Being an extrovert with depression

Despite the catchy title, I’ll say now that I’m more of an introverted extrovert; I like going out, spending time with people, but I also love to curl up with a good book or write. 

I am both sides of the coin, but I favour the loud, chatty side as I thrive off being with people and helping them.

Therefore it probably isn’t surprising that (looking back) when I had depression I didn’t know what it was and didn’t understand it until several years later. 

I was formally diagnosed with depression at 19 and my therapist said that (from what I’d explained) I’d been depressed for the past three to four years. 

I was shocked.

I’d done my GCSE’s in that time, gone to university, made new friends, been on nights out. I couldn’t be depressed, right?

My initial reaction was that I didn’t want it. I wanted to get rid of it and get as far away from it as humanly possible. I told very few people about the diagnosis, perhaps just my Mum and boyfriend at the time and then I never saw that particular therapist again. 

It isn’t something you can run away from, but it was the beginning of being able to identify why I did certain things that didn’t feel or seem like me. 

In sixth form I missed a considerable amount of school. My mornings would consist of being unable to get out of bed and telling my Mum I wasn’t going to school, which was met with a lot of resistance (understandably).

On most of these occasions my Mum would send me to school all the same and on the others I’d eventually get up and revise. 

I remember I wanted to be invisible. I wanted people to forget that I existed so I could have some peace and do whatever I needed to do to feel better. No responsibilities or rigid school timetables, just a pocket of time and space outside of the every day to just be. 

I didn’t know why I couldn’t get up. I felt sad, I really struggled to be normal at school and talk about my day, my lessons, how I felt. I didn’t mean to push people away, but it happened as a result of my behaviour and as I didn’t notice until about a year later that I was effectively the issue it was too late to repair a good proportion of those friendships. 

Yet, some of my friendships grew during that time.

We’d sit together and either I’d listen and laugh along with the conversation, or we’d complain about life. I had a varied group of friends and no one ever tried to be anything other than themselves and I appreciated that. We were all different, but that was what made us happy. 

The worst thing about having depression is that you aren’t yourself when you’re depressed. 

I think of myself (and have been described as) bubbly or vibrant. I was a smiley, happy child eager to do everything and anything, I was as busy as a child can be with drama groups, singing groups, scouts, camps, rehearsals, dancing, swimming (the list could go on and on). 

So getting depression was something I didn’t see coming and had no idea what the hell it was and neither did my family.

We all coped differently after my Dad’s death, but I was the only one who struggled to be normal and go to school, make it through lessons, concentrate, connect with people. This only added to my guilt as I physically couldn’t do what they did. 

I didn’t know if it was because I was weaker or I made it worse, it was as though I was standing a few steps away from myself watching it happen but being unable to stop it. I had a lot of self-loathing at this time as I didn’t like who I was or what I did when I was depressed and I didn’t think that people would believe me or know that I was different as it happened for so long. 

Thankfully my depression improved over the course of university. It had low points as all university experiences do, but it was a time of emotional growth and personal reflection. 

Being an extrovert with depression is hard to explain and it’s often met with anger either at myself or by others as no one can understand why you don’t want to do things you’d normally love.

I just felt like I couldn’t or didn’t have the energy to do and I didn’t really know why, it was how I felt and it was very hard to resist it at times. 

Breaking through that feeling took a lot of work and a lot of forcing myself to go to things that I didn’t feel like doing at the time, because I knew that I’d feel 1000 times better for going than cancelling. 

It’s a long road, but the more I did it, the more I went, the more I felt like myself, the bubbly sociable Jess. Not Jess with depression. 

Having depression is like watching your life happen around you. You know you’re a different person on the inside to what the depression is making you do, but it’s so hard to bring the real you to the outside. 

I wouldn’t suggest to fake it till you make it, but definitely push through it. Go to things that you don’t feel like, reach out when you feel down or lost, try to connect in a small way or do something that feels like a step for you. 

For me, the main thing that helped was talking about it. First to my counsellor, then to my Mum and then to my friends. My friends have often commented how open I am now to when I first met them, I’m more me than I perhaps was before, but they’ve always been my friend regardless of if I’m down or not. 

In my third year at university I went to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which was life-changing. It blew my mind. 

My therapist was excellent and he recommended reading The Confidence Gap to reinforce everything we discussed within the sessions. CBT was expensive, but some of the best money I’ve ever spent. 

I still don’t always feel that I am the person on the outside that I feel I am on the inside, I slip up, I fall into old habits, but the difference is I can recognise that. Then I work on it so it doesn’t happen again. 

You aren’t yourself when you’re depressed, it’s like living in someone else’s body and living their life. There’s no purpose, no go-getter, nada. 

You’re a shell waiting to be filled with life again. 

But the more you try, the more you reach out, the better it gets. 

While I was studying at university, my Mum came to visit and we popped into town. There were some stalls in the square and one of them was for the charity, Mind. My Mum said, ‘shall we go and have a look?’ and she picked up some leaflets about local support and a leaflet about depression. 

I then cried. That was the moment (I remember) that I knew she understood and most of all believed me. My Mum believed that I wasn’t putting it on or trying to be difficult, I really couldn’t get out of bed. She believed me and that meant more than being better, as I wasn’t alone. 

Having depression is like being trapped in a pit and knowing that you are the only one who can climb out of it.

They might not be in the pit with you, but there will be someone that can help you and support you during that time. You will climb out of the pit yourself, but someone will give you a helping hand. 

The small steps make a huge difference with depression and if you are struggling then break it down to something tiny. It might even be just leaving the house to go for a short walk.

Small steps feel like huge wins as you’re doing something that you want to do, rather than what depression makes you do. 

Depression is a lifelong companion; when it comes into your life, you can’t get rid of it, instead you can manage it with the right support and guidance. 

You are not your depression, depression is separate to you.

Having depression doesn’t mean that you are a depressing person or a mood hoover or whatever, that is the depression. You can still be the vibrant person you feel like on the inside (and that you know you are) you just have to keep taking steps forward so the depression begins to move to the side to allow you to come through. 

This is part of a series of posts for Mental Health Awareness Week, you can read my previous posts about removing blame from mental illness here and anxiety here.

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