April 4, 2016

I was diagnosed with depression in 2009 and anxiety soon followed. Having lost a 9 year relationship, several professional jobs and a number of friends due to the effects of the condition, I now consider it my most defining feature. After enduring thoughts of suicide, several episodes of self harm and numerous panic attacks, the idea of this life limiting condition being something that I could just shrug off and get over became as ridiculous as asking a terminal cancer patient to look on the bright side. Having lost a close friend to cancer at the age of 33 and another friend to depression related suicide at 34, I have experienced the trauma that physical and mental illness cause and there isn't really much between them. When somebody you love dies as the result of an illness, it hurts in the same way.

After seeing numerous therapists and trying two different types of antidepressants, I am still battling with my condition every day. Alongside the condition itself, I also battle ignorance. People have said things like "yeah, but you laugh when you watch comedy and you smile you eat nice food, you mustn't be sad all the time." Those who have depression will probably be silently seething as they read that, those who have no experience of it will be wondering what the problem is. Depression is not sadness. That's something that needs to be firmly established. It's a complicated disease that causes physical and emotional problems that dramatically impact on a person's ability to function. Being able to laugh at a comedy show or smile when you taste a well cooked meal doesn't mean you're suddenly ok, it just means for that moment, you are enjoying the thing that you're experiencing. The brick wall of negativity and lethargy that prevents you from getting out of bed or going to a social event is always there. Sometimes it's just a little bit easier to climb over than others.

My friends and family have been as supportive as they could possibly be and I feel lucky to know so many people who tell me they can be there for me in times of crisis. Unfortunately, unless you have experienced depression and anxiety, it's almost impossible to conceive what it really feels like. This is where the advice and suggestions will come in. Have you tried running? painting? meditating? It might help you feel better if you join a gym! The well meaning suggestions are relentless and quite frankly, exhausting. Although the resources available for mental health treatment are stretched at the moment, I will always favour my GP's advice over that of a misguided but well meaning friend.

At this point, I have learned to recognise some of my symptoms. Among many others, they are: Clumsiness, forgetfulness, self doubt and criticism that goes beyond every day neurosis. I often try to discuss these symptoms with friends in order to help myself organise my thoughts. Although it might not seem like much, it is absolutely devastating when somebody tells me "that happens to all of us, mate." It feels as if all of the work I have done to identify the physical and emotional symptoms of my condition was completely futile. It sends me back to the start of this horrible journey when I thought you could get over a mental health problem by just "getting on with it." You can't. I am currently on a waiting list for high intensity therapy as well as some medication but in the mean time, I am reliant on my GP and the support of my friends and family.

What I will suggest, is that if you are helping somebody get through depression, anxiety or worse, both, please try to listen to them. That's something that is said a lot when mental health problems are mentioned, but few seem to understand what it really means. Just listening and empathising, without offering suggestions or advice is the most effective form of support I have ever been given. One or two people who have been through the situation themselves have done this for me and it felt incredible. As I waited for the rundown of "things I can try" like a sledgehammer made of well intentioned advice, a glorious silence descended on the room and my friend just sat there. He told me he wished he could make it go away but he couldn't. He also told me that any time I wanted to talk about how I was feeling, he would listen. That sounds like almost nothing, but it is more helpful and supportive than any suggestion you could possibly think of. 

​What do you think of the issues raised in Matt's blog? Tell us in the comments

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.

Comments

Listening not fixing

Thanks for what you shared. My husband leaks positive comments and tries to offer fixes usually in the form of cycling or walking. I was suicidal for 3 months last year and it was hard to breathe let alone cycle and hike. I know he means well but I find his constant suggestions exhausting. He also talks a lot about how hard it is living with my illness. I had to remind him that obsessing about dying as well as parenting and doing housework was also a challenge. Thank for your honesty and you're right, just being truly heard can be enormously freeing. Emma

Matts blog

An honest and straightforward account written from the heart. A no nonsense description of living with anxiety and depression.

Matts blog

You're cute. Don't give up.

Great piece

Brilliant piece Mat that I am certain many will relate and be helped by this. X

Matt's blog

This is so true, thanks for being so honest. Hopefully people will read this and refrain from trying to fix or solve people's problems and just listen instead.

