a note on the culture of depression

a note on the culture of depression

It can prove difficult to stay positive in the world today. Between gig economies, dating scenes, and social media, it’s easy for your mood to see-saw from different extremes. Add that to the horrors going on in the world right now like London, Manchester, Syria, and the U.S. (I’m talking about you, Trump) and Turkey, it’s no wonder that more and more young people are being treated for mental health issues.

This isn’t a post aimed to cure mental illness. I will not go down the route of others who advocate along the lines of “depression? shur have a cuppa tea, be grand” – they are just frustrating. However, if I’ve learned anything from my eight years of CBT and therapy, it’s that the small things can be the catalyst in creating better states of mind.

But before I go into that, let’s have a look at depression and suicide rates.

I’m reading an insanely good book at the moment that sort of inspired me to write this post. I’m actually planning to write a proper post on it once I’m finished. The book is written by a woman called Sue Klebold, and is a part-memoir part-study on her life as a mother of one of the Columbine High School Massacre killers. Dylan Klebold was one of two students that killed 13 innocent people on April 20th 1999 in Littleton Colorado before turning the guns on themselves. Dylan’s story in particular hit me hard as he was someone who appeared to have no symptoms of any mental health issues before he committed the atrocity. In fact, his parents thought he was getting on just fine.

Of course, things were not ok, and the consistent, pestering issues racking inside Klebold’s head turned a once seemingly-normal child into a mass murderer.

The reason why I brought this up was because Sue writes about ‘brain health’ in place of ‘mental health’ and discusses the prevalence of depression and suicidal ideation among young people (some as young as 12) and our lack of ability to pick up on it. I wrote to Sue not long after I begun reading her book and discussed with her the tendency to misinterpret signs of depression and anxiety in young people as just ‘growing up’ or ‘adjusting to life’. And very often, by the time these symptoms are actually seen as legitimate issues, it’s too late.

Ireland has a particularly high suicide rate. We have the fourth highest rate of teen suicide. For every 100,000 people, 10.3% of adults take their own lives. It’s a horrible fact and there’s certainly a feeling of indignation among communities that bear the brunt of this but a lot of people think that “it’ll never happen to us”.

The reasons why suicides happen are mainly more social than psychological. And with the advent of social media, despite the injunction placed on news outlets on reporting suicides, it’s difficult to not come across it in daily life. In some places, it’s treated as a gag joke, ie, Anchorman 2, The Simpsons, others are accused of glamourising it, ie, 13 Reasons Why. Could this be the reason why it is becoming more prevalent in our society?

I don’t know, I’m not a sociologist.

However, what I do know is how to spot it in other people, and even more so, in yourself. And knowing that putting your eggs into one basket when it comes to treatment is never a good idea.

If you are suffering from depression, as difficult as this could be, seek help. It doesn’t have to be a therapist or a counsellor, simply going to your GP will help. Getting a professional opinion may be daunting but it’ll be a weight off your shoulders when you are told it is treatable. Co-operate: take the medication you need to if prescribed, go to the group sessions and the one-on-one therapy. Even if it goes against every fibre of your being, swallow your pride and go. You’ll be one step closer to getting better than sitting in nothingness.

If you suspect someone you love is depressed, be gentle. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t interrogate, don’t harass and god, don’t force them to do something they don’t want to. Getting better starts from within, you can’t make someone go to the doctor if they’re not ready. Being supportive and understanding, and not frustrated, is the only way to gently helping anyone find professional help.

If you’re semi-depressed, by which I mean, having a rough few weeks but either already take medication, or are just down in general, perhaps in a waiting period, you’re best to focus on the small things in life. Seek out what really makes you passionate, what makes you happy, even if it’s drawing or writing or editing pictures of your dogs. Nurture it, and just like a flower, your happiness will grow and blossom into other things. Don’t give up on anything, just keep going, I promise it will be worth it.

There’s a lot more to getting better than #PositiveVibes but it’s a start. You need to be gentle with yourself, treat yourself the way you’d treat a puppy you absolutely adore, take things at your own pace, and hold your frustration. Don’t let guilt or fear creep in and certainly don’t let anyone else’s get to you.

You are the most important person to you.

 

 

One Year On

One Year On

It hit me today that I am one year out of college. There is a new horde of graduates receiving their results and planning their summer and subsequent future right now, just like I did last June.

