This post is a part of Geek Mental Help Week. Aside from minor edits, I wrote it in one take immediately after suffering one in a series of minor bouts of depression in 2012. Now seems a good time to publish it.
I used to laugh at people with depression. “It’s all in the head”, I’d say. Mental, literally. And yes, while thousands of work-dodgers use it as an excuse, there’s also a small minority of everyday people who suffer with it.
In recent years, I too have suffered with depression, albeit very mildly. It’s not something I shout about. Indeed, none of my friends know; partly due to the stigma, and partly due to the lack of importance which I give to the condition.
It is all in the head. Even while I’m suffering with it, I can recognise that. There’s always a part of me that screams “Just snap out of it! Don’t let it win.” But the truth is there’s a comfort to the sadness, like a warm blanket. And then there’s the slowness. Even though you might think you can conquer a bout, everything slows down around you and the lethargy sets in. Like quicksand – as soon as you start climbing it’s easier to just let it suck you back in.
Everybody is different I’m sure, and I’m lucky to only suffer occasionally. For me it can be triggered randomly, often by very trivial things.
I’m perfectly happy in my normal day-to-day life. I have an incredible long-term partner, many great friends and a wonderful fulfilling existence. But depression can creep up on you, like the Devil on your shoulder trying to tip you over the edge, piece by piece.
I find it invaluable to have a plan to deal with it. When it hits – and you know it when it does – I stop everything. Not immediately, but as soon as physically possible. If it means struggling through a work day until I can be alone, then so be it.
Sleep often helps me. The hypothesis of putting everything to bed – both metaphorically and literally – in order to clear the decks and start afresh in the morning seems to sort out my brain. This can mean retiring at 6pm straight from work, or even earlier at the weekend, and writing-off the rest of the day. A fair price though, if it helps.
For many people there isn’t such an easy fix and they suffer for months or even years on end. Luckily I’m quite strong-willed and a rational scientific thinker and my bouts are few and far between.
But I urge you to think twice next time you hear the word ‘depression’, because for many it is much more than just a label.