Today I present to you a guest article by 40+Style reader Lorraine on an important topic that can very much influence the way we look and feel: depression. Lorraine recounts her personal experience.

We subscribe to 40+ Style because we all want to look our best, but what if we don’t feel great?

Everybody has the odd day when they feel low or down for some reason – a bad dream, a sharp word, dull weather, work or financial problems – but we usually manage to shake it off or ‘snap out of it’.

Signs of depression

But if feelings of anxiety, helplessness or sadness linger for days or even months, they could be a sign of something else – clinical depression.

Depression is a real illness, with real symptoms, and is treatable, yet many people feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about it and delay acting. It affects many men and women during their lifetime; for women it can be when they are going through changes or loss like the menopause, retirement, death of a parent, marriage breakdown or children leaving home.

There are even specific forms of depression – they include Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) , postnatal depression and manic depression (bi-polar disorder).

A personal experience

I feel strongly that your mental health is as important, if not more important, than your physical health, and that we should be able to talk about it, which is why I am prepared to share what I went through.

I was diagnosed with depression on my 32nd birthday. At the time I was functioning – barely –but was rigid with anxiety, cried a lot, couldn’t sleep or eat and generally felt hopeless. I was spiralling downwards. Just having a name for those feelings was a huge relief. My mother, on the other hand, was mortified when she heard.

Once I had something to cling to I was able to start on the road to recovery. Although I wasn’t sure I wanted to take drugs, I had to continue to work and pay a mortgage. I was prescribed Prozac, fairly new at the time and probably the best known anti-depressant, thanks to negative media coverage. All I can say is that it worked for me. I liken it to a rope ladder being thrown to someone at the bottom of a well. Six months later I was referred to a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist who saw me on condition I came off the drugs.

My depression was the result of the end of a relationship coinciding with the start of a new job. I was vulnerable and ended up being bullied at work, which destroyed my confidence and made me even more anxious. For some people, a predisposition to depression can run in their family or it can be a side effect of medication you are taking, or of an illness.

What to do if you notice signs of depression?

If you think you might be depressed there is a lot of information available on the internet, including checklists of possible symptoms. It’s important that you see your doctor as soon as possible as they can explore the severity of your symptoms, help explore possible causes and look at treatment options. Drugs are not necessarily the answer but they are nothing to be afraid of either.

Research into anti-depressants has seen the introduction of different drugs that act in different ways. They are powerful, though, and should be treated with respect. Other treatments include counselling, light therapy, exercise or even HRT, if the menopause is at the root of the problem.

Recovery

Since suffering from depression I have experienced losses, difficult and stressful situations, failed IVF and the menopause. I also changed jobs and worked my way to board level of the company, appeared on TV and started my own business.

I consider myself lucky. For years I kept a packet of Prozac in the drawer as a reminder of those dark days but I never felt so bad that I needed to take them. Knowing the symptoms meant I could manage them through banishing negative thoughts, keeping busy, seeing friends and exercising. My confidence came back (and more) and I became stronger and more able to cope with life’s challenges. I finally realised I was getting better when I was able to laugh again.

Everybody experiences different symptoms of differing severity, but if you are not enjoying life, ask yourself why and if you need help, get it. You can’t tackle it alone.

Have you ever experienced depression? What would be your best advice for those struggling with it right now?

Lorraine is 54 and lives with her husband in a rural village in England.  A former director of a public relations agency, where she managed the corporate communications division, Lorraine is now on her second career as a garden designer. She also grows and sells plants.  Lorraine enjoys the theatre, reading, crafts and travelling – particularly to South East Asia – and clothes.

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