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What causes depression?
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had one or two down days, times where I’ve felt a little low, stuck in my own head and in truth, a little depressive. It is a feeling that I am very familiar with but have not felt for quite some time, it’s been years since I was depressed and though it has long since passed, I still felt it recently during the odd down day. It got me wondering, just what causes depression?
In life in general, I am happier than I have ever been, things are going great in almost all areas of my life, I do, most of the time feel genuinely happy and content. Yet despite all the goodness I now have in my life, my immediate circumstances are sometimes a little empty and a familiar sensation can sometimes resurface, albeit in small doses. Depression. That low energy feeling and complete lack of motivation to do even the things I am passionate about. I have had two or three days of this lately and actually, I’m kind of thankful.
Re-feeling these same feelings that I had 3, 4, 5 years ago, has led to me to what now seems an obvious realisation. I have begun to understand from these small fleeting moments of depression, that my circumstances were no doubt one of the major causes of my earlier case of the mental illness. I have touched on this before in my first post about depression but until now did not realise the full impact that circumstances can have on the mind and the damage they can cause. Now I feel, I think and in fact, I actually know for certain that my depression was and is now, on the odd rainy day, being caused by my immediate and consistent circumstances.
When I say immediate I mean, what I am surrounded by right now. I may have a great relationship, a masters course coming up, enough money, friends and family, a job, a passion, a lovely home and much more but actually, my immediate circumstances are different. The home is lovely but feels a little empty, my partner is away for the summer, my course doesn’t start until September, my friends have left after we finished uni, my family lives far away and well, my job is just a job. Despite having lots of great things in theory, they are all just slightly out of reach at the moment and exist really, only as thought and imagination. So there has been a lack in my circumstances, for the most part, consistently for the last 2 months and consistency is the key. There would be no detriment to me if I existed in these circumstances for a day and even though my understanding of depression is experienced, just 2 months of this is causing me to experience small amounts of depression.
So I have a lack in my life but what have I been filling it with? What have I been doing? Not much, to tell the truth. I have been largely lonely over the summer, with little social interaction and I am starting to realise how vital that is to our mental well being. As much as I like time alone, I have had far too much of it recently. We are not solitary creatures, human beings, us, we are made to connect, we are born connected and it is through growing and strengthening these connections to other human beings that we are joyful, loving, happy and healthy. Not having any of these connections is one of the biggest causes of depression, if not the biggest. Solitude and loneliness will, 100%, be detrimental to our mind if felt consistently.
This loneliness then topples some other things down and we begin to spiral. Being largely on my own has meant I communicate less, I connect less and that leaves me feeling a little hollow. It also means I don’t communicate and release my problems, fears and stresses. So they stay bottled up, poisoning me from the inside.
I also, at times, don’t have that much to do and so I get bored, this naturally leads me to get stuck in my own head, dazed off in some trail of thought. Loneliness, in general, can be trapping in this way but being constantly bored and solitary is a surefire way of getting trapped in our own minds. I have spoken before about how being stuck in our heads can cause a great deal of mental illness or at least amplify it, and this became evident to me recently, in more ways than one.
I have noticed over the past week or so that feeling down and depressed, caused me to be more prone to anxiety. During these two or three low days I had recently, I felt unusually anxious about small things. Even going to work became very nerve-racking for me on those days, that sick feeling in my stomach and slight tightness around my chest. Though I had been to work 100 times before, it suddenly felt like my first day all over again.
Now, all of this doesn’t exactly fill me with energy, so naturally, I get lazy. This only adds to my low mood and lack of energy and leads me into bad habits. Like not cooking and therefore eating poorly, which again contributes to my lack of energy and low mood in a vicious cycle. I feel cut off.
I now know that this cut off feeling is caused by a lack of connection with other people, with fellow human beings, in real life, face-to-face. There really is no substitute for that. It is an absolutely essential and vital component of a happy life. In fact, it is a need. It is the mental equivalent of food or water, we will not mentally survive without it, and lacking it for too long will cause mental illnesses like depression to flourish.
We also need to be engaged and stimulated mentally, with action, interest, adventure, fun and play, though it really is that human connection that heals our hearts and minds, that makes life worth living. We must grow, strengthen and maintain our connections to one another in order to stay mentally happy and healthy.
These two things, a lack of mental stimulation and an abundance of isolation, as well as all of their symptoms, rank right at the top of the causes of depression. They are not the only causes but I’d wager they are the most common. These are the exact same circumstances that I experienced through my teenage years and they caused me the exact same feelings of depression. Only last time I didn’t know any better so I allowed that feeling to become permanent, to become consistent and take me over completely.
Fortunately, through my own past experience and my personal development since then, I have been able to identify and stop these tiny bouts of depression pretty quickly, I know that these circumstances will soon pass and that I can choose how I feel and think. I don’t need to become trapped behind the illusion of depression and neither do you.
Back when I was 18 I chose to stop being depressed, I realise now that after I made that choice in my mind, I changed my circumstances as well. Though, a couple of years later I slipped back into those poor circumstances. I was once again spending way too much time alone, isolated in my room, having almost no social interaction and not offering my mind any true stimulation. I look back on that time now and think maybe I was depressed then as well, because as soon as I changed those circumstances my mental health improved drastically. I went to university, met new people, made new friends and fell in love. I had adventure, action and play but most of all, I had an abundance of human contact and connection. All those external circumstances really did make me much happier and caused me to be more mentally healthy.
I hope that if you are suffering with depression you might be able to identify with these circumstantial causes, and they may help you to realise that you too are in control of your own mental health.
Depression may be a mental illness but it can often, if not always, be caused by physical circumstances, and while, ultimately, we will release depression with our minds, there are plenty of physical, real-world things we can do to help ourselves. Exercise, eat healthily, see people, socialise, enjoy nature, keep a clean home, have fun and play. Keep your circumstances bright and healthy, and you will keep your mind the same.
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