Did you know that 1 in 4 people will suffer with a mental health problem at some point in their life?
1 in 4 isn’t just a statistic. It’s me, it’s you, it’s your colleagues. It’s your family and friends. Please help me to break the silence, raise more awareness and support those suffering by reading and sharing my blog posts and my regular posts on Instagram. (@secretlifeofananxiousmum)
4 mental health warning signs you must pay attention to:
Have you ever suffered with depression and want to see if my “warning signs” are the same, or similar, to yours? Do you think you might be experiencing symptoms of depression for the first time but you’re not entirely sure? Do you not suffer with depression yourself but someone close to you does and you want to better understand it? If the answer is yes to any of the above questions then I really believe this post (and my entire blog, to be honest!) can help you. Below I am going to talk in detail about 4 main ways/signs/symptoms I experience at the beginning of a depressive period.
I don’t know about anyone else, but because I’ve suffered with depression on and off since I was a teenager (so, for over a decade) I know a lot about it and how it works. Well, I know a lot about MY depression and how my depression works. No one person’s depression is the same. But I know so much about my own depression that I can even spot the signs of it looming, ready to come and visit me for a while. If I’ve had a few months of feeling happier than usual, more “normal” than usual, like my true self, sadly I know it may not last forever. I know that I need to accept that my depression will come back after a few months or years because I think it’s just a part of me now and something I physically and mentally suffer with. A dysfunction in my brain that medication and counselling can sometimes help, but not cure permanently. So below I am going to let you all know the 4 main ways I know that my depression is on it’s way back. Paying attention to these warnings signs helps me prepare myself for the depressive period I’m about to endure for a while. Little things you probably wouldn’t really think twice about but are so important to look out for. I wanted to share this because I think it could help other people out there recognise their own symptoms and seek help if they want to.
I lose interest in reading:
I am a huge book worm. Usually, I always have a book to read, one straight after the other. Normally, I’m never not reading a book. I can get lost in a book for hours. I was once known in my local town as the “bus book girl” because I always used to read my book on the bus to work and back every single day for 2 years. The local people who also got the same bus as me every day began to recognise me and notice I always had my head buried inside a book so they started to call me the Bus Book Girl. Now that I’ve described just how much I love reading, you’ll also find it very uncharacteristic of me to not be reading a book for several weeks at a time, just the way myself and my friends and family find it uncharacteristic of me. This is the first warning sign that I’m not feeling my usual self and my depression is creeping up on me. This is the sign that, a lot of the time, other people notice first. Family and friends will comment on how they haven’t seen me reading a book for a little while and ask if I’m ok. That’s when I’ll realise “wait a minute, they’re right, I haven’t picked up my book for 2 weeks”. This is the subconscious sign that I’m not feeling right and just haven’t paid enough attention to myself to realise sooner. I haven’t picked up a book for 3 weeks and I’ve had zero interest in reading. I also know that if I force myself to try and get back into the rhythm of reading (because it’s something I usually love doing) I can’t focus properly for longer than 5 minutes. I find myself reading the words but not actually taking them in. I end up re-reading the same page about 10 times because I really struggle to pay attention or just simply understand what the words are saying.
I get headaches and stomach cramps:
I get stress headaches a lot during my depressive periods. Tension headaches, they might be called. Painkillers don’t work at all, nothing eases the headache because it’s caused by ongoing stress. I’ll have a splitting headache for about 10 days straight by the time I give in and go to the doctors. This happens once every few months. The doctor tells me every time that it’s caused by stress and that I need to relax more but that’s so much easier said than done!! My doctor usually gives me a very small dose of an anti-depressant that works very well, in small doses, to cure stress-related headaches. I take one a day for about a week and then they disappear for a few months, until next time!
I also get awful stomach cramps. I suffer with stress-induced irritable bowel syndrome. So, when I’m going through a very depressive or stressful period, I experience the same symptoms (and the same intensity) as someone who has IBS. My bowels start to painfully contract and cause horrible contraction-like pains as if I’m in labour again. I find myself on the toilet more often than usual too. This is usually the 2nd warning sign for me, when I start to get physical health problems due to mental health problems. It’s very unpleasant and painful. To help with my IBS symptoms I regularly take Buscopan during this period and this helps ease the pain and other symptoms of IBS. These can be bought at any pharmacy.
I am constantly exhausted:
During my depressive periods I feel exhausted 24/7. No amount of sleep helps me. I can sleep for 7,8,9 or 10 hours and it doesn’t help. Hell, sometimes even 12 hours and that still doesn’t help. I could easily sleep all day every day if given the opportunity (although that still probably wouldn’t help!) I wake up in the mornings and struggle a lot to get out of bed, it takes a lot of willpower to get myself out of bed on those mornings. Sometimes I’ll even have a little cry in the shower in the mornings because I am just so tired. My eyes sting, my vision goes blurry where I’m zoning in and out because I’m so tired. I wake up in the morning and 2 hours later I’m completely ready for a nap! I struggle to focus at work, I struggle to drive, I struggle to communicate with people and pay proper attention to what they’re saying and I struggle to simply function. It’s really not a very nice thing to go through but sadly something I experience a lot of during my depressive periods. To help with my extreme fatigue, I get an early night every night, I drink a lot of caffeine throughout the day (which I know isn’t the healthiest option but, unfortunately, sometimes it’s all that works for me and I’m willing to do anything to keep me awake by this point) I also take a strong iron supplement and drink a liquid iron formula called Floradix. This can help in the long run if I take it every day and stick to it. These can be bought at pharmacies and Holland & Barrett.
I lose interest in going out and seeing friends:
I love seeing my friends and family. I love to get together for coffee or dinner. I love going to the cinema with friends or going for a few drinks and having a good catch up and gossip. It’s my favourite thing to do and it’s one of the main things I look forward to doing. But sadly, during a depressive period, I can’t think of anything worse. This breaks my heart for 2 reasons:
1.) because it comes across like I don’t like my friends anymore, like I don’t care about them or love them anymore when actually that is the complete opposite to how I feel about them. As a result, this then upsets my friends.
2.) because it makes me lonelier than ever. It’s a horrible situation to be in – declining friends invitations and refusing to see them but then getting extremely lonely as a result. But then you have nobody to blame but yourself. It’s not your friend’s fault. And this then makes you feel even worse.
The thought of leaving my house during these periods makes me want to cry. The thought of going out and socialising and putting on a fake smile and fake happy attitude makes me feel queasy and uncomfortable. So I just avoid going out altogether! Things I once loved doing, people I once loved seeing, I don’t want to do or see anymore. This is usually always the final sign that warns me my depression is definitely back now. This can last anywhere up to a few weeks to a few months and during those periods I’m not myself at all. I am always apologising to friends and family about rarely seeing them. I like to reassure them that I love them and want to see them but I just can’t face going out right now, I need to be at home in my comfort zone until my depression subsides. It’s nothing to do with my friends personally, not at all. It’s because of me and my problems. And if you also experience this, it’s so important to tell your friends this. Reassure them that it’s nothing to do with them, it’s because you are suffering with depression or a mental health problem. Once this subsides and I start to feel like my normal self again, I see my friends and family a lot and try and organise as many meet-ups and get-togethers as I can.
I hope this post has helped even just 1 of you out there. If anyone can relate to this post on any level, I hope this has helped to reassure you or support you. I hope this has helped others recognise their own symptoms and made them realise that maybe they’re also suffering with depression and should seek help. Please always seek help if you want to. That is what doctors and specialists are there for.
All my love,