I've never considered myself to be someone who suffers from depression. I often suffer from bouts where I'd say I feel 'blue' and fed up and that I'd like to just curl up until it passes and I become remotely pleasant to be around again. But not depressed.
Depression is an illness. One of the worst you can suffer from. I've never thought these bouts of mine are significant enough to be labelled as such, it seems churlish of me to compare my 'mood swings' with having to live with the burden of depression. It just doesn't tally in my head, doesn't seem 'important' enough. Therefore as I can offer no logical explanation for feeling this way it's best just to keep it to myself until I 'snap out of it', right? WRONG. This is the worst thing I, or anyone could do.
Talking helps. I truly believe that. You don't have to try and explain what's going on in your inner psyche - but you could try to get across how it makes you feel, how it's effecting your life and at times just how completely and utterly alone you feel.
Depression brought on by Crohn's is much more common than people may think. The thing is, Crohn's as a disease is so uncomfortable and embarrassing to talk about that when you combine that with feelings of depression you have one massive melting pot of misery that not many people on the outside are able to stir. It's relentless.
As I am limited in my own personal experience of this issue, I approached some of my fellow Crohn's sufferers. I was very pleased to receive so many replies from people of all ages sharing their stories - but was saddened to hear the extent of their experiences, from mild bouts of depression to much more severe.
So what causes someone suffering from Crohn's to feel so helpless that the only way out is to shut themselves out from the world, or worse, end it all?
Above all Crohn's is incurable. INCURABLE. That is an easy word to say, easy to write - but actually living with that knowledge is a whole other story. The idea that if you are in pain now, if you can't eat now, if you are becoming BFF's with the toilet, you still will be when you are making your way to the loo in a zimmer. Of course that's not necessarily true, many patients can go years without ever experiencing another symptom, but in the majority of cases people will be living with this disease until they are living no more. What a horrible thought. Depressing even. Get the general idea yet?
Many of the wonderful people I heard from also mentioned the more unspoken issues that go hand in bowel with Crohn's. Scars from surgery that have permanently changed their bodies, having to adapt to a colostomy for months/years/life, the affect the disease has on personality and how they are viewed by friends, family and the rest of the world amongst others.
A major worry was how having the disease would effect relationships, romantic or otherwise. People already with a partner; why would he/she want to hang around now? And the other side of the coin, singletons; who will want to become involved with me now? All issues surrounding relationships play on the mind, from the technical aspects of how to cope with being intimate with someone with a bag, to the potential 'burden' of having to live with someone who's sick and always will be.
Another issue with Crohn's can be the loneliness of spending time in hospital and being unsure what the future holds. Feeling you are on medication and it's just not having an effect on your symptoms can also bring your mood down to an all time low. Depressing eh?
So, on the positive side, all the Crohnie's I heard from could also thankfully share what has led to them feeling better. Common theories to help combat depression include, starting a hobby: something to allow your mind to focus on something else, doing regular exercise: healthy body - healthy mind?, and setting aside time to do things that are pleasure-able: release those happy hormones!
All valid I'm sure, but the main one everyone shared was how important it is to talk to someone. Anyone. Tell your friends and family how you are feeling. Don't assume they won't understand or will judge you - they may surprise you. And if you feel it's too hard or you don't want to 'burden' them there are always others out there willing to listen. There is a great website called www.blackdogtribe.com which offers an amazing network of support from people all over the world.
People who are on the outside could be more aware of just how deeply depression can affect the lives of those they love. This is not something someone will 'snap out of' and cannot be 'cured' overnight - it's a disease, an illness that needs time, patience and understanding to overcome. Look for the possible signs; becoming withdrawn, reclusive, quiet or anxious. If you suspect someone you care about is struggling, just ask, make it clear you are there and will be if they need you- you never know the response you might get, or how much of an impact you might've just made on their life.
As for me, I think for now my loo roll is still half full. But if that changes I hope I'll have the confidence to tell someone I'm struggling. x