When we have depression, it can be difficult to describe what we’re going through. It’s not an illness which is necessarily obvious to those around us – in a physical sense – the same way that a broken arm or chicken pox might be. It’s also not usually a stable condition – it can fluctuate over time. Depression can feed us a lot of lies, including filling us with self-doubt and telling us that we’re making it all up.
Why Would We Choose Depression?
If we sat down one day and thought ‘do I want to develop depression?’, the answer would highly-likely be a firm ‘no’. Nobody would choose to experience the darkness and anguish and myriad of other symptoms that come with depression. When we play pretend as children, we never choose to pretend to be depressed. So, if we’re experiencing symptoms, we can normally be pretty certain that they’re genuine.
Days That Feel Lighter
Sometimes we have a period of time that feels a little lighter. It could be moments, days, weeks, or more. Times when we laugh at someone’s jokes or smile at a funny cartoon in the paper. In these moments we can doubt our depression. We might have thoughts like ‘I can’t have depression because I laughed at a joke last week’. But it’s possible to both have depression and laugh at things. Depression doesn’t mean that we never experience a moment of happiness.
There might be periods of time when the air feels easier to breathe, and when our symptoms largely fade into the background. During these better times, our depression can feel like a distant memory. It can be hard to believe that it was ever part of our life. Sometimes during these times we question whether we’re making up our previous experiences and wonder whether it was ever ‘that bad’ at all.
Days That Feel Heavier
Some days feel particularly heavy. Our bones turn to lead. A thick cloud envelopes us and thinking, moving, even breathing, can feel like superhuman achievements. On these days, we sometimes think we’re just ‘making up’ how dreadful we feel. We often feel like we should just ‘get over it’. Or ‘snap out of it’. But we can’t. No matter how hard we try we can’t shift the weight that’s pressing down on us. We can’t throw it off our chest, however much we want to. Deep down, we know we’re not making it up, and we know it’s not something we can just ‘get over’, however much we wish we could.
Having Symptoms But No Diagnosis
Sometimes we notice symptoms of depression in ourselves, but because we don’t have an official diagnosis, we don’t see them as valid. We discount them, brush them off, see them as ‘not that bad’, or worry that we’re making them up.
The reasons that we don’t have a diagnosis can be very individual. Sometimes we don’t want a diagnosis, so we never see a clinician about it. We might work up the courage to see our GP, but not have enough symptoms to warrant a diagnosis or our GP might tell us to see how it goes and come back in a few weeks. Some of us feel too busy to have time to visit a doctor, so we brush our symptoms aside and try to carry on as best we can.
Having symptoms but no diagnosis doesn’t mean that our symptoms are made up. It doesn’t invalidate them or mean that they don’t matter. Our experiences are valid whether we have a name for them or not.
Having A Diagnosis But Not Having Every Symptom
We can have a depression diagnosis without having every single symptom of depression that’s ever been listed. There are an awful lot of symptoms that can be associated with depression. Every single person with depression has their own experiences of the illness, and though we have things in common with one another, we all have our own unique journeys. We will experience our symptoms in ways that apply to our lives, and we will experience different combinations of symptoms at different times. ‘Missing’ some symptoms does not mean that our diagnosis is invalid, or that we’re making anything up.
Depression Or Thinking About Depression?
We can tie ourselves in knots worrying about whether we actually have depression, or whether we’re thinking ourselves depressed. For example, are we actually struggling to sleep, or are we struggling to sleep because we’re thinking about it being hard to get to sleep? We can debate every single symptom that we’re experiencing in this way until the end of time, but we will probably never come to a conclusion.
If we’re experiencing a range of symptoms that can be associated with depression, then it’s always worth checking it out with a medical professional. They will be able to talk over our worries with us – both our worries about our symptoms and our worries about whether we’re making our symptoms up.
Depression As A Normality
Sometimes we live with depression for so long that it becomes our normality. We often question our depression diagnosis because living the way we do is all we know – we can’t imagine things being any different. This means that we don’t always recognise our symptoms as symptoms, because to us it’s ‘what we’re used to’, and we adapt to live our life accordingly.
If we’re worried that our depression diagnosis is incorrect, or that we’re making it up, it’s always worth checking it out with a medical professional. They should be able to talk to us about our concerns, reassure us, and help us to rationalise our thoughts. It might be that we have reached a place of recovery from our depression – they should be able to tell us if they believe that to be the case, too.
Please help us to help others and share this post, you never know who might need it.