When depression enters our lives, we feel as though we’ve become a shell of the person we used to be. If we’ve been living with depression for a long time then this can be particularly prevalent. The person we become might be different from the person we used to be, or the person we always thought we would (or should) be.
We Had A Plan
Many of us will grow up with an idea of what we’d like our future like to look like. We might not have known the specifics, but it could have gone something like: ‘pass our exams, get a good job, get married, have 2.4 children, earn enough to pay off the mortgage, retire’.
Unfortunately, depression can de-rail these plans. It can affect our energy levels and ability to concentrate which can, in turn, affect our ability to study for exams or go to work. Relationships can also prove tricky because depression can negatively impact our self-confidence and how comfortable we are meeting new people.
Just because life hasn’t worked out quite the way we thought or hoped it would, it doesn’t mean that we’ve ‘failed’ or ‘let people down’. We might have taken the scenic route to get to the place where we are, or the plan we always had may never have been right for us. If depression hadn’t happened – something else might have done. Very few people will follow the life path that they envisaged without any twists or turns along the way. The place we’re in, and the path we’ve followed, are all part of our journey.
We Miss Our Old Confidence
Depression can destroy our confidence. It can leave us over-thinking and second-guessing every single thing that we say and do. Our anxiety can ramp up, and it can reach the point where we’re virtually house-bound or even bedroom-bound.
We might think back to the person who had no problem doing presentations to rooms full of people, going to parties, or standing up and belting out a classic on karaoke night. Comparing that version of ‘us’ to the one who starts shaking when the phone rings, needs a day to recover from a ten-minute trip to our local shop or feels sick at the thought of texting a friend can leave us feeling sad. Sometimes we might feel frustrated, but often we won’t have the energy for that so sadness is what remains. We grieve for the old version of ourselves.
Having no energy can be a symptom of depression. It can reach the point where no matter how much sleep we have or rest we take, everything hurts, our limbs are leaden and ache, even going to make a cup of tea feels like such a monumental amount of effort that we often don’t bother. We are tired. Tired day-to-day, but also tired of life. Our ‘get up and go’ has ‘got up and gone’ and our zest for life is non-existent.
The ‘old us’ had dreams, plans, schemes, and ideas. Some might have been a little ‘out there’, but there were always sparks flying. The ‘current us’ has no dreams, plans, schemes or ideas. Our main aim is to get through the day and go back to bed. Sometimes, we don’t even have the energy to mourn the ‘old us’. We might want to, but we are so tired, so ‘heavy’ and so cloudy that we don’t feel able to.
Connecting The Dots
One of the strange things that can happen when we begin to mourn the old us is that we can feel completely separate from our old selves. We might have pictures of even videos of the person we were before depression came along. Looking at these photos and watching these videos can be weird because we might not feel any connection at all to the person in them – they might feel like someone who we’ve never met.
A Sense Of Grief
We may well feel a sense of grief or loss for the old us. This can feel strange and unexpected – nobody has died, we haven’t physically lost anything, and often we link grief with bereavement. But we can feel grief and loss for all sorts of things. Grieving the person we used to be is a valid emotion, and it’s something which we might need to work through to get to a point where we feel able to look forward again.
When we look back on the past, we often do so with rose-tinted glasses. This means that when we look back on things, we do so in an optimistic light, glossing over the less-so-good bits. Because of this, the person and life that we’re mourning could be a person and life that never actually existed. We might be remembering things more positively than they were in reality.
A Lonely Place To Be
There’s nothing like a period of illness to show us who our ‘real’ friends are and who scarpers at the first sign of trouble. Unfortunately, when it comes to depression, we might have a small group of friends who stick around us for a while, but the longer it goes on for, the lonelier we can find ourselves. Long periods of depression can put a significant strain on our relationships. We might isolate ourselves either intentionally or unintentionally. We might fall off the radar when it comes to replying to messages and we could forget things like our friend’s birthdays.
Our friends might start to see us as unreliable and distant. They might not intentionally stop contacting us or inviting us to things, but they could simply not know what to say or do… so stop saying or doing anything. We might view ourselves as a ‘rubbish friend’ and then stop reaching out because we don’t want to ‘burden‘ people.
All of this can leave us feeling utterly isolated and alone. It can come with a huge sense of loss. We might grieve for our lost relationships whilst mourning the person we used to be. It’s a desolate, lonely place to be.
A ‘Good Day’
Our definition of a ‘good day’ might have changed considerably since depression entered our life. We might have previously taken our ability to get on with life for granted and a ‘good day’ might have been a day where something special happened, or we had success in our work or personal life. A ‘good day’ nowadays might be a day when we’re able to get out of bed, leave the house, or shower. These things might not be possible every day, however hard we try – they might be reserved for days when the air is a little easier to breathe.
We are not ‘failures’ for having different abilities from those that we had in the past. Our best is good enough now just as it was then. We have a health condition that affects our ability to carry out daily activities, and sometimes we have to adjust our expectations accordingly to be kind to ourselves.
Frustration And Anger
We might feel angry that depression is affecting our life and frustrated that we can’t do things that we used to be able to do without a second thought. ‘Why can’t I just do it’ can be a common thought pattern as time and again previously simple task feel like the hardest thing in the world.
Depression is not our fault. It’s okay to feel frustrated and angry – depression is not fair. It is frustrating and it can make us angry. But trying to be kind and encouraging towards ourselves can help us to keep chipping away at things and gradually feel more able to tackle life again.
When we have lost all sense of who we are, one of the things that can help to bring a little bit of ‘us’ back, is to do very small actions that help us to feel a little more like ourselves again. For example, if one of the things we were always known for was wearing funky socks, then we don’t have to get properly out of bed or dressed each day if we can’t manage it, but if we could try to wear a different pair of funky socks each day.
Other things we could think about include re-starting any skills we used to do – even those we stopped doing before depression entered our lives. Doing a particular hairstyle we used to always have, or spraying perfume we always used to smell of. Perhaps there was a food item we were famous for cooking or a song we always used to listen to. We don’t necessarily have to get dressed or shower to do these things – we can use the energy that we would have spent on that to do the things that help us feel more like ourselves. Over time, this might help us to regain a sense of identity and hold on to things that help us to feel more ‘human’ and more ‘us’.
We Are Still ‘Us’
Depression is not us and we are not depression. We are so much more. However stifling and overwhelming depression feels right now, we are still ‘us’ deep down, and we can get back to ourselves again. We are maybe a little lost right now, but we can find our way back to ourselves and build on the person we used to be. Though we might not return to the person we were pre-depression, that’s no bad thing because learning to manage our depression and working to be a person we’re comfortable with shows great tenacity, resilience and strength.
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