Matts blog

I had a tear in my eye reading this.. I have had depression for a long time, some weeks are better than others but even the weeks that are good there is something missing.. Yes being told to get up and do things is really frustrating and Just puts more pressure on me to think that maybe I should just be able to exercise it away or laugh it away and that I bring it on myself!!! just having a wash some days can be a mamouth task!!! I'm looking for support groups as I think talking with other people that deal with this is really a great help for me as most the time I feel so alone and locked in my own head. I also believe under all this fog of depression we are usually upbeat, funny and caring people.... Stay safe everyone and just do the best you can today....

Mental health

Thank you so much Katie, I can really identify with what you said. I also feel just having a wash is beyond what I can do. I just go back to bed and cry hysterically. My husband gave up to look after me, I have lots of wonderful friends but all I can concentrate on is someone who says "I feel depressed sometimes" and they get through it doing cooking. When I can't face even getting out of bed, I can't possibly do cooking. They do mean well and I think sometimes we are trained to come up with a potential solution to any problems, sadly this doesn't work for me, and obviously doesn't work for many people suffering with severe depression. When I don't do the suggested "solution", friends can feel disappointed but they do know I will try once I feel a bit brighter. I have now tried to do voluntary work and it feels great to be doing something for someone else. Don't get me wrong, sometimes the horrid depression takes over and I can't go in but more often than not I will try and when I concentrate on others I do feel a bit brighter.

depression

ur a motivation for me to return back to life.

Important words for Carers to underdstand

A great piece Matt and from a wife who has supported a husband for 18 years with depression, your words ring true as my husband has always said, stop trying to fix things and just listen. In relation to the ignorance that seems to be so prevalent, I think its articles like this that can educate the masses. I will be sharing this piece on my Facebook community page that supports people who provide care and love for loved ones and friends with mental illness ('A Black Dog About The House'). Thank you for your courage.

Thanks Matt!

I appreciate your words Matt as they don't make me feel as bad as i have for not following my cbt modules as well as i'm expecting myself to. After escaping depression last for a year( maybe even being hypomanic during this time) i went completely flat and tumbled back into it. Trying to gym, walk, take tips but apart from my children 18 and 20, there really is no family or friends. I had to take ill health retirement from teaching due to this which arose initially from the death of my brother. I just feel so lost about what to do but i've taken proactive steps and have appt to see psych again who said it wasn't bp last year. I just need some sort of diagnosis i can believe so just i can trust the meds. Even then it is scarey as the meds seem to take a while to get right. Tbh i think i'd be better off talking in a group and assessing where i am as well as being able to give listening 'comfort' and understanding To and from others. Does this sound typical? Once in a depression i seem to lack any clarity. Its just like a fog... Anyway Matt i wish you all the best for your future. Maybe writing a blog will help me to burn the fog away eh?

Honest blog

Thank you Matt for your honest and heartfelt blog and to you too Steve. I tried my very best to support my husband through his depression which he suffered with on and off for many many years. When he was well he wanted to do so much with his life and get out there and be part of everything, travel socialise meet people and be the life and soul. During these times I used to think great I've got my husband back! But slowly he would sink back into a depression and unfortunately I was one of those annoying people who would be suggesting things to do to help, running, walking swimming climbing we tried the lot. But it all got too much and he took his own life last year, my grown up kids and I are devastated and I feel so guilty that I wasn't able to stop him because he loved us so much and wouldn't do a thing to hurt us. I'm sobbing writing this because it's just so hard , all I can say is please please keep going inch by inch and take all the help you can. You are loved.( On reflection I think my husband was bipolar and it was never diagnosed.)

Michelle S, Honest blog

Dear Michelle, Your account of what happened to you and your family is heartbreaking, so, so sorry. I hope you are not feeling as guilty by now because no matter what you had done would probably not have changed the outcome. The brain is just not functioning normally when people take their own lives, I know because I made two attempts - even though when I am in a reasonable state of mind I say I never would because it would hurt my loved ones. I just wanted to send heartfelt thoughts to you. x

Matts Blog

Hi Matt I wish more people could read this it mirrors what has been said to me over the years and the total lack of understanding people have My comment to them is that go and break both my arms and legs because I least I would have a idea of the time it would take to "FIX" that is as you know the not the case Many Thanks for writing this honest piece to me it means a lot and I am not on my own Take Care mate Geo

Keep it up!