As I’ve said countless times before on this blog, your college results aren’t a reflection on how good you are. There’s this myth that floats around that says in order to do well in life, you have to do well in school.

I debunked this wayyyy back 

It’s simply not true. No matter how much tutting you get for not getting a first, or getting a 2:2 or even a fail. School and college structures sometimes don’t suit people, courses are not always examined in the right way, or even some degrees are not what they’re cracked up to be. You could be good with science but the course you chose just wasn’t what you wanted. Examining intelligence in one medium is not indicative of that intelligence.

(Note: I’m not making excuses for anyone who simply didn’t make the effort.) 

Your first year out of full-time education is going to be difficult. There’s absolutely no denying that. I’m out one full year now so I’ve decided to dispense what I’ve learned in the hope that any new graduates won’t get the surprises that I did.

I’ve made mistakes, I’ve taken risks and I’ve placed bets on things with no idea of how they’d transpire. I’ve felt crap for a bit of it, and felt like I could take on the world.

But the one thing I have realised is that the real world isn’t as scary as you think it is. 

 

#1 You Need To Put Yourself First

Above anything, you and only you come first. Your health, whether it be mental, physical or emotional, all take precedence before anyone else’s. Meaning particularly that if you feel you’re in a situation where these things are being compromised, you need to change your situation. Play the game on your terms and don’t agree on something you’re not happy with – whether it be job based or a relationship.

 

#2 Honour your commitment

In this ‘gig-economy’ world, it’s easy to quit because things get ‘too hard’ or ‘ugh effort’. Short-term jobs are almost the norm now with pop-up concessions, event management and the works.

However, there is a lot to be said for keeping a commitment. Whether it be working towards something or working on a team, honouring a promise to see something through is almost more impressive than the quantity of jobs you have held. Working late, or being the first one in, going that extra mile, creative problem solving and conflict resolution are all examples that you take your work seriously and will earn you that promotion, paid role post internship or stunning reference.

 

#3 You don’t need to do what you want right away

My first job after leaving college was a retail job. Do I see myself in retail in the future? No way but it was a start. Working full time taught me valuable lessons in discipline, inter-personal skills, and teamwork, all that contributed to getting a dream job some nine months later.

Working a job to improve yourself instead of waiting for that dream job to land in your lap is far more important to not only employers but yourself.

 

#4 You’ll get bored

Without a shadow of a doubt, you will get bored at some point. That’s expected. You’re so used to being in college five days a week with study at the weekends that finally having some time off during the autumn and winter months will be unnerving. But don’t let yourself freak out. It’s easy to panic and worry that you should be doing something when in fact, this is your time to figure out your next big step. Take the space to engage in some hobbies you neglected during your final year, or pick up something new.

 

#5 You’ll Miss Learning (yes, even a little bit)

School or university may not have been for you but learning is inherent to human nature. You are constantly learning new things, educating yourself and picking up new skills. It doesn’t stop at college. You might find times where you miss learning a new topic or challenging yourself to different opinions or views to yours. Thankfully, there are places that allow you to expand your horizons whilst staying firmly out of the college realm. Sites like YouTube, Coursera, Khan Academy or Lynda.com all give you the opportunity to keep learning at your own pace. No deadlines, no pressure.

Even Harvard and other Ivy League universities, Google, and The Open University offer courses that you can get a degree in (for a small fee) that looks really good on your CV.

They are the perfect places to fall in love with learning again.

 

#6 You’ll learn the value of patience

It’s easy in college to get things on demand. Constant gratification is everything. Outside of college, things don’t work at such a fast pace. You could be trawling for weeks for a job, days to hear back from an interviewer, saving up for months to go away. The real world works much slower. This is where patience comes in handy. You’ll learn the value of a well crafted email, of taking your time to create the perfect cover letter, of learning to work and negotiate your way efficiently.

 

#7 It’s hard work but not impossible

Working a 9-5, which could go on til 6 or 7pm, working early or late shifts, or simply living on irregular hours is not easy. But with anything, it gets easier. Just like in college, real life is all about routine – or keeping one to the best of your ability. You’re up against a lot of competition, the pond is much bigger than the 20-odd-thousand you encountered in college, you need to value yourself more than you do now, and know your strengths. There’s a lot of ‘survival technique’ involved but no one is out to get you. In fact, most people want you to succeed and will do what they can to help, if you’re willing to let them. Make and foster contacts, be daring, and go above and beyond your role.

