I always had a reputation for being laid back and happy go lucky. This is why it came as such a shock to my friends and family when I finally faced my issues and discussed what I'd been going though.
After being diagnosed with depression I started counselling sessions. It helped to be able to sit and discuss my issues. It made me realise that I was not the first person to feel this way. I felt I was in a safe environment and that I could speak freely and not be judged. The sessions helped me understand so much more about myself, my problems and how I'd been dealing with them or not as the case had been. Speaking to my family was also a great help. At first my mother was upset that I had not spoken to her about what I was going through but she soon understood my reason and was just glad I was now getting help. The guidance from my counselling sessions gave me the confidence to speak more openly with my family about my issues.
Speaking to family and close friends is one thing, returning back to work is another. I had been signed off work sick when I had first been diagnosed with depression. I worked in an office environment and I knew how stories, rumour and conjecture spread in a place like that. I had been off work for a couple of months and, apart from a home visit from my supervisor, I had not really had much contact from people I'd worked with.
People didn't really seem to know how to deal with my return. I don't blame them or hold it against them as I understand it must be awkward. They seemed like they would rather not speak to me for fear of saying the wrong thing. This did not ease my nervousness about returning and for a while I felt isolated, not even knowing to what extent people had knowledge of my illness. This wasn't helped by hearing the odd sarcastic comment. Growing up mixed race in 70's and 80's Briton I had faced prejudice on many occasions and have a pretty good understanding of how it works. A lot of prejudice is based on fear and ignorance. We fear what we do not understand and because of our ignorance of the facts some people fill the blanks of their knowledge with stereotypes that reinforce their blinkered view.
I knew the best way to overcome this predjudce over my colour was to show people that I'm not a stereotype that we are all complex individuals with a lot to offer. It will be the same to overcome the stigma of mental health: to show that my illness does not define me as a character but is part of who I am; to speak freely and help people understand the issues myself and others face.
It has not been an easy journey and I know it’s far from over but dealing with my illness has given me the drive and determination to help others.
Read part 1 of Glen's blog: My heart condition needed treatment to improve - so did my depression
Or find out how talking tackles discrimination.