People have said things like "yeah, but you laugh when you watch comedy and you smile you eat nice food, you mustn't be sad all the time." Delighted that you're highlighting that being able to smile or laugh for a brief period doesn't make it suddenly ok. Keep up the good work, and thanks for sharing!

Matt's Blog.

Thank you Matt for sharing your story. I suffer from depression and anxiety. Listening, really listening, when someone describes their struggle with mental illness, is very important! I think as human beings we tend to think all silences when with someone should be filled. Hence the platitudes. Your blog was brave, honest and will benefit those with mental illness by letting folks who support them know that silence is OK. Liz x

Matt's Blog

Dear Matt, thank you for sharing your experience, it really helps to know that what you have been through, and are still going through, is something that many of us with depression have to face on a daily basis. Having suffered severe clinical depression myself in the past, I am now in recovery and working full time again, and although I don't now suffer the most debilitating symptoms of depression, recovery is lifelong and I come across some of the things you talk about each and every day, not from family and friends, they are amazingly supportive in the right way, they listen and do not judge, but I do definitely experience prejudice in the workplace (and I work in a mental health unit!). Hopefully your blog will help others in understanding that depression is not just feeling fedup, it's an illness that needs constant work and is not just cured by a pill. I send you healing vibes and many thanks for your courage in sharing.

Matts Blog

Hey Matt. Thanks so much for taking the time to express and share your thoughts and feelings with "the world" Living with depression is tough, all the time. For me, it's what it robs you of that I can find the hardest. Whilst the medication keep you going, they have stolen my true self, my real feelings and the deep inner self that I was. I can no longer express being me, and that I find is the hardest. Society around says it recognises that mental illness is just as hard as a physical illness, but I would suggest it is worse? The stigma and lack of understanding is all around. I don't think that's anyones fault as until you have been hit by mental illness, and lived with it you can never really understand. I also suffer with similar side effects as yourself, and the self doubt is awful. When everything within me is telling me I can't do that, and you're not capable of achieving this, and all the other negativity it is nearly impossible to function. Then my manager will say, "Thanks for being honest" and "at least you've managed into work". To all others suffering a mental illness out there, my best regards. Matt, thanks again for the honesty. Much appreciated.

Listening is a beautiful gift!

Your openness Matt shows such strong character and can only give others hope and inspiration. for all that have been where you are, we understand it truly is hard for people "just" to listen and when they do, what a gift it is! I send you and your wonderful listening friend a massive hug, hang in there Matt, keep talking and keep enjoying those here and now moments xxx :o)

Poor mental health

Every individual on the planet, from the tiniest baby to the oldest adult, has mental health. But let us all remember, some have poor mental health at the moment and some have good mental health. That situation can be reversed in an instant. None are immune. Listening is good and it validates how one feels but sometimes you have to challenge beliefs if they are not true and there is no evidence. You can challenge in a positive way. Take health anxiety, some believe they are dying of certain illnesses. Asking how true is this? What proof do you have? starts the conversation that can have you challenge your thoughts. This helped me. Good luck

Helping someone experiencing depression

Hi Matt, thanks for enlightening comments. I have a friend and relative, both experiencing depression. Both live far away and our only and main means of communication is phone and social media. So how does one 'just listen' to a text, email etc? The last thing I want is for these 2 people I care about thinking I am ignoring them. Thanks for being open about your struggles.

People's Ignorance Is A Problem

That's a good piece of writing and it's helpful. What you described is very familiar to me. I appreciated the way you described what goes on with this kind of thing. People really think you are taking the p**s when you suffer from depression and anxiety. In fact I am so aware of the taboo surrounding it I can't tell most people anyway. There's a lot of "Victorian Work Ethic" behaviourist bs around this subject. It's a bit like that old saying about judging a book by its cover. If people can't 'see' this depression, they simply don't believe it is real. Like you mentioned, I might laugh at something comical in a tv show, I might say "Yum" now and then over some food... but I might also spend three months finding it incredibly difficult to go into my own living room, go out, cook, etc. When your general functioning is not happening at a rate the so-called 'world' expects you to be able to do, you then have anxiety and alienation added to the depression. Worse, you start to feel like a lot of people are hostile towards you. I have had that. You get judged for it. It's exhausting to deal with a psychological burden like this. And to have this kind of pressure and ignorance added to that burden is painful. CBT is behaviourist bs also. Depression cannot perform to a set of standards and "targets", it simply doesn't work like that. It's not a "re-train the robot" scenario. The level of hostility and ignorance around this subject is actually staggering. A culture of ignorance and hostility has actually been encouraged by the media. Occasionally I have had back problems but more than once I have walked down the street with a walking stick and actually had open hostility from people; spitting, comments, groups of people hurling insults. If people can't tolerate that you have a walking stick, they are certainly not going to tolerate that you have an "imaginary illness" called depression. If they don't understand it they want to wipe it out of existence. Fortunately, as you pointed out, there are some people who do understand, and who do listen and who don't judge. But I can count them on one hand compared to the alienation and ignorance that seems to be so prevalent in this supposedly advanced society.

