You Can’t See Mental Pain – Mim Shaikh
Broadcaster Mim Shaikh grew up with his mother suffering from severe mental health issues. It wasn’t until he went to school that he realised his family was different from others. However, today he feels this experience has helped him to become more sensitive and empathetic towards others going through mental pain. It’s also driven him in his creative career: he’s a spoken word artist, poet, broadcaster and actor. Mim says he has an impulse to create and to communicate with the world. For more real-life stories from those with mental health issues, or for ideas on how to improve your wellbeing,
Depression warning signs
Depression affects people in different ways. If you recognise a trend of several of these warning signs then depression may be trying to move in on your life.
Look for a persistent trend
Most of these signs can also be a normal part of the ups and downs of everyday life and most people will have experienced some of these signs at some time.
However, if you can see a trend of several of these signs which have persisted over several weeks then take it seriously.
Persistently sad, anxious or generally low mood
Everyone feels sad sometimes, has an anxious moment, or has a day when things feel a bit empty or low.
However, when depression invades it seems to keep you feeling persistently sad, low, anxious or empty. Some people feel a combination of these four feelings. Others feel predominantly one of them.
Loss of interest
Do you find yourself saying “I can’t be bothered,” or “What’s the point?” about things you used to find interesting or engaging?
Depression thrives on cynical or ‘bored’ attitudes to life, and itself generates a sense of meaninglessness. This loss of interest can include loss of sexual interest, which can create strain in relationships, in turn allowing more room for depression.
Lethargy or decreased energy
Do you often feel unable to get up at the usual time? Or too lethargic to complete routine everyday tasks?
Or do you generally find yourself less able to maintain your usual activity levels? Depression may be sapping your energy and taking root as you succumb to lethargy.
Irregular sleep or change in sleep pattern
It is very common for depression to have an effect on sleep, leading to insomnia and sleep disruptions like early waking.
Sometimes there is a pattern of excessive sleep. Regular, sound sleep is essential for healthy functioning and sleep disruption is a particularly debilitating weapon in the depression arsenal.
Appetite or weight changes
Regular healthy eating is essential for general wellbeing.
Loss of appetite and weight loss, or sometimes overeating and weight gain, can be a sign that depression is interfering with the healthy eating habits essential for maintenance of healthy mood levels.
Crying serves a very useful purpose – stress hormones are released through tears.
However, if you find yourself crying much more than usual for no clear reasons it may be a sign that depression is at work.
Do you find it hard to settle down to a task, or to sit still for any length of time? Some people are naturally energetic, but depression can bring a troubling sense of restlessness and inability to focus. Being constantly keyed up and over-alert in this way is very draining, in turn decreasing resistance to depression.
Poor concentration and difficulty making decisions
Depression is often said to be a problem of disordered thinking, with ‘automatic negative thoughts’ crowding the mind. Poor concentration and/or difficulty making decisions can be due to ‘blanking things out’ or may indicate the need to address the thinking habits which are allowing depression a foothold.
Hopelessness and pessimism
Having a generally pessimistic outlook can feel like the ‘safe’ approach in an uncertain world – “Well, at least that way I won’t be disappointed”.
However, depression thrives on this negative attitude, increasingly robbing you of hope and leaving its characteristic ’empty’ feeling instead.
Feelings of helplessness
There are many uncertainties in life and things that cannot be controlled, yet many cultures emphasise the importance of individuals having ‘control’ over their lives. Having bad things happen and not being able to prevent them can then leave someone vulnerable to the generalised feeling of helplessness that depression feeds on and perpetuates.
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Depression thrives on opportunities to promote over-harsh self-judgement and feelings of worthlessness and being of low value. It causes people to inappropriately blame themselves for experiences such as being badly treated or failing to meet unrealistic standards. This can lead to corrosive and unhelpful guilt.
Thoughts of death or suicide
It is natural that people will think about death on occasions. However, the excessive negativity caused by depression can lead to repetitive, unhelpful dwelling on death. Depression also reduces problem-solving ability and causes increasing ‘tunnel vision’, falsely making suicide seem like a solution to problems. Repeatedly thinking about suicide can be very risky. It should be taken seriously and dealt with promptly.
If you are worried about any of the symptoms that you recognise here and think you might be depressed, do speak to someone about it. Also, there are lots of resources across this site that will help you to think about how you might take care of yourself at a difficult time. Try taking a look at the information in the Making Changes section for some ideas.