So, what is depression?

Alright kids, we’re going to dive straight in with this one and talk about depression. After an amazing conversation with a truly wonderful friend, I realised that one of the big things stopping people accessing help is not knowing when things are actually wrong. So we’re going to look at what depression is, and what it certainly is not!

Now before we delve too deep, I just want to put this on the table: my depression is never going to be your depression. It’s not a cookie cutter disorder, like anything our brains are left in charge of. If this article doesn’t reflect you, it is in no way taking away validation from your experiences. This is a personal, anecdotal article based in my own experiences.
Depression manifests physically as well as mentally. Essentially, it is an ongoing (longer than two week) low mood that impacts daily life, but what does that look like? It can present as sadness, irritability, loss of interest in what you love. It can be the mammoth inability get out of bed in the morning, but equally it’s insomnia. You might feel nervous, out of control or angry. Depression can cause you to lack motivation, lose or gain weight, increase substance use and even send your sex drive out of whack.
Depression doesn’t make you weak! Depression can in fact make you strong, depending on how you chose to deal with it. Recognising that it’s there and allowing yourself to get the help you need is strong. More often than not, the process of recovery teaches and encourages the creation of a resilient and powerful mind.
Depression can be genetic or environmental. Scientists believe it’s a 40/60 balance – I personally believe a combination of the two is what allows the insidious illness to impact an individual. If your family has a history of mental illness (which with a national statistic of 1 in 5 people, your family probably does), that is not an automatic black mark on your name the day you’re born. You can quite possibly live a perfectly happy life without experiencing any form psychological dysfunction in excess of normal human reaction. When you have a family history of mental illness which then starts to become layered with environmental or social factors, that’s when it becomes a little trickier to keep the black dog at bay.
So what are these factors? These are the social, lifestyle and community based influences. They can be poor diet, lack of sleep, overworking or substance abuse. They can be pollution – in the general smog filled city context as well as pumping pollutants into our bodies. These factors can also include traumatic events such as abuse, war, being involved in an accident, sexual assault – the list goes on.
What do you do now? First and foremost, if anything I’ve spoken about seems to tick some boxes, I implore you speak to a GP you feel comfortable with. They can initiate a mental health action plan and provide you with necessary resources. Often it is treated with medication to stabilise the chemical imbalance in the brain and/or a schedule of psychotherapy, but not all depression requires this kind of treatment regime. Sometimes acknowledging it’s there, informing a medical professional as well as a close friend or family member, and engaging in small, daily activities that bring happiness back into your life is all it takes. In the next few weeks I will be publishing a list of my ‘things’ that reinject happiness when I’m feeling low, so keep your eyes pealed for that!
So there you have it – my personal explanation of depression. Nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to fear and certainly nothing that should be ignored! If you think you might have depression, book in with your GP. If you’re struggling right now, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467. You can also check out the following links for support.
Thanks for reading!
– Alanna x

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