Last week the British Medical Council released a report indicating that depression in the over 40s is on the increase. The Women’s Room asked Sandy Lewis, 45, who is a sufferer from the disease, to give us some insight.
“We all love to discuss details of our health. After all, it’s what keeps us alive. We greet each other with an instant reference to it. ‘Hi there. How are you?’
Most of the time the reply would be, ‘Fine thanks and you?’ Occasionally it can be, ‘I’m just getting over a bout of the flu, terrible; I was off work for two weeks, still coughing like a drain but I’m off the antibiotics now.’ Or ‘Just had the plaster removed from my broken leg. It’s healed beautifully, it was itching like crazy. I shall think twice about skiing again.’
But I can guarantee that you will never, ever hear someone say,
‘I’m in the midst of a dreadful bout of depression. I’m considering medication, but I’m so ill I just can’t think straight.’
Why is that? What makes ‘depression’ so socially abhorrent? Perhaps this giant word, over used as a blanket for everything, should be split into more comprehensible chunks, because depression is bespoke.
Try to substitute the word depression and consider using (in order of severity)
- BLUE – sad & lethargic.
- DOWNTURN – heaviness of heart, unable to feel joy.
- GLOOM – bleak melancholia, which fails to lift.
- PARALYSIS OF SPIRIT – total hopelessness
Society can cope with an illness such as diabetes, as it feels ‘comfortable’ with the condition and can discuss openly with the individual involved without wild assumptions or embarrassment. It’s a condition where part of the body (the pancreas) fails to make an essential chemical (insulin) .You’d never dream of telling a diabetic to ‘pull themselves together’ or make haste to get over their diabetes.
Depression is the same. It’s a condition where part of the body (the brain) fails to make an essential chemical (serotonin). But just because you suffer from depression does not mean you are barking mad. Frankly I can call to mind a number of people who are barking mad, indeed I would not trust them to bake a fruit cake, never mind look after my child – and they do NOT suffer from depression.
I’m a great believer in not making judgements of a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes. Depression is very, very different from ‘getting up on the wrong side of the bed’ and feeling a bit grumpy. You lose control, not of what you do, but of how you feel. There is no choice involved.
However just like diabetes, you can take steps to help yourself. In diabetes you can follow strict guidelines in keeping healthy, which will contribute to your good health. The same can be said for depression.
My top three tips would be:-
- Stop drinking alcohol (yep, I’m afraid so).
- Exercise every day (e.g. half an hour walk).
- Write down your thoughts (No idea why, but writing down your thoughts can go a long way to exorcising your demons).
This silent misery has its final triumph with its victim. Such hosts become the master of disguise, slapping on that extra layer of make-up, breaking into that forced smile that never quite reaches a beam, because they want to hide their shameful, dirty little secret. We’ve along way to go before ‘depression’ loses its unhelpful taboo. Rumour has it that there is an epidemic in the over forties. Perhaps it’s time we spoke out; expose this disease for what it is. A human condition, apparently very common and treatable.”