Sometimes we know that we’re depressed. Sometimes we may be depressed and not be aware of it, but know something is ‘off.’ And sometimes we know we are depressed but feel we have ‘no’ reason to be.
Depression varies in its severity. It is worthy to recognize some of the traits of depression. Some you may even be surprised to learn. Traits of depression may include: down or sad mood, loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy (maybe you like to read, go for walks, or spend time with friends and you no longer make time to enjoy these things). You may notice a change in your sleep, concentration or weight, feel easily fatigued or slowed down, have feelings of guilt, feel worthless and have thoughts of not wanting to be alive. These are all possible and may be more pronounced during certain times of the year: notable dates, changes in season and daylight savings time.
Equally as important as recognizing the traits of depression is identifying what has caused them to develop over time. And to understand and accept that sometimes the cause is not related to something ‘bad’ that happened. Often it is a combination of factors that influence our mood not just a life changing event.
I prefer to think of natural causes versus eventful causes. Eventful causes are the more obvious to identify often connected to a life altering event such as a loss to death, loss of a job, a relationship that has come to an end, loss of a home, a vehicle accident, violence or events that have caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). But what actually causes depression if nothing bad has happened? Some may feel they do not have a reason to be depressed due to ‘success’ however one may measure that (i.e. money, a career, they look ‘happy’, they’re ‘getting married’, they go on ‘vacation every year’, they ‘have it all’). Natural causes tend to develop over time related to pressure we put on ourselves to reach goals, pressure to maintain success, to strive for perfectionism, pressure others put on us to maintain a lifestyle, and probably one of the more relatable- comparison to others (Facebook anyone?). And last but certainly not least- genetics or chemical changes in the brain you may have heard be referred to as a ‘chemical imbalance.’
I promise I won’t get all ‘science-y’ explaining the biology and neurology components (that’s not my area of expertise anyway)! But what I will share is that for some of us chemistry in our brains can play a role and be a cause to depression. When there is not enough of the ‘feel good’ chemical in our brain we feel the effects in how we think, feel and behave. And the more we ignore it the worse it becomes over time. The takeaway here, is the imbalance of brain chemicals can be improved with a combination of medication and therapy. The medication (prescribed by a doctor or nurse) provides the chemicals while the therapist assists us in identifying the factors that lead to the depletion, while learning how to develop, put into practice and maintain a healthy mood.
Other factors that may influence the development of depression may be: a lack of connection with other people, limited support, addiction, a lack of family-time, a lack of time to work towards goals or dreams, and feelings of guilt perhaps related to: leaving a job, ending a relationship, setting boundaries with friends or family. Other times we may fear how others may react if we share that we’re depressed such as letting someone down, causing others to worry who may rely on us, perhaps we fear others may not find us reliable or dependable any more, or may blame us for change or for choices we make… that is a TON of pressure. Sometimes we may find ourselves feeling guilty because others ‘have it worse.’ Sometimes we may feel depressed because we do not feel we deserve to be depressed or we can’t ‘justify it’ if we have other things in life we are satisfied about or that other people admire about us. Please know… there is no ‘checklist’ to determine who has a right to experience depression. But there is a checklist of who is deserving to feel better and have support and that checklist item is: Everyone.
We have to take care of ourselves, first. We cannot be our best for others if we are not our best for ourselves. If you notice you are experiencing signs of depression begin looking for a mental health professional for yourself and make an appointment. Also start identifying who in your life you would like to accompany you on the journey of healing health and allow them to participate.
Until next time, remember… people do not know what we are going through unless they ask (and we tell them the truth) or if we tell them ourselves.