Depression is really so very similar to ‘illnesses du regular’ and yet, at the same time, so bafflingly different.
Just like ‘normal illnesses’ (like the flu, for example) it can happen to anyone, doesn’t care about your money or your status, needs treatment, and can come back once you thought you were in the clear.
Unlike a lot of other illnesses, though, it takes a completely different form in everyone unfortunate enough to be playing host to it, and thus reacts differently to each individual’s treatment of it, in whatever form that may take.
But the big question (one that I’ve often found myself Googling at 4am after wretching through tears) is: can you ever cure yourself of depression?
Will depression ever completely go away? Can you actually ‘get rid’ of it for good?
The general answer seems to be: ‘no, but you can manage it and it can disappear for a really really long time – but there’s always a chance of it coming back.’
Dr Kate Mason tells Metro.co.uk: that because depression has such a high risk of recurrence, it’s even more important that you try to treat it as soon as you realise you have it, or think that you could have it.
‘The earlier you seek help, the more chance you have of a successful recovery,’ she said. ‘You may always have a vulnerability to depression but that’s not to say you can’t live a full and meaningful life.
‘Through early intervention you can learn ways to manage symptoms before they get too debilitating and help to prevent or lessen some of the major episodes.
‘A large proportion of people who’ve experienced one major episode of depression are likely to experience at least one other, possibly triggered by major life events that we just can’t avoid.’
Having previously been in a very, very bad place before, I can personally vouch for depression definitely lessening if it’s given enough attention and treatment. I manage mine with therapy, medication and (occasional) exercise. There are definitely periods when it’s worse and I still have very dark times, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it was when it was a constant thrum of misery.
Holly Stevens, who also has depression, is of a similar opinion that her depression can be managed well but probably not cured.
She tells us: ‘I know people for whom depression is happily resigned to the past. My completely unscientific anecdotal research, however, is that these are people for whom depression was sparked by an external event, trauma or circumstance.
‘While there is an element of that in my case, I also have a strong genetic link (mental illness doesn’t run in my family; it practically gallops, as the memes say) so I suspect my depression cannot be cured as such but the right meds, therapies and lifestyle have eliminated most of my symptoms. So, as long as I maintain the three, I am effectively cured.’
A 2016 study showed that psilocybin (commonly found in magic mushrooms) provided relief from and lessening of depression in a group of patients whose depression had been previously found to be treatment-resistant. This is hugely encouraging, and more studies with psychedelics taken in micro-doses are taking place. In some anec-data about myself, I’ve only taken ‘shrooms once and they made me feel fantastic and I want some more. It’s thought that psilocybin could become part of prescription medication within the next five years, which is great, but a long, long time if you’re in a black hole. Also, while the treatment sounds promising, it will affect everyone differently and may not work for all.
Counsellor Fiona Wright is also in the ‘perhaps not cured for everyone, but definitely treated and managed for most’ camp. She says: ‘Depression is unique to the individual and can affect people in many different ways, but there are common symptoms, and it is treatable.
‘It’s possible to recover from depression, but sometimes it can be more about learning to manage the symptoms.
‘Depression can be managed through medication, therapy and self-care, ideally a combination of these. Medication such as antidepressants or SSRIs can help people move to a place where they can function more effectively, along with other ways of managing symptoms. These drugs are generally safe, but often have side effects.’
Again, antidepressants will work so differently for everyone. I tried three different types before I found one that worked for me – as in, gave me the fewest side effects and least misery. Antidepressants don’t make you happy, they make you less sad and less clouded, and can allow you to think more clearly about how you’re going to deal with the mess inside your brain. But they don’t work for everyone.
Nothing works for everyone with depression, and everyone will have their different coping tactics. If riding the bus in the front seat and singing the national anthem does it for you, then do that. If therapy makes you feel less awful, then do that. For now, it seems that depression can be relieved for a certain amount of time, at least, and if it comes back then there are options to try to manage it to make your life more bearable.
If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, you can find a qualified local counsellor in your area with Counselling Directory. Mental health charity Mind also offers counselling services, and you can call The Samaritans on 116 123 (UK and ROI). The NHS even have a little quiz you can take. If you can, visit your GP for further advice. To talk about mental health in a private, judgement-free zone, join our Mentally Yours Facebook group.
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