Depression is common but few of us truly understand it.
The day that I was admitted into hospital with major depressive disorder was a lifesaver. I had reached the end of my road and it was time for me to get helped. All of life's pressures were unburdened to other people – I was not a wife, I was not a mother, I was not a medical doctor, I was not a manager. I was a broken woman in serious need of help.
It was comforting to be in the mental wellness hospital for two weeks because I was surrounded by people from all walks of life - professionals, housewives, younger women and grandmothers. We were all there for one reason - major depressive disorder. There was comfort as we shared our stories and realized that we were not alone. The common thread amongst us all was how misunderstood our symptoms of depression was especially within our family circles.
There is a difference between occasional feelings of sadness and then sadness that starts affecting your life adversely. When I look at my life, the symptoms of depression crept up on me. I was struggling at work with a new position, we moved house in the same week, and I just could not continue any longer. The weeks leading up to my breakdown were harrowing. It was a struggle to get up in the mornings and choose something to wear to work. All I wanted to do was spend the day in a room with the curtains drawn. My self-esteem had plummeted and it was hard to make even the simplest decisions. I had lost a tremendous amount of weight because I had no appetite for food. When I weighed myself I had lost about 13kg. I had gone from being a social butterfly to a hermit. I had also stopped going to church because I just had no energy to be around other people. At the same time, I was determined to 'keep it together'.
It is important to identify symptoms of depression and seek help as soon as possible. I was diagnosed by my GP and he arranged my hospital admission. If left undiagnosed and untreated, symptoms of major depression may worsen and persist for months to years.
Symptoms to look out for:
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not improve with treatment
- Persistent sad, anxious, or 'empty' feelings
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
In my case, a combination of psychotherapy and medication and the results have been fantastic. The hardest challenge for me was the fact that my beloved mother passed away just seven weeks after I was discharged from the hospital. Grief and depression are two different entities and so I had both of these to deal with.
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, then do go and see your GP. Treatment is available and the results are life-changing.
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