Mental Health Week
As some of you may already be aware, Mental Health Week will be celebrated in 2014 from Saturday the 4th of October to Saturday the 10th of October, peaking at the celebration of World Mental Health Day on the 10th. This event is geared towards raising awareness of mental illness and it’s widespread presence among members of the public, as well as reducing the stigma and negative perception of these ailments.
As a way to contribute to this worthwhile cause, over the coming days we will bring you articles focusing on the realities of mental illness and the support services that are available to people who suffer from such illnesses. We hope that talking openly about these issues will not only share important information but also go some way towards reducing the stigma and feelings of shame that are often associated with mental illness.
To begin this trend, the subsequent article consists of a very personal look at the experience of living with clinical depression and mania.
What It Feels Like
Experiences of Depression and Mania
– by Vanessa Sutton
Depression is paralysing, and renders its victims weak.
The days are bleak, grey and nothing has colour or brilliance.
One is left to inhabit a grossly morbid and sorrowful world that produces much suffering and heartache, not only for the depressed individual, but also for those who love and know them.
Depression shows no remorse, it grasps a hold of the victim and no matter how much one may pull and thrash against the chains of restraint it has bound them to, they cannot escape.
One cannot break away and be free, not in the midst of a condition so bleak and horrifying as clinical depression.
Depression is a deep, dark void of despair and hopelessness.
Helplessness creeps its way into that void too, leaving the person completely and utterly desperate. No matter how much you may scream or cry, this desperation is like glue, it attaches itself to you and clings there – unrelenting, grim and unforgiving.
The mind is either blank, like a white sheet of paper, or it races. Images and thoughts, grim and ghastly flit back and forth so quickly that the mind can’t make sense of them
It is like a roaring train one cannot get off.
Every waking moment is like climbing the steepest of mountains, and one prays intensely before they close their eyes that they won’t wake up in the morning.
The darkness of the night is cold and frightening but the sunlight is too bright. It shines its rays and casts a shadow, a shadow that walks alongside you, a constant reminder of the despair, pain and terror you feel.
Depression is more than mere sadness or grief (though its victims certainly do grieve for the life they once remembered). It fills the mind with doubt and an unbelievable despair that has no rhyme or reason. And it is this despair that the mind begins to think of a way out.
Through the endless and agonising nights, one begins to plot their way out.
Mania is very different in that it is an incredibly complex state of being. It fills you up to the brim with an excitement that bubbles and only grows in intensity before it spills over the edge. I’ve always felt that is much like flying, as there are no restraints to hold you back.
There is an endless feeling of elation and beauty – everything that used to look grey and torn, bleak and morbid now seems beautiful, extraordinary, marvelous and grandiose.
In its milder form mania is brilliant, intoxicating and thrilling.
Thoughts and ideas swim madly around your head, and you believe that you can do anything, that nothing is out of your reach.
It is of course all an illusion, but one that is very hard to reign in because to the person who is in the midst of mania it feels completely real.
Mania has an element of danger to it though, in that thoughts are not processed, the consequences of actions are not considered, and though one may believe they can do everything and anything, obviously they can’t. This disparity between belief and reality can have terrible consequences.
In its more severe forms, mania is even more dangerous. Psychosis, delusions and hallucinations creep in and the person experiencing this attack of mania is a very real danger not only to themselves but also to others
Manic individuals wholeheartedly believe they can do anything.
They become reckless, believe in things that are completely irrational (in my personal experience, fairies living in the bottom of the garden) and the energy that they had at a milder state of mania increases dramatically.
Sleep becomes a distant memory – after all when you’re pumped full of energy who needs sleep? The energy felt is intense and exciting, but eventually can also be too much in that it becomes unbearable, self-destructive, and ultimately leads to strong feelings of restlessness.
I quite clearly remember running laps around my garden in an attempt to tire myself out, to no avail.
Everything is done at an unbelievably fast pace and the fallout from this is undoubtedly terrifying.
The brain ticks away too fast for the body to keep up, and when this mania has run its course, the person is beyond exhausted.
And yet again, depression sinks in.
Anyone who is experiencing either of these issues at the present time should visit http://www.beyondblue.org.au/ for information and support.
Remember, you are not alone, and it is never too late to seek support.