It has taken me a very long time to come to terms with my depression and even longer to understand the root cause of it. However, I am now in the fortunate position of being able to recognise when things are starting to go wrong for me. I can stop my mental health deteriorating even further by asking for help or using coping mechanisms I have picked up over the years.
Here are the signs I experience that let me know my mental health is getting worse:
1. Trouble Sleeping
I often find that changes in my mental state begin with a change in my sleeping patterns. Falling asleep can become difficult due to my tendency to overthink everything. Even after I somehow manage to fall asleep, I never stay that way. I’ll spend the nights tossing and turning until 4am comes around and I’ve just had enough. Trying to sleep becomes more exhausting than being awake. Eventually I’ll be so tired that my dreams become more vivid and increasingly violent, that even when I’m lucky enough to drop off, I still wake up in an anxious mess.
Lack of sleep leaves both my mind and body utterly exhausted.
Being so tired makes it almost impossible to regulate my emotions or filter through my thoughts, resulting in me having angry outbursts at the people I love most. I can be triggered by repetitive or loud noises. Even the ticking of a clock can make me feel on edge. I also lose patience for everything.
3. Loss of Motivation
Sometimes, even getting out of bed in the morning can feel like the hardest thing in the world. It can feel as if there is a heavy weight sitting on my chest rendering me immobile and unable to breathe. After losing motivation to get out of bed, it is only a matter of time before the house work becomes ignored, before the dishes start to pile or the rubbish overflows. Then comes the greasy hair and unwashed clothes, because keeping up with my self-hygiene no longer seems important. Hobbies I once loved also take the back seat as I wander aimlessly trying not to drown in the darkness.
4. Social Isolation
After losing motivation for everything else, eventually I begin to avoid all social interactions, no matter who they are with. Whether it is having a conversation in person or online, I just wont partake in it. Avoidance at this stage is inevitable for me and I wallow in it. Even at home where I am most comfortable, I find myself withdrawn and quiet rather than my usual chatty self.
5. Depressive Episode
If I am unable to recognise the warning signs in time then I’ll slip into a darkness that seems almost impossible to overcome. I refer to it as Depressive Episodes. Each episode can last anything between a few hours to a couple of weeks, depending on the original trigger. During these episodes I don’t see things clearly. Life can appear bleak and grey, with no end in sight and I begin to lose hope that things will ever get better. My mind tricks itself into believing that life is a pointless journey leading us to infinite death.
Eventually, even leaving the house becomes unbearable and I feel utter terror just taking out the rubbish. At this stage of the episode I start to feel empty, as if there is something missing from inside me. To cope with this feeling of emptiness I eat and I don’t stop, in an attempt to fill the void inside me. I end up eating so much that I’ll feel physically ill.
If I’m lucky then I’ll be able to notice the decline in my mental state before things get really bad, but sometimes when my anxiety is thrown into the mix as well, then that’s where things can get kind of tricky.
My advice to you all is to get to know yourselves and your mental health. Keep a journal to record your journey and maybe you’ll be able to notice a pattern that could help you cope in the future. It can be a lot of work and a lot of effort, but it will be worth it if it means you could avoid those darker days. xox