Matt's Blog

Thank you Matt for writing such a real and heartfelt blog. Your entire piece resonates with me and the experiences I have had. I have always been brilliant at appearing happy at moments when it is expected of me but underneath the whole time I experience this enduring and deep emptiness and feelings of utter failure that very few people are able to comprehend. I don't blame them because understanding mental illness is so complex but, like you say, having someone just to listen and not make suggestions or judge is the best thing anybody could do to help me. Sadly I do not feel I am now able to talk about my illness because of the (negative) reaction I have got all used to. My depression started two years ago as a result of incredible stress at work which then led to a complete collapse in my confidence as a lawyer. The feelings of absolute failure that I continue to experience almost every day are sometimes all consuming and result in the negative thoughts that I find it hard to control. I have been waiting for some intense therapy for such a long time that I just hope that when I do eventually arrive at the top of the list that it is not too late. Thank you from the heart for doing something to try and help people to understand the pain of depression and anxiety. Take care of yourself Matt.

A good precise description of depression

Matt brilliant description of how depression feels and no-one can understand it until they have experienced it. People suffering are locked in their own head and nothing seems to get through or make it any better and seems like no escaping it. It takes a while to recognise your own signs of it coming on but when you do, it is sometimes easier to work through it, not always as sometimes the only answer seems to end it all but it really helps to know others feel like this too. A member of my family took their own life with depression and it affects everyone, but talking to someone and good friends who you know are there for you are a real bonus. You are doing well, keep plodding on, take day by day, some are good, some are bad

Matt's Blog

I don't know if I'm depressed or not, but my husband took his own life 4 years ago. I have been given so much advice and do you know what? It doesn't go away. I know I'm still greiving and perhaps I always will and no matter what you do, he still isn't here and that is the only thing that will make me feel better. I've done yoga and he's still gone when I've finished. I've walked, worked, exercised and generally kept as busy as I physically can, without collapsing and he still isn't here. As you articulate so well matt, the best support I have been given is by friends who just let me talk, cry, sob and express how I feel, without trying to fix me. I have been broken and will never be the same again. Some people get that and some just don't. Take care Matt, my heart goes out to you

Matts Blog

I love this. I relate to a lot of it and completely agree that suggestions from people who don't understand are so frustrating. They don't seem to understand that these things don't always help, sometimes they help in the short term but in the long term they just add to the list of things that I (we) can't be bothered doing. Before we can try these things we need to get over that brick wall blocking our way, and just talking and having someone listening to us is the most helpful thing anyone can do. I want to now dedicate myself to helping others with mental health problems as I don't want anyone else to have to go through the experiences I have. So if anyone reading this, anyone at all, wants a chat (even just with someone they don't know, to get a second opinion) then feel free to email me. In fact, please do. I will leave my email at the bottom. I have all the respect in the world for you Matt x sarahmck00[at]live.co.uk

Matt's Blog on Depression

I relate completely to what you are saying. Depression isn't about just being sad. I feel that sad is too small a word for it. I see it as coming to a complete standstill. You can't see a way forward. Whenever I experience depression I feel I just have to sit it out. It always passes but it is excruciating while it lasts. But of course there are moments when you might forget about it for a second but that doesn't mean you are better.

Mentalhealth

Hi I work with people with mental health problems, and I just wanted to say thank u for sharing ur story and helping me to better understand the best way to respond is just to listen and in doing so empathise. Reading this gave me an insight I could never received from any text book so again I thank u and commend ur honesty.

