How Does Depression Feel?

I wanted to talk about how it feels to experience different mental health problems, so I decided to do a little series where I’ll be talking about depression, mania, anorexia and OSFED. This is the first post in the series talking about depression.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have bipolar disorder. However, I was actually misdiagnosed as having a recurrent depressive disorder for around 10 years. I read recently that it takes an average of 10 years to receive an accurate bipolar diagnosis so I guess I’m fairly textbook in that area.

In some ways it’s frustrating. I actually had a query bipolar diagnosis as an inpatient when I was 15, but it’s incredibly hard to diagnose in children so I understand why I didn’t get the label then. However, I can’t help feeling annoyed about the years I struggled as an adult on the wrong medication with the wrong support. I do see why it was missed; I struggled with eating all through my teens and early adulthood and a lot of my mood swings were easily linked to that I suppose. But it’s hard to think about all the money I wasted and time I lost. The last couple of years of being on the right medication have honestly been life changing; my mood has never been so stable. I just wish I’d have had the opportunity to experience this earlier.

One of the reasons I was misdiagnosed with depression for so long is that I have always struggled with low mood significantly more than high. Although I am well currently and I can spend months living my life with no symptoms at all, the fear of becoming unwell is always there, following me like a shadow.

Depression is suffocating; I feel like I am drowning and everything feels like trying to move underwater. The world feels incredibly slow, and thoughts start creeping in that I am a burden on people and that I am worthless.

That is probably the hardest part. When you’re in a place where your boyfriend is having to help you to wash and get dressed, and carry you from one room to another because you don’t have it in you to do anything other than fester away in your bed, it’s easy to start feeling like a burden. You can see yourself making people around you miserable, but feel entirely unable to stop it. That just adds to the self loathing you already have.

If you’ve never felt like this, it’s easy to look at suicide and think it is selfish. But to that person suffering, in the pit of despair, it doesn’t feel selfish. You think you’re actually doing people a favour. You genuinely think people would be better off without you in their life, and that you are relieving them of having to deal with you. That’s a really frightening place to be. To that person, it’s not selfish. It’s kind.

A close friend of mine ended her life in 2009. We met in hospital; she also had bipolar disorder and struggled with eating for a long time. She ended up a heroin addict with an abusive boyfriend, and killed herself in hospital, where she was supposed to be safe. That was very hard to come to terms with. I understand the gaping hole that her absence has left in so many of our lives, and I felt very angry at her for a long time. Suicide is a very complicated issue, and one that is never going to be as two dimensional as calling it ‘selfish’.

One thing that I think is often overlooked is talking about the physical sensations of depression. Emotionally, I would actually describe depression as, at times, almost a ‘nothingness’, numb, a complete absence of feelings. Physically, it is like my whole body is made of lead. I can’t move. I live in a state of being asleep and awake simultaneously. The air around me feels as though it is crushing me. It’s a very hard feeling to imagine unless you have experienced it, but I hope with all my heart that you haven’t.

I have a mood disorder. Inevitably, no matter how well I take my medication and live a healthy lifestyle, I know that this will get me again. I don’t know when, I don’t know how bad and I don’t know how long it will last. It could be this year, it could be in 30 years. All I know is that every episode has been worse than the last, and that statistically, bipolar symptoms worsen with age.

Having an illness looming over you is terrifying, but I’ve got through it many times before I know when that day happens, then I’ll get through it again.


      • I’m currently in hospital for bipolar depression and this is the worst episode I’ve ever had. I’ve lived with Bipoar for 13 years and You’re right that it gets worse as you get older. Your description of your depression is very similar to my own and knowing that it’s ‘just a phase, it will pass soon’ doesn’t help when each time is worst than the last. You might know that you’ll come out of this phase but when will the next one hit? How bad will it be? Will I actually manage to kill my self next time? Knowing that no matter what you do you are at the mercy of a mood disorder that takes no prisoners make each ‘recovery’ harder, and makes you wonder if it’s worth even trying.


      • Oh lovely, I’m sorry to hear you’re having such a difficult time. You’re totally right, when you’re in it, the knowledge that it will end doesn’t feel of any help or tangible at all. But I can whole heartedly say that when I am well, I’m so glad I did get myself through the worst times with the people around me x


  1. You’re so brave to of had the courage to speak about your experience so openly. Depression is such an awful disorder that I have a personal experience with and have seen so many of my loved ones struggle with too. We need more people like you coming forward and not being afraid to discuss mental health xx

    Liked by 1 person

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