Content warning: this post contains details of depression and suicide, and may be triggering for some readers.
“It’s an absence of self. Most people have a hard time understanding the concept of absence or emptiness. They understand a positive or a negative but to understand nothing is a different ball game in abstraction.
“It really is a hole, a dark room, but it’s the whole world day after day. It’s all the same.”
A Reddit thread asked the question “What does nobody tell you about depression?” attracted more than 1200 responses.
Most people understand depression to be synonymous with sadness. Yet depression is a characteristically private battle that, unless one has experienced or witnessed it personally, is unimaginable.
As someone who has suffered from depression, I can attest to the incredible insight the responses offer.
If you haven’t experienced depression, it’s impossible to know its effects.
1. It effects your memory
One user wrote, “It seriously effects your memory on top of your motivation. I’ll walk by the sink, see the dishes and think ‘I’ll do those in a minute’ and within five minutes I literally forget that the dishes need doing.”
"I'm average intelligence, but my depression makes it so hard to remember anything," another described.
Studies have found untreated depression shrinks the hippocampus, which is the brain region responsible for memory and emotion. The earlier the intervention, the less likely it is to have long-term, permanent effects on the brain.
2. You lose your sense of self
"It's an absence of self", perfectly encapsulates the feeling of hollowness experienced by individuals with depression.
"You lose yourself, you literally forget who you are. I know a common symptom of depression is losing interest in things you used to enjoy... But to me, it was more like I actually forgot who I was and what I liked and what sort of things made me happy." (Post continues after gallery.)
One commenter wrote, "It's not that you're sad all the time, it's more like there is no emotion in anything. No joy, no excitement... nothing." Many agreed that depression for them wasn't an endless stream of tears, but a state of apathy.
"It's like I'm just going through life sleeping," another user said. Many sufferers feel like they're in a dream, or watching themselves from above, going through the motions.
4. Personal hygiene
"How little you shower or engage in personal hygiene. I can go days without brushing my hair, my teeth or having a shower. Same goes with wearing dirty clothes," one contribution read.
Sylvia Plath famously wrote in The Bell Jar, where she describes her deteriorating mental health, "It seemed silly to wash one day when I would only have to wash again the next. It made me tired just to think of it."
Is our constant quest for happiness actually making us more unhappy? (Post continues after audio.)
Feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of having a shower or looking after oneself is a common symptom of depression.
Another user added, "When I had my little run in with depression I stopped showering for days on end, let my nails and facial hair grow and ate like crap. My then-girlfriend, now wife, would stop by every other day to sometimes clean my room and make sure I showered and we'd walk around outside, bless her."
5. Physical pain
"It hurts. It actually really physically hurts."
6. An inability to concentrate
"You go fuzzy-brained."
Referred to by psychologists as "brain fog", difficulty with focus and concentration is a major symptom identified by a lot of depression sufferers. One Redditor wrote, "I can't concentrate, can't make basic connections, forget little things... trains of thought just fizzle out."
According to Everyday Health, the brain's processing speed is impaired in patients who are depressed. Also, depression is associated with several types of cognitive deficits, and one is attention. Some are unable to read like they used to, and feel like they are unable to comprehend basic information.
This can be extremely distressing, with one individual reporting, "It's very hard because it's taken away a huge part of who I thought I was."
7. It can make you extremely unlikable
Depression can make people angry, disagreeable and antisocial.
"It makes you a bit of an asshole. Not that you become mean, but you're always in your own head so much that you start to ignore/disregard those around you," one Reddit explained.
It, therefore, becomes a reinforcing cycle of isolation, which can further deepen the depression.
8. You can't tell if you're lazy or depressed
"That I can't tell if I'm just being a lazy piece of shit, either. The depression gets in my head and tells me that everyone else feels this way too, it's just that everyone else isn't such a fu**ing pussy," one person wrote.
An element of being depressed is being extremely self critical. Many don't seek treatment because they feel they should be happy and should be functional. (Post continues after gallery.)
9. Deep down, part of you doesn't want to get better
"When you're in it... you don't want to get out for some reason. You just wallow in it," one person admitted.
In his book 'Darkness Visible', William Styron talks about feeling as though he is experiencing the 'truth', and therefore finds a bizarre comfort in his melancholy. Depression perpetuates itself, depleting an individual of energy, of appetite, and of motivation. It is this pattern that makes the downwards spiral so disastrous.
At this moment, it is estimated that one million Australians are suffering from depression. Research suggests that one in seven Australians will experience the mental illness at some point in their lives.
Depression, either directly or indirectly, affects all of us. That is why talking about how it feels is so incredibly important.
If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner or in Australia, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.