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3 Subtle Warning Signs That My Depression Is Worsening

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Whenever I read an article after someone dies by suicide, I see a common quote: “I didn’t know they were going through a tough time.” I have depression and anxiety, first diagnosed in January 2016, and over the years I have noticed my signs, or my tells, of when I’m going through depression have changed. I’m a quiet person, but with my first year of depression I become so quiet that people were genuinely surprised I talked or had the ability to smile. Now, you wouldn’t know I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

I can go to work and act like nothing is wrong, be professional, and complete all my tasks as if nothing is wrong, while on the inside I’m stewing in negative self-hate for small inconveniences and am one second away from snapping at someone for asking me a simple question. Some warning signs of a person who has a mental health condition may be obvious, and they also may be very subtle.

Among the lists of common warning signs of a mental health condition or a change in mental health include the following: lack of interest, sleeping too much, not sleeping enough, social withdrawal, mood changes, and appetite or weight changes. Of the items listed, these are very visible and large changes. However, the changes may be very subtle.

For example, I have three subtle signs for when I’m going through depression and anxiety:

1. Change in clothing and appearance

I am a quadruplet, and for my family to tell myself apart from my three sisters, I was given green as an indicator. Ever since I’ve loved green and at least one article of clothing I wear every day is a shade of green. On very rare occasions I would wear an outfit that didn’t have any green in it. I have been told by my peers that they would notice if I ever showed up somewhere not wearing green. When my depression is taking over, I dress for comfort and wear all black. The longest stretch I have worn all black was four months and only my sisters noticed. My peers who said they would pay attention and call me out when I don’t wear green, never said anything. However, they will notice when I am wearing green.

2. Change in time management

I have a good handle on time management, but when I’m depressed, I procrastinate as much as time will allow. For example, my work schedule is Tuesday – Saturday. Sunday and Monday would be the best days to go to the grocery store. And yet, I will convince myself it can wait because Sunday and Monday are my only two days off from work and for one of those days, I prefer to do absolutely nothing. I also live with my three sisters, so if they go to the store before me on a Sunday or Monday, I will justify not going to the store as they already took care of the grocery list. So, when it reaches the point where I must go to the grocery store, I’ll go before work, which then causes my workday to drag long, and brings up negative self-talk for not going to the grocery store sooner.

3. Change in cleaning habits

Doing laundry isn’t one of my favorite tasks to do for chores. I have no problem washing my clothes, but I dread folding it and putting it away. When I’m in a good space, I will do my laundry once a week. While struggling with my depression and anxiety, I will leave my clothes on my bedroom floor instead of putting it in the hamper. I will also put off doing laundry for when I have time after work. This may go on for three weeks before I do my laundry. From this, my hamper will be filled with clothes that were dirty, which I then washed, and will sit in the basket clean. In turn, the dirty clothes I now need to wash that I dumped on the floor will sit there until I fold and put my clean clothes away to make room for the dirty clothes to go into the hamper. As a result, I’m constantly running out of clothes and my bedroom floor is a mess. This cycle repeats itself until I can step out of my depression and get back on track.

The warning signs of a mental health condition are different for each person. They may line up with the usual signs, and affect a person’s habits, preferences, and even inhibitions. Take a second to give someone your full attention when you think they may be facing a mental health condition, and you may be able to better help provide them some support.

Getty image by Luis Alvarez

Originally published: July 11, 2022
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