All I need is for more people to ask about my depression

Warning, some readers may find this post triggering.

 

Hello. I’m Harvey. I have liver disease. I have Crohn’s Disease. I have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I also have Depression. Not a lot of people know that; that I have depression. They know about the other things. Because I tell them. If I’m out, and they see I’m not drinking alcohol, I tell them about my Liver Disease. If I am having a flare-up and am running off to the toilet every hour, I tell them about my Crohn’s Disease. If I go from crackerjack to walking dead in a matter of minutes, I tell them about the chronic fatigue.

Depression is never an easy conversation

Should they ask if there’s something wrong with me, and I mean really wrong with me, I just say I’m having a bad day. I do this because, for me, it just isn’t worth the hassle of explaining depression to someone who doesn’t have it. It isn’t just the physical reaction of them going “oh”, and then struggling to ask what they think is the right question, it is the emotional task of opening oneself up to the critique of someone who probably knows little about it; it’s never an easy conversation. This is perhaps the eternal plague of depression – it is so painful, so impossible to imagine and to explain, that anyone who doesn’t have it must, by default, be utterly unaware of what it is and, more succinctly, what it does to you.

Hello. I’m Harvey. And I’m having a bad day.

But I’m not really. I am having a terrible day. In fact I’m having a terrible week, a terrible month, a terrible year.

I don’t enjoy the idea that I am putting my difficulties onto the shoulders of others

See, that makes you uncomfortable, doesn’t it; hearing that my life is terrible. Given the option, you would choose against hearing it. Suddenly you have been burdened with information that cannot be unheard or miscommunicated. And you’ll never see me in the same way again. That’s why I don’t tell people I have depression. It is unfair on them. One person having a bad day is enough, even if the second was kind enough to ask. I don’t enjoy the idea that I am putting my difficulties (and such profound ones) onto the shoulders of others, in spite of the fact that they’re probably willing and able to take some of the weight off of my own.

Hi. I’m Harvey. I’m just having a really bad day.

Something unexplainable went wrong. Nobody should feel this alone. Nobody deserves this level of loss, this anguish, this unfaltering state of defeat, this spinelessness, this worry. This cocktail of misery that is force-fed to you by your brain, the very tool designed to keep you alive, and you drown in it very quickly, floundering in this ocean of agony, hands vainly grasping for the remaining shreds of your humanity that your mind contrives to keep out of reach.

People think depression is self-indulgence with a scary name

And they have the audacity to tell me that sometimes, everyone feels like I feel now. Nobody likes being alone, everyone has bad thoughts. Nobody thinks they’re perfect. Everyone wonders what it is like to be unloved.

And to them I wish I could say, “Not like this, they don’t. This is an infection". It tells me that there is no point in living. My day only truly begins when I am left alone with my thoughts. That’s when the battle starts. And it is one minor battle in a life-long war; a war that, if lost, will take from me my right to live.

But I keep quiet. I say something completely different, trivial or mundane.

Hi. I’m Harvey. Don’t worry about me. I’m just having a bad day.

I have spoken to friends (and family) who regard depression with scepticism and cynicism, who genuinely think that it is self-indulgence with a scary name. At first, I hate them for saying these things – they often don’t know they’re talking to someone who can vouch for its undoubted existence and its destructive power. Then I have to take a step back and realise that, to someone who doesn’t know… to someone who cannot know, sorry, it must very much seem like self-indulgence. The same can be said of other diseases that have not been diagnosed. Appendicitis can be described as ‘cramp’, migraine can start off as ‘headache’, even some cancers can make their presence known by causing its sufferer to vomit or fever, like any run of the mill ‘bug’.

The difference between depression (and many other mental health issues) and other ‘physical’ diseases is that people maintain their critical stance after a diagnosis has been made. For example, I doubt you would say, “Hey, have you tried, like… not having diabetes?” to someone who clearly has diabetes.