The importance of listening

Thanks Matt My younger brother suffered lifelong depression, which then morphed into drug addiction. He committed suicide 9 years ago, leaving a note "Sorry for all the pain I've caused." His death was as painful as my twin brother's subsequent death from lung cancer. Absolutely heart rending. There were times when I tried to fix him, but over time, I learnt to take him out and listen. he'd phone and sometimes just rant, but I listened. Really listening is a rare gift - and a true gift. I'm glad that you've got family and friends who've learnt to do that. Sending you big hugs (which to me are as important as really listening.)

Thank you Mat

your comments have made be cry. To hear my own thought from someone else was wonderful. Depression and anxiety are debilitating and painful and at times all consuming. Even in the Health service where mental health is supposedly understood decimation and bullying is still prevalent. Good luck to you and any fellow sufferers There is always a light somewhere but not always with you now

Depression

Hi got depression as well and I'm on tablets there certain things going on in my family life that are really upsetting to me but I just need to keep strong as I have a daughter aged 7 to think about

Deprssion and related symptoms

Oh Matt, i do so understand all the points that you raised! for years, i have played the role of someone who can cope, can mange, can smile through it all. I am Asian and our community understands even less. They think that if you are depressed, either you are MAD or POSSESSED. I am neither, but I dare not mention the depression to people of our community and I have learnt to be an amazing actress to the point that sometimes even I doubt myself. I have managed to convince people that I am fine and in fact I am in a better mental state than them and I have learnt to help those who suffer depression by doing just what you have said and the best way that I help is by taking them to their GP and making the GP see what is causing them the problems that they cannot face. I have become a volunteer and run a small organisation for Human Rights and by doing this, I am giving myself the therapy I need. I found that even Psychologists can be very cruel with their comments and can often push people away from asking for help from professionals in this arena. I have a friend/client who went recently to seek mental health advice and she was told that she has made all these problems for herself by her life style and that what she is suffering is what she deserves. She came back a bigger mess than when she went. I submitted a complaint which has given her some self assurance and confidence to fight her fight. Mental Health is an issue that is personal to every individual because something in the walk of your life triggers it. No two are the same, but the symptoms are indeed the same, the pain, the lack of confidence, the forgetfulness, the self doubt, the feeling of impending disaster, the feeling of not belonging, the insomnia, the anxiety,the panic, not being able to converse and ongoing, ongoing doubts and self loathing, then the self harm the urge of turning the mental pain to physical so that you can cope, oh yes, all the same. What hurts Matt is that people judge your day, your outer self and there is no desire to try and look beyond that. even now, 20 years after I walked away from DV, I am unable to look in the mirror, I am unable to find any love for myself, but what I have found is that I can give the help and support to others that I did not have and that is almost a self healing process. I must say that this is not something that I can do daily, I have found that when it is too hard and I cannot manage, I sit alone and cry, that does it for me.

Hello

Hi Bobbie, My friend suffers from depression and I would need someone to help me understand more. i don't know if you have time for me but I found very inspiring what you said here and I would love to talk to you and help me help her more by understanding her struggle and be more what she needs. Thank you. Adela

Matt's Blog

Well done Matt for speaking out and giving people an idea of what this illness feels like. I have been living with depression and anxiety for the last 3 or 4 years. I had various different medications, been through the mental health team, Healthy Minds, On line CBT, mindfullness etc, but none of them have really been the answer. I still feel like a waste of space. I am currently on the highest dose of Venlafaxine which seems better than the previous anti-depressants that I've tried, but it has taken 4 years to get to these. I keep active with running and fitness classes which give a temporary lift to how I feel, but how I wish I could just "snap out of it" as many people suggest. Very few people are prepared to just listen. You barely get the chance to finish a sentence before they are chipping in with what you should do. Even when I got to the suicidal stage I was still told that I'd feel better in a few days. More people like you, Matt, are needed to help break down the judgemental attitudes of the masses. Very brave.

Thanks for sharing some

Thanks for sharing some personal stuff Matt, from what I read I see strength and courage.

