Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Depression; Which Personalities are Most at Risk?


When we think of depression, often we think of being sad but how many times have you heard people saying "I can't believe they ended their life, they were always seemed so bright, bubbly and happy go lucky," without realising just how much a smile could hide?
This mask of perceived happiness is what makes depression a silent killer; often you can't tell that the person is suffering an internal battle because they appear to be happy - but as we learn throughout life - appearances can often be deceiving.
The recent death of Robin Williams; the comedic hero who graced our screens as many different characters who we fell in love with, is just an example of one such person, who, perhaps to us "outsiders" seemed to "have it all." His death by depression came as such a shock to society because we couldn't see his pain -we'd just grown to love him as the "funny guy" on tv.
The shock of his suicide got me thinking about what personalities are most at risk of ever suffering from these debilitating illnesses.
A recent conversation with a good friend  really hit home.
For those of you who don't know me, I'm a bright, bubbly, loud, life loving, go getter who loves to be challenged, never shuts up and would describe myself as a generally optimistic - glass half full type of girl.
So when I was diagnosed with depression, it shocked a lot of people - "but she's not sad - she's always so happy!"
When this particular friend asked her father, a qualified mental health nurse, "guess which one of my friends has recently been diagnosed with depression?" he instantly replied " Kirsty, " much to her bewilderment; she just couldn't believe that out of all of her friends, he'd chosen me, the one that she almost thought was least likely to ever suffer.
When she asked him why he thought this, he said that often it's the least likely people that we think, that usually have depression. It's the one's who do always seem happy, who are high achievers, perfectionists, full of energy, very active and social butterflies who can often secretly be battling their own demons and negative ruminations.
Yet when we think of depression we think of sadness - so why does it occur to some of the "happiest people" out there?
One memory from my illness would be trudging up to a computer lab after I'd just seen my psychologist. Unlike previous bouts of anxiety, my psychologist knew that something was different this time, and suspected that I was also suffering from depression.
I couldn't quite bring my head around the idea of admitting, or accepting that me, yes I, had been labelled with thisillness, so of course, being the nerdy perfectionist that I was, I needed to do my research.
So I logged into the computer and jumped on to the Beyond Blue website searching for answers - was what I feeling really depression?
I remember my eyes welling up with tears as I started reading the causes for depression, thinking me oh my, I was a train wreck waiting to happen.
As I worked my way down the list, I realised that I pretty much ticked every box in the "personailities at risk" descriptions;
"Personality – Some people may be more at risk of depression because of their personality, particularly if they have a tendency to worry a lot, have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, are sensitive to personal criticism, or are self-critical and negative" (http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/what-causes-depression)
What my bubbly personality hid was a girl inside who had little no faith in her own abilities. Before this point in my life, I had never really thought of myself as a perfectionist, but when I thought about it, I really was - it was 100% or nothing and I would spend so much energy and time making sure that everything was bang on, running to schedule, grammer free, structured, t's crossed and i's dotted, that I didn't realise that what I was seeking was "perfection" (what mind you, perfection is I'm not sure - but I thought I could find it!)

I would overthink every situation, worrying about whether I'd said the right thing, or made the right decision, and I would cringe at the thought of personal criticism because in my eyes it was just that, criticism and never constructive.

But these are the character traits that often, only those closest to us really see, and can be hidden quite easily through a confident front; I guess that's why a bubbly personality can be deceiving.

It made me realise that perhaps I had my perceptions about mental illness all wrong - perhaps it's the happy, confident, high flying, "seem to have it all together" people who we should be keeping a caring eye on.

Stress can play a huge role in our lives whether we like it or not, opening up the potential for unmanageable stress to trigger off chemical levels in our brain that are linked to mental illness. Everyone suffers different kinds of stress in life from financial to relationship stress, work related anxieties, and health issues - and one things for sure - mental illness does not discriminate.

So what I've learnt through my experience, and my research, is that anyone, at anytime can be at risk, and suffering myself has created an inbuilt radar that monitors not only my stress levels, but picks up on the vibes of those around me.

Often it is the least likely people whom we think - that are suffering.

My biggest advice for anyone out there is to take particular note to behavioural changes in the people in your life - if someone who is usually bright bubbly and outgoing stops answering your messages, declines invitiations to socialise, and just generally seems "off" then it's definitely worth asking them how they are going, and actually making the time to stick around and listen to what they have to say.

If on the other hand, someone who is usually an introvert starts going out and partying, dabbling in drugs, taking unnecessary risks and doesn't quite seem themself, then this can also be viewed as "someone at risk" of pain and suffering on the inside.

So which personalities are most at risk of suffering from a mental illness?

According to Beyond Blue, it's people just like me - the bright bubbly, life loving optimistic ones!

Maybe not the people who you think?!


Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxxx


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