that I certainly didn’t have the same hop and go attitude as before, but because I was able to manage myself using a range of strategies, I truly didn’t think that the word depression applied to me. I eventually realised that I was simply talking up a big game…or in this case, more like I was avoiding talking and considering it.
My first reactions…I was mad, I was disappointed, I was sad, I was lots of things until I recognised and accepted the verdict. I then realised that because I had all those strategies in place, I was actually one step ahead in this relentless mind game. I had already figures out what strategies work best for me in some circumstances and by maintaining them in place, I potentially avoided sinking into major depression. I wasn’t failing, I had succeeded where many had not been able to following a traumatic event.
I promised to keep it short this week so I’m going to end this blog by saying that some days, managing PDD is still a freaking mind game…by far the hardest game I’ve ever had to play. But I know that I am not alone in this. I have a Wonderful family, friends and health specialists that help me, and my Weird Brain, play this game as best as I can. I have also learnt a great deal about cutting myself some slack, slowing down and being kind to myself. Those are all positives, I have to remember that...every day.
*Definition of High-Functioning Depression or Persisting Depression Disorder (PDD): Include signs and symptoms of Major Depression, but are present in a milder form. PDD is generally considered to be a chronic but mild form of depression that lasts for two years or more…three and counting for me! If you’d like to find out more about PDD, I recommend that you take a look at the following website
More on this subject:
Blog addressing my Persisting Depression Disorder diagnosis