 

#8 Take Chances

Apply for that job, go to the interview even if you know you’re not qualified enough, reach out to people you knew long ago. Date that person, if even for a few weeks, save and splurge, book that visa, secure the apartment, take that internship even if it works you hard. These years after college are for you to experience life to the best of your ability, to take chances and bet your arm. You’re young, fresh-out of education, and have the world at your feet. Take the world for all it has. You’re worth it.

 

 

 

Know Your Self Worth

Know Your Self Worth

Knowing your self worth is saying no to something that doesn’t add value to anything, much less yourself

It’s taking a step back to look after yourself when you get a gut-wrenching feeling

It’s holding your tongue when the argument starts, not just for the other person, but for your own peace of mind

It’s not holding onto the pain of being ignored in the group chat because you know it’s not intentional

It’s understanding that your life goes on whether or not you get a text back

It’s drowning out the self loathing when another thing goes wrong

It’s learning to say no when your cup is too full

And also to say no when it’s empty

It’s remembering all the times you felt good about yourself or when you thought ‘you are enough

It’s lipsyncing to Ariana Grande on a walk home on a sunny evening and believing what you’re saying

It’s knowing that you would have been the bigger person if you were in their shoes

It’s remembering that external validation holds no substance over who you think you are as a human being

It’s knowing that only your validation alone counts

It’s walking away from a situation knowing in your heart and soul you did the right thing and did it kindly

It’s realising that no other person can or has the right to control your emotions or thoughts. It’s also knowing when it becomes emotional abuse.

Knowing your self worth is being prepared to walk away from any situation in which you don’t feel comfortable anymore

And knowing when to power through

 

 

 

The Fear

The Fear

I can’t remember the last time I stayed in bed past two but that’s exactly what happened yesterday. The longer I stayed in bed, the more tired I was. I was a livewire by 9pm and couldn’t sleep until past midnight. It was frustrating.

Things just don’t feel okay.

The last time I felt like I had a weight pushing down on my head and shoulders was when I was in college, overwhelmed with stress, and going through days where I wouldn’t talk to anyone. I was isolated, bored, and delicate. It sucked.

And it still does. I don’t know whether the feeling truly goes away or I do things to cover it up until the next time I’m in a slump. All I know is that I sure seem to write about it a lot.

I can really only describe it as The Fear. I overplay things in my head, things I said, things I didn’t say and relive the cringe again and again. I spend nights trying to get to sleep wondering if I said the right thing, did that person think I was ignoring them, did they say that just to brush me off? Overthinking is common: are they being friends with me because they feel they have to? Do people actually like me or have an ulterior motive? Pretty standard for someone with anxiety but I had honestly thought I’d overcome it.

It’s also fear of what is to come. An uncertain job market and financial worry feed into a sense that I am simply not good enough whether that be for a person, a job, or an opportunity.

Like, my self esteem has taken a huge hit.

I’ve been down here before, so I’m not seeking out sympathy. And I’ve been here probably in worse ways, far more unemployable than I am now, but I am still worried, still unsure of my next move, and still totally lost.

Thing is, I don’t have a solution to this. Not yet anyway. I don’t have a quick list of ’15 things to make you feel better’ no matter how hard I rack my brain. Someone suggested to me that it’s a holiday hangover – that I’m on a comedown from all the excitement and running around in London, which is possible but I personally think it’s a burn out from the last few months. Which I know I’ve yapped about before but seems scarily true as of late – take crying in the kitchen yesterday over something very small as a strong red flag.

It’s like being in a car with no seatbelt and it suddenly stopping and as a result, hurtling you through the air until you crash.

All I can do really is slow down and recover. If I’ve learned anything from the last few months, it’s that anything can happen at anytime. And things could be completely different in a week. This settles the fear for a while whilst I work on my sense of self worth.

In short, I’ve decided that this is my time to recharge, to take each day as it comes, to know that in the long run, it doesn’t matter if I oversleep that one day, if I don’t go outside tomorrow, if I don’t contact people. That these blips are just that, blips. Being less hard on yourself will give you a better chance to love yourself *cheesy i no*, and the best opportunity to get better.

I can’t say how things are going to go but I can say from even writing this, that I feel a little more focused. To take this opportunity between jobs to work on myself and tie up loose ends, I mean, that’s a project in itself but one I think I can do.