What’s the Difference Between Being Bummed Out and Depressed?
When I was 20 my boyfriend broke up with me. It wasn’t a long term thing; we’d only been together for three months (!) but I was a romantic, a lover of epic proportions – though I’d never actually been in love. When Aaron pursued me, I was shocked. This cute boy, likes me? Really?
Up until this point I’d never really had a boyfriend I felt attracted to. I’d had one relationship with a boy who I soon realised I liked more as a friend. I never felt the desire to jump his bones and my heart never yearned for him. When we broke up it was unanimous. We both agreed to go our separate ways and I was sad only because it meant we probably wouldn’t hang out in a group with our friends anymore. The only pang I felt was one of: He was a nice guy, I wish I could have liked him more.
The Break-up that Bummed Me Out
So when I started dating Aaron it was different. I liked him. He was tall and handsome. He had bright green eyes, a cheeky grin and dimple in his left cheek. He made my heart flutter. On top of this he seemed to like me too. Like really like me. He’d surprise me at work – waltzing into the video store a managed – with a coffee and a pastry. Or he’d pick me up and take me out to dinner. He called me and if he missed my call he’d call me back.
That was until we slept together. As soon as things became intimate he got a bit weird. He started talking about his ex-girlfriend – she was his first love – and stopped calling as much. I know, red flag!
I didn’t read him right and instead of pulling back and giving him space I became more besotted, I wrote him poems – yes, poems. I even hid one in a seashell and snuck it into his overnight-bag for him to discover when he returned home. Like I said I was a hopeless romantic. And I was awesome. Who wouldn’t love to find a poem hidden in a seashell???
When he broke up with me over the phone late one night, I really didn’t see it coming. It hit my like a punch in the gut and I literally ran to the bathroom and threw up.
The next day at drama school I was a mess. I was a snivelling heartbroken maiden, venting my hurt to all who would listen. I couldn’t eat for days. I cried myself to sleep. I was bummed out and miserable. I was mad I’d wasted my fearless heart on him. Would I ever have the nerve to hide a poem in a seashell for someone again? But I was not depressed. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want the earth to swallow me, neither did I ponder at how other people enjoyed life. No. That black dog was yet to come.
Bummed out or Depressed?
Life can be cruel and unpredictable. It doesn’t always give us warning before it deals a nasty blow. We can be pottering through our day when suddenly we are knocked off our feet by terrible news. Sometimes, these blows can be the straw that broke the camel’s back; if we’re already fighting the slow burn of depression, it can poor petrol on the fire, igniting a full on blaze. But usually, there’s a distinct difference between being bummed out and depressed.
Being bummed out – like I was when stupid Aaron broke my heart – is a very different feeling to depression. Depression is a funny fish. It’s funny because it sneaks up on you, like an invisible cat that climbs onto your shoulder one day. You don’t notice it at first, but the cat gets fatter and fatter, until it’s practically a 250kg Bengal tiger grinding you into the dirt, growling in your ear.
A Lifelong Battle with Depression
I suffered from depression from an early age. At 10 years old, I recall a feeling of pointlessness. A bleakness about life. My parents would announce a trip to the pools and I’d smile and nod, but my heart felt heavy. What’s the point? I would think with a sigh in my heart. It’s all boring. Who even finds life fun?
As I got older, the depression was combined with one cup of obsessive thoughts and two cups of anxiety. After a session of overthinking I’d usually plummet into a pit of darkness, struggling to get out of bed in the morning in a way that’s more about hopelessness than tiredness.
Thankfully, in my case, depression came in waves. I would sink into it for a few weeks, feeling the burden of that cat become heavier and heavier, then I’d wake up one morning and the tiger would be gone. Poof. Of to chase pigeons.
When I felt better, it was as if the dark times had never been there. But over the years the dark times got more and more frequent, and that fat tiger became harder to shake off. For years I lived with depression, thinking it was just normal, that everyone had it or that it was my fault; a personality flaw.
Having a Breakdown
When I finally had a break down, there was no straw that broke the camel’s back in my case. No break up. No getting fired from a dream job or losing a loved one. For me it was as if I’d finally reached my quota of coping. As if I were a mason jar and my depression allotment had reached the brim and began to spill out.
One day I just snapped. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. The tiger was back but this time it wasn’t on my shoulders weighing me down, it was on my chest, compressing my lungs and I could not breathe. My palms dripped sweat and my muscles contracted. I had an acute panic attack that lasted six weeks. It took three weeks, meeting with my GP and my psychologist, to be prescribed medication. Then another three weeks for that medication to kick in. But once it did, my mind started to ease.
Implementing Boring Self Care
Once I was well enough, I started to do some soul searching with the help of my psychologist. What had caused my attack? Where did it come from? Before I lost my shit, I was sure that I was happy with my life. But it turned out I was far from it. I worked in a job that killed my soul; an office job, that neither paid well, made use of my talents, nor made me feel good about myself. It was simply what I thought I deserved so I’d forced myself to suck it up and get on with it.
But when I started to dig below the surface, I realised I’d been sick for a very long time. I’d been living with the tiger for so long that I’d started to think it was part of me. In those brief times the tiger climbed off me, he just been at my feet, waiting. I hadn’t been practicing self-care and I‘d forced myself to live without the things that make my heart sing – like writing, singing, acting, creating and moving my body.
Now, after having two kids and fighting Post Natal Depression with both of them, I have learnt to keep a pretty strict Boring Self-Care regime. I try to get as much sleep as my kids allow; eight hours being ideal. I exercise at least four days a week and do my best not to leave it more than three or I start to feel down. I eat as well as I can, listening to my body, and noticing that sugar, while good at the time, makes me feel irritable and depressed. I sing as often as I can – which is known to release oxytocin – and I write daily.
Making Sure Bummed Out Doesn’t Turn into Depression
Keeping a few simple things in check helps me. It means that when life throws me a curly one – and inevitably life does – I can cope. While I may stomp and cry and throw my toys, feeling totally bummed out, I can feel in my heart that I am not depressed. I can feel that I don’t want to die; on the contrary, I want to live and this damn roadblock (whatever it may be) is getting in the way of that!
When the blows come I give myself a pep talk. I hold myself tight and say: This is really shit, but as shit as it is, we can get through this. There is no tiger on our shoulders. Life is amazing! So let’s find a way through this challenge and get back to living!
Struggling with Depression?
If you’re not sure whether you’re bummed out or depressed but just feel generally meh all day every day, I’d say it’s time to head to your GP for a chat. There’s also a checklist here that can help.
Being a woman/mother/lover/maid/CEO, can be hard dear unicorns, but life is too short to tolerate feeling less than awesome. If you are struggling, seek help. You are worth it. You are a God Damn Magical Unicorn and you deserve to be happy.
Need Help? Please speak out:
LifeLine: 0800 543 354
Suicide Prevention Helpline: 0508 828 865
Youthline: 0800 376 633
Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team: 0800 745 477