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Depression: Looking For The Light

Depression. It's debilitating, exhausting, isolating and painful both emotionally and physically. Life can feel hard as is, but with depression in the mix it can feel like you are running in deep sand with a heavy back pack on you- everything feels like so much work and you feel an overarching and pervasive sense of "stuck". Depression can make basic tasks, talking to others, engaging in activities and taking care of yourself feel insurmountable.

In mental health work emotions can be tricky. We all feel a range of emotions and it's important to feel our feelings whether we judge them as "bad" or good". Of course sadness plays a significant role in human emotions and it's normal to feel sad from time to time even if you can't exactly pinpoint why. Depression takes the feeling of "sad" to a whole new level, but it's important to remember that not all depression looks like stereotypical sadness. Sadness can feel intense, but eventually fades and makes room for other emotions. Depression can feel prolonged, heavy and it can be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel even if the client is still functioning "normally" and working to engage in their daily activities.

Characteristics of depression vary from person to person. I've worked with many clients who have shared that they spent years not knowing they had depression because "it didn't look like regular depression" or "I just never thought it could happen to me". It's important to remember that depression and other mood disorders can impact anyone and the signs and symptoms don't always feel clear cut. Overall mood is a great example of this. Clients suffering from depression can also experience mood swings, guilt, anxiety, apathy, hopelessness, loss of pleasure in activities and general loss of interest in work and life. Anger, agitation, irritability and tearfulness are also common, which can make depression hard to recognize.

Depression also infiltrates other important areas of you life. It can mess with your sleep, appetite and your brain. Many clients experience sleep disturbances, insomnia and restless sleep. Some report feeling fatigued and lethargic and engage in over sleeping. Appetite can be affected by loss of appetite or excessive hunger and some clients report weight loss or weight gain. Depression can also impact people cognitively as many report difficulty concentrating , focusing on tasks or making decisions. It can also hijack your thoughts as clients report increased negative thoughts, negative self talk and at times, thoughts of suicide. These thoughts can be highly distressing, which can lead to "zoning out" or numbing out" with various activities to give the mind and body a break. While this may feel like relief in the moment, it generally will lead back to distressing thoughts and emotions that have intensified.

Reaching out for help for depression can be very difficult. Not only is identifying depression difficult, but many face a stigma about what it means to have depression. Often people view depression as "weakness" or "just being lazy" and disregard their signs and symptoms as such. Depression can be treated successfully with talk therapy and with prescribed medication from a medical professional. Help break the stigma by reaching out for help. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have.

*If you feel you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1.800.273.TALK (8255). Your call will be connected to the crisis center nearest to you. If you are in an emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Megan Greene Counseling, LLC does not offer crisis counseling or emergency services.

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