According to the NHS, one in ten people may experience depression in their lifetime. Recognising the symptoms and seeking help can provide the tools to manage the persistent sadness and feelings of hopelessness that can accompany the condition, as Lea Rice realised when she was diagnosed.
Ever since her teenage years, Lea would have frequent feelings of anxiety, but had no idea why.
It was common for her to go from feeling unusually happy and euphoric to suddenly feeling completely the opposite.
‘I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t stop crying and I would have constant feelings of panic. It can feel like you’re drowning and you can’t get back up to the surface.’
Lea felt ashamed about her feelings and would hide her symptoms from her friends and family, but she realised something was deeply wrong.
Her friends had noticed she was a bit down and to combat this she would act extra outgoing and bubbly to distract herself from how she was really feeling.
Lea’s mum had also experienced depression and recognised the symptoms so she insisted that Lea should seek support from a doctor.
When seeking medical advice she admitted to experiencing suicidal thoughts and was consequently diagnosed with depression at just 21 years old.
‘When I was diagnosed with depression, it was a scary thing to address. I told my best friend immediately, but with the right support from friends and family, I learnt how to deal with it and it became easier to talk about.’
Finding the right treatment
Her GP advised trying a course of anti-depressants. They worked at first, but after a while they stopped having an effect.
‘My doctor prescribed me with another type of anti-depressant to see if that would help but it made me have suicidal thoughts and gave me terrible nightmares.’
Lea’s doctor explained that every person with depression is different and not all people react to medications in the same way.
Coupled with medication, Lea also began seeing a counsellor recommended by her mum, and after a few sessions started to feel like she was making progress.
‘The combination of anti-depressants and seeing my incredible counsellor helps me to get through the day. However, depression is an ongoing issue in my life which can sometimes reoccur.’
Dealing with depression
Lea feels that her depression is something that she will have for life but can be controlled. With counselling and medication, she has been able to pursue her career as a content manager.
‘My workplace have allowed me time off to recover, and are flexible when I experience a low period.’
Outside of work, Lea is a dancer and finds that her confidence to get up on stage can be affected by depression, but is determined to overcome this.
‘I have to work first on being able to deal with the day-to-day, but the next thing I want to do is to build up my confidence again, so I can get back on that stage and enjoy performing once more.’
Support from friends and family
Even though Lea is open about her mental health, she feels that it does still impact her family and friends. She finds the condition has caused her to react instantly towards those closest around her unintentionally.
‘I occasionally react negatively to the most innocent comments because sometimes I don’t have a hold on my emotions, but as I and those around me learn more about my condition, it’s becoming more manageable.’
What advice does Lea have for those who have been diagnosed with depression?
• ‘Support networks on specialist websites are a great place for you to post how you’re feeling and to receive support and encouragement from others who are going through the same experience.’
• ‘Talk to somebody who has shared experience. It can be difficult to put it into context to people who don’t have the condition.’
• ‘You really aren’t alone and there are brighter days coming – the brighter days are the ones you want to hold on to when you’re having a bad time.’
• ‘My mum gave me some advice that I hold on to - catch the little bubbles of happiness and keep them for the bad days.’