Saving myself

I'm desperate to ask you all if anyone is caught on the nhs hierarchy? By this I shall explain..I was diagnosed last May with Borderline personality disorder after being wrongly diagnosed with bipolar for 5yrs. Obviously Bpd is a developed disorder created from complications from our lives. Mine in many places was so traumatic I cannot print the details but I had storms of sexual abuse as a little one to being held hostage for a year whilst being beaten and raped within an inch of my life so no wonder I'm broken and understandingly I could use some psychological help now I released the cannon! But not my doctor he says I get coping skills for 6wks(because I didn't manage before obviously to get married,get 3 beautiful children through school & college oh & not beeping kill myself when I totally lost it over the last 44yrs of my life without friends or because of my illness,family!) Is it because it's Bpd & they're just done? There's no medication to be given, although I hear voices., it's just left up to me to call crisis line whenever,it's making me sad for people wearier than I..

You could have been talking about me.....

I am so envious of your family support.... My family have called me lazy, weak, workshy, immature and irresponsible...... and have stopped talking to me until I get a job! They said "just get off your ass and get a job and everything else will fall into place..." They have no idea how much it takes just to get up and get dressed and go out of the house...... Thank you for making me feel I am not the only one!!!!

depression

mat that is how i feel cannot seem to talk to my friends or my partner when i am in this state just put on a brave face when i am really dying inside .i think a lot of it is the stigma and when they have not expereianced depression or anxiety it is hard to explain.x

What should it be called?

Everyone seems to link depression with sadness but it isn't. I was diagnosed in 2002 and find many ways to help cope. I feel for my friends and family who have to suffer me in ways they can't understand. Is it named correctly? Should it be termed as suppression as it suppresses your feelings and emotions that in turn affects your behavior? And what about the extended versions that include anxiety or bi-polar disorder? I am being assessed now to see if I was misdiagnosed and may actually be bi-polar. The weird thing is that so many celebs have come forward to say they are bi-polar that it is almost fashionable to be it. I could be fashionable for the first time in my life! (an attempt at humour) While we need to encourage openness and understanding by those who can't appreciate what is happening with us, we too must try to see what we are doing to them. The history of reactions to depression is horrific. We are beginning to move forward in enlightenment. Let's just hope we can keep the ball rolling. To all sufferers I say, keep on keepin on. (It's a rock and roll thing)

Depression

Am 34years old a mother of 6 children before seven months I faced stange feelings doctor told me it is anxaity and depression I lost my appetite I could not feel interested with any think any more and i could not feel happy I realy lost my self I miss my old me I see the life as a black black I could not see a light to the futer I feel guilty cuz my children need me need my smile need my hugs need their old happy mame I realy miss my old me I tried to face my new felings and to accept them or to deal with them but I could not so i went to a doctor who told me u have to take antidepressant valdoxan then u will be fine after six month but i have that feeling i know valdoxan it will help as long as i take it but from my deep i know it will not be a cure to my depression so i will give it a try i hope the depression will go a way

Thank you, Matt..

I cried when I read your blog and some other comments. My 22 year old son suffers from depression. He hasn't been working for nearly 6 months now. Basically most of the time he stays at my home in his room. The medication didn't work for him, in fact they made him so ill that we had to call the paramedics. So he stopped taking them. I'm of one of those people who suggest things and giving him list of advice. His grandma & his dad branded him lazy, immature, irresponsible & spoilt. They too have a long list of advice and suggestions for him, and nothing works. To be honest, we all feel so helpless & frustrated... As a mum of one child, I of course want him to be happy and capable to stand on his own feet. So I worry so much about his future, will he be able to come out of depression and get a job? Reading your story, making me realised that I haven't help him much at all... So thank you so much for being so opened. I can relate your feelings with my son's and my own. I don't want to lose him, so from now on, I will start learning to be a good listener to him. And I hope he will feel safe and heal in time. And to you too, Matt and all of you who suffer, I really hope you all can come out of your depression soon...

Matt's Blog - "Advice isn't always helpful"

Thank you for stating that in your blog. It take me a long time to express my feelings to those close to me and hearing things like; at least..... (insert wonderful end result here) makes me shut down. People often just need to make you feel better and don't understand that you're suffering from extreme anxiety (or other issues) at that particular time . I have a long history of mental illness and really only decided to label myself as suffering from depression a few years ago. Even people I love feel that I'm perpetuating my depression by accepting that I have it. I don't know if I've made any sense - just felt the need to let Matt know I agree.

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