I don’t know why people persist in mythologizing depression as a simple sadness so, when people ask if I’m okay I just reply, giving them a safe answer to a safe question.

Hi. I’m Harvey. And I’m having a bad day.

All I need is for more people to ask

Here’s the thing, though. All I need is for more people to ask, and I’ll be more willing to tell. I think that a major issue with depression is that many people seem adamant that it either does not exist or they feel that it is acceptable to ignore. It is almost beyond taboo. It isn’t feared or spoken of in whispers, it is downright neglected. That’s scary, don’t you think? That people are taking their lives? As a last chance saloon to rid themselves of torment, people willingly kill themselves because, for them, it is easier than continuing to live. While people allow this ‘idea’ of depression to inform their opinions on it, as opposed to embracing the truth of it, this will keep on happening. But there is a simple solution: when you ask someone if they’re okay, mean it. This a situation that could so easily be countered by a caring friend or a culture that supports those experiencing mental health – we need people know it is okay to admit to having a problem and that will not happen while mass opinion dictates that mental health is simply a whinge that went too far.

Hi. I’m Harvey. And I’m having a bad day.

Consider this my personal plea. Don’t allow me to just say this and carry on with my day. I have depression. So do many other people. This is me begging you to do some research. Understand what I face every day. Tell others what you have learnt about depression. It all starts with everyone realising that this isn’t some game. This isn’t angst. This is very real and very dangerous. It’s crushing people, like me, who feel that they cannot speak to anyone about the difficulties they face on a daily basis.

You must understand. When I say “I’m having a bad day”, that’s not what I mean.

I’m keeping a last, secret bit to myself.

Because I’m terrified of how you’ll react.

Hi. I’m Harvey. I’m having a bad day. And I’m crying out for help.

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Comments

This is an amazing blog post.

This is an amazing blog post. It explains what I've been feeling for so long about feeling like I have to keep my mental health problems to myself.

Thank you

Thanks for your comments, Lewis. I feel your pain when you say how you feel forced to stay silent - as you can tell from my post, I have felt it, too. If I am able to make even one person feel better about themselves or their illness, my article has done its job, and this effort has been worth it. I must admit, it was not easy for me to publicise these thoughts and feelings - I am still terrified someone I know will read it and know it is me - but I have to say this: The difficulty of keeping this to myself far outweighed that of sharing it. I hope you are okay, and I hope you are living a fulfilled and worthy life; we're all entitled to one, no matter what anybody else may say.

Harvey's blog

Hi Harvey, My name is Jo. Today is a good day for me, I have many of them. People who don't know me well say, "oh my goodness.... I can't believe you have depression! You are always so happy!" That is when they see me. By it's very nature, my 'gloom' keeps me out of the public eye. My heart goes out to you Harvey. I am lucky enough to have a few good friends and, in the last 5 months, a lovely, understanding man in my life. I have always been open about my depression and the treatments and therapies I have recieved in the last 20 years, (basically everything you can imagine!). Surprisingly, my family are the ones I avoid when I am in a depression. My wish for you would be to feel you have at least one person in your life that can support you. The more people that you tell, the more likely that will be. I totally understand the feeling about, not wanting to burden anyone by telling them but do you know what??? It doesn't! How do I know? Because, the lovely man I am now in a very happy relationship with, also has depression, and he is as caring, gentle and loving when he is down as he is when he is up. The 'only' difference is the way he feels inside. He is still my lovely man. He says I am still his lovely Jo, when I am down. we don't bring each other down. I hope you accept yourself for who you are, that can make the suffering less, even if the pain is there. I don't know how old you are or how long you have suffered Harvey. All I can say is don't give up hope. Sadly, due to my illness, it did affect my daughter. She saw me go in and out of hospital for months at a time. We are still dealing with the effects of that. She is 21 now. Our paths will never be smooth but I have learned to deal with whatever comes my way and I hope you will too. Take care Harvey and thank you for writing your blog. I wish you many happy moments in your life. Warmest wishes, Jo x

Depression is never an easy conversation ... Too true.

