I thought I'd make a few remarks about depression, since it's that time of year throughout much of the world when many people, especially teens and young adults, may be feeling especially vulnerable. As someone who has been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, as well as CLinical Depression, I always find this time especially challenging.
The main thing I wanted to remind people about depression, particularly those who suffer with it regularly, is how insidious it is. Yes, there are times when shitty things happen, and it comes down on you like a ton of bricks. More often, though, it creeps in like a tide, gradually filling more and more of your life until you suddenly discover that you're in it over your head. By that time, it's much more difficult to deal with, so teaching yourself to recognize some of the early symptoms can be a big help. Even if you're not able to prevent an episode of depression entirely, the fact that you know it's coming can make a huge difference in how bad a bout it is, and how long it lasts.
Here are some of the things that tend to sound the depression alarm for me:
1. I begin to isolate myself more and more from my friends and family. I might back out of a social thing I had planned, or if I don't back out entirely, I find I've lost my desire to go. I put off replying to emails and returning phone calls.
2. I find myself less enthusiastic about hobbies and other activities that I usually enjoy. With me, this directly affects my writing most of all, but as time goes on, I find that all I really want to do is watch TV or idly surf the web. The thought of doing anything else just makes me tired.
3. I either can't sleep, or want to sleep all the time. Sometimes it's a nasty combination of both, throwing my sleep cycle all out of whack. When I'm awake, I'm always tired. When I'm trying to sleep, I can't get my brain to quit working, and more often than not, it's obsessing about something bad from my past, present or future.
4. My eating habits get all messed up. With me, it's not that I stop eating, or eat too much. It's that I just don't care what I eat, and often just grab the thing that requires the least amount of work. This one varies. Some people lose their appetite entirely. Some people overeat to compensate for their growing depression.
These things usually begin to happen gradually, and grow worse over a period of days...sometimes weeks. Even after 30 years of dealing with depression, it still sneaks up on me sometimes, largely because I go into denial about it. Often, however, I'm able to spot the warning signs and take steps to mitigate the attack. I tell my friends that I need a little push. I make myself get out and socialize, even though I don't really want to. I get on here (like now) and try to short-circuit my own sadness by helping others. For my S.A.D., I use a therapy light, which simulates natural sunlight. They're not terribly expensive, and are easy to find online.
Whatever methods you develop to cope with your depression, they will work much better if you train yourself to spot the onset of an attack before you find yourself in the thick of it. If you're experiencing frequent depression, I encourage you to talk to someone about it. For adolescents, medication is not necessarily the answer, but establishing a support network to help you through the bad times is important, and counseling is often a good idea, particularly since depression itself can be a symptom of more serious problems, such as bipolar disorder, for which proper medication is very important.
Finally, I want to remind everyone that, although I don't make the offer in every post I make, I am always here for anyone who needs to talk. Because of time issues, I obviously can't respond to every post, but I will answer anyone who messages or emails me (email@example.com). I know I've said this before, but people come and go all the time here, so I like to remind eveeryone periodically that the reason I am here is to help you, not just with writing, but with anything at all. Yes, I am a zealot about this. I admit it. So sue me.
Anyway, I hope this was helpful to some of you. If you have any questions, fire away.
Love and hugs,