In addition to suffering from schizophrenia, I also suffer from depression. I’d like to open up a bit more about this condition as it’s something that is quite common, and much more common than schizophrenia. A young Finance lawyer I worked with at Bell Gully and later at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer who suffered from depression later took his own life by jumping from the roof of his firm in Sydney. I’m therefore a keen advocate of being open about depression and encouraging more dialogue so we can hopefully prevent this kind of situation from recurring. Often people keep things bottled up inside, especially mental illness, because they’re afraid of what other people might think of them. But remember you’re not alone. Chances are your friends have experienced problems of their own, or at least have family members or know other people who have. People are often much more sympathetic and understanding than you think!
What is depression?
The best way I can explain depression is that it’s like a dark cloud that’s always hanging over your head which doesn’t go away. Depression causes you to lose interest and pleasure in every day activities that you might otherwise enjoy, such as working, exercising, cooking and eating. For some people, it can be worse in winter. This is caused seasonal affective disorder.
It’s important to distinguish between sorrow and depression. In life, sadness is a normal and natural emotion. You can’t be happy all the time. It is natural to experience extreme grief when a loved one passes away. With depression, however, it is a question of degree. If the sadness doesn’t subside, you might need to see your GP in the first instance. If he or she feels it is necessary, you might be referred on to a specialist.
How is depression treated?
Your doctor might prescribe tablets to help you deal with depression. Personally, they don’t work for me. The reason is because they don’t address the root of the problem, that is, what is causing the depression. It is my belief that in order to treat depression, it is necessary to address the underlying cause of the problem. Therapy can be helpful in this regard, as it can take some exploring in order to work out exactly what is making you feel depressed. I saw a psychologist for a number of sessions and found this incredibly useful in terms of discovering what was bothering me.
Be aware though that even if you identify what is causing you to be depressed, it may be something over which you have no control and you may therefore not be able to prevent it.
Like other conditions, depression can be multi-causal and there may be several factors contributing to it.
Depression can also be linked to other health conditions. The human body is complex and you can’t look at things in isolation. For example, I also suffer from diabetes. For me, the two are linked. When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I felt incredibly depressed. Also, when I suffer from depression, it places stress on my body and elevates my blood sugar levels.
Ways that you can combat depression
First of all, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. It can be quite surprising who suffers from depression. This includes people who are beautiful, smart and intelligent. Sufferers include high achievers and often leaders in their field.
It sounds like a cliché, but it’s all in the mind. Click here to read what I have written on this subject. Depression is a state of mind. To get out of this state, you need to take control of your mind. Filter out any negative thoughts. I have had to work very hard to flip things around and put a positive spin on things, or at least look at things from a pragmatic perspective.
Try not to ruminate about the past. Take comfort in the fact that you probably did the best you could in the circumstances and made the best decisions you could based on what you knew at the time and how you were feeling. Could have, should have and would have is not very helpful, as you can’t turn back the clock and re-do what you have already done.
Learn to go with the flow. Life doesn’t exactly go according to plan, so don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t achieve everything you wanted in life. I always imagined myself being a senior associate at a big law firm at the very least, and felt really down when having schizophrenia made this impossible. However, I have managed to keep things in perspective. Stepping away from the legal profession has made me think more laterally. I would have never come up with the idea of In the Circle while working within the legal profession, much less executed my idea. Sometimes you don’t get exactly what you want, but you can get something even better in the long run.
Don’t forget that everyone has problems. It may appear that other people are happier or have better lives than yours but don’t forget that life is full of challenges for everyone. Things are merely a matter of perception and if people appear happier, it’s probably because they have developed a good and healthy attitude towards life and its challenges.
More tips to combat depression
There are a number of activities that can help ease depression. Personally, I have found gardening very therapeutric. It is gratifying to see something that I’ve grown from seed come to fruition. John Kirwan advocates cooking to beat the blues. I find that having a pet helps with depression. About a year and a half ago, we adopted a stray cat in our neighbourhood. She is incredibly affectionate and never leaves my side. I also find that exercise helps with depression. Fresh air is good. I highly recommend walking or running. Having a gym membership can help as well. You’ll be surrounded by other people while exercising, which should lift your spirits.
Make sure that you surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Don’t let other people put you down. This might mean that you need to eliminate negative people from your life, or at least limit contact with them. Personally, I try not to see my close friends when I feel really depressed, as I don’t want to burden them with my problems.
Get some sunshine. You’ll feel so much better and as a bonus, you’ll get some Vitamin D, too.
Learn to laugh, even inspite of your condition. This will also make you feel so much better and you’ll feel like you can deal with life again. If you’re struggling to see the funny side of life, see a light-hearted movie.