Harvey, it's like you're writing what happens in my mind. Your article is so eloquent. "...have you tried ..not having diabetes?" Not wanting to burden others with the truth is another familiar aspect. There is still stigma, though it seems to be becoming less overwhelming. I do talk about my depression and anxiety, and am lucky to have people around me I can be honest with, but they are a select few. Mostly, like you, the truth about the depth of the feelings stays inside. Thank you for your bravery in sharing.

Thank you

Hi Lisame It is nice to hear your words from two different perspectives: 1- that you find my article eloquent, and you feel I have reached out to you somehow; 2 - that, as a fellow sufferer of Depression, you have a small network of friends and/or family in whom you can confide. As always, I'm sorry you have to go through these hardships. Pain is bad, no matter how small or great. I just hope that my article gives you the confidence to share your own experiences. I can guarantee that saying something will help you no end. Imagine you Depression as garbage in your body. If you let it sit there, it will start smelling, and get diseased. One of your priorities should be to remove that garbage as soon as you start to notice its smell. You'll be much happier this way :) Keep smiling, Harvey

Harvey's blog post on depression

Thanks Harvey. I can so identify with all you have written. I have had comments ranging from ...I feel sorry for myself.....people don't like me because they have seen me cry....(rarely as I hide it within)....I am attention seeking....Such basic ignorance and lack of understanding makes the inner isolation, pain and hopelessness so much worse. The amount of energy I have used to hide my illness because of such comments just to feel accepted is draining and isolating. I long to tell those close to me how bad my depression can be and the terrible reality of what this illness does to you. ..both mentally and physically. When I have tried most have been dismissive or hurtful in their response. The few people who have understood are those who have experienced this very real illness themselves as they know first hand how untrue and damaging these comments are.

Thank you

Hi Stella It is great to hear that my words have struck a chord with you. My only hope is that they spur you on - nobody wants to face the misery of Depression. I completely agree with you about the energy expended on hiding. It is a mystery to me why Depression can be so exhausting. Perhaps it is the lack of adrenaline - we all lose our vitality when we're down, and we don't replace our energy with enthusiasm, so it all builds up?? I don't know. I am sorry that other people can make you feel hurt about trying to open up. My only advice is to keep clear of them. Depression is bad enough without willingly surrounding yourself with negative people with negative attitudes, and nothing good will come of them. Hell, this is advice for everyone, regardless of if you have any mental health issues! I hope you are living a full and happy life, one in which depression does not play a big part. It helped for me to write this blog so maybe you could do one, too. Every little helps, and it may just help someone else out, too. :) Harvey

Harvey's blog

Depression is a difficult conversation Harvey, I totally agree with you, but that conversation is nowhere near as difficult as living with depression. My depression is a living, breathing entity which makes me have to fight with everything I have to just get out of bed in a morning. That makes me feel ashamed. It makes me feel guilty. It makes me wish that when I go to bed I won't wake up in the morning. I want to thank you for starting this conversation, for being honest and brave and for being yourself. People in my life wince when they I ask me how I am, and I give them the same response that you do...I'm having a bad day. I try to keep IT away from them, perhaps to protect them, perhaps to protect me. All I know is by reading what you have to say I feel a little less alone. I wish you well Harvey.

Harvey's blog post on depression

Brilliant....well written. I just identified my own situation with everything you wrote.....and it helps to see that in print, in a strange way. well done, that was very brave. Kev

Hi Harvey. I feel the exact

Hi Harvey. I feel the exact same my family just don't wanna know and I also feel if I open up to my friends they will treat me different. Speaking about it has always been the hardest part. This is my first time ever on a blog and after reading yours I feel a lot more at peace that I've found people who feel the same, who know what a bad day feels like and that it's easier to say 'I'm okay'. Thank you for taking that leap and putting this blog up its a very inspirational bit of writing. Hope all is good and the bad days are few and far between.

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