A first I didn’t quite know what was wrong, but I was certain something was amiss. I started to get very tired, slept a lot, lost interest in hobbies or seeing friends. I was irritable, cranky and isolated myself. I took comfort in eating and locked myself in my room watching TV.
I felt breathless all the time and constantly had an impending sense of doom. I felt alone, scared, hopeless and even self-loathing. I couldn’t remember where one day ended and the next started. I found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. Weeks went by in one big blur.
In work, my first thought was how much I wanted to get back to bed. I just tried to forget everything for as long as possible before I’d have to get up to face another dull, hopeless day.
Bleak and scary
Something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know what. My first step was to call my mother. Even just the fact that she knew helped. But not enough. Unfortunately, I had to get to the stage where I couldn’t stop crying and I lashed out uncontrollably one night. It was bleak and scary for those who had no idea I’d been feeling so bad for so long.
That’s the thing about depression. It manifests itself in such a sneaky way. Sometimes you feel so isolated you begin to feel you’re making it all up. “There’s nothing wrong with me, what would I have to be sad about? I should count myself lucky – how can I be so self-centred?”. I just pushed all my feelings away hoping they’d eventually leave for good.
Had I known more about depression, I’d have been much better equipped with how to deal with it. I now realise I have suffered from it many times throughout my life, I just didn’t know at the time.
I have been called “crazy” and “selfish” and have felt very ashamed and guilty about my depression. I felt like it was all my fault and that I was a terrible person. However, through counselling, medication and surrounding myself with positivity and the right support, I have overcome the stigma and feel stronger for it. It’s not easy, but it’s a damn sight easier than the feeling you’re spiralling out of control.
But why is it that I still hardly speak about it? For fear of making people uncomfortable? I think I even let stigma about depression cloud my own judgement sometimes and that stops me talking about it. Finally, I have the courage to speak about it now.
Normal to talk this way
Talking about all this helps so much. It has become so normal in my family that we are at the stage when we sit down to dinner and my brother turns to me and asks “So, how’s the depression?”, just like he’s asking “So, isn’t the weather terrible?”. It makes me smile at just how simple and easy and normal it is to talk this way. Isn’t it shocking that we can’t all talk so openly about something so ordinary?
Today I’m very happy in my skin. I get up each morning and count myself lucky. I make an effort to make the day joyful. I’m kind to myself, I find different ways of occupying my mind and, most importantly, I’m alert to any symptoms of recurrence.
Positivity is key
I don’t let my depression define me. I just need to know what to do when it pops up again. I know it doesn’t have to feel that way. Everyone has different ways of dealing with things, I don’t ignore my feelings, but I don’t dwell on them either. The key is positivity.
A lot of people view a mental health problem as being a weakness and a nuisance. They take the view that you should just “snap out of it and get over yourself”. I put that down to ignorance and fear.
In this day and age it should be as normal to talk about going to see a counsellor as it is to talk about going to the doctor. It’s just another part of our health that needs tending to every now and then.