April 22, 2013

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Let’s be honest; life can suck. As children we’re told or consoled by exasperated adults that ‘life isn’t fair’ and expected to just get on with it.

Well, that’s all well and dandy when it’s in response to not winning the coveted Toy Story lunchbox in the raffle or the time you had to miss the school play because you came down with chicken pox.

What about when your mum dies when you’re 16 in the middle of your GCSEs? When your family is in too much pain to talk about and remember her, so you start to lose your own memories?

It has been 8 years since my mum lost her life to cancer

It has been 8 years since my mum lost her life to cancer and I am only just starting to fully grieve for her. At first I think I was in shock, despite her battling the illness for 9 months. I developed a faulty coping mechanism by burying myself deep into schoolwork, then my degree and finally my dream job as a Primary School teacher.

All the time oblivious to, or rather stubbornly resisting, the growing depression and sense of hopelessness hiding behind the façade of the ‘determined and successful young woman, doing so well considering what she’s been through’.

Before Christmas I finally surrendered and broke down. The black hole of despair, pain and heartache in my chest had grown to encompass my entire body and I didn’t want to live anymore. Living meant continuing to pretend everything was fine on the outside but screaming on the inside.

I didn't want people to think I was exagerrating

The thought of having to get through another hour, let alone a lifetime of this nightmare made the idea of suicide seem like a logical action. Although I worried about hurting other people in the process, depression made me too exhausted and desperate to truly care.

I believed that they would rather I was dead and be at peace rather than alive and suffering. Besides, the last thing I wanted to be was a burden on other people. Or worse – have them think I was exaggerating how awful I felt, being a drama queen and getting told to just ‘get on with it and stop making a fuss’.

I confided in a few people about my depression

A tiny part of me must have wanted to live, however, even on the darkest of days, as I confided in a few people who I genuinely thought wouldn’t be bothered whether I was around or not. I didn’t realize that they would be the ones to save me.

They helped me see that my feelings weren’t ok or just a part of who I am; they were part of crippling clinical depression and anxiety, and that I could be helped. Options 1 and 2, a life of pain or death respectively, didn’t have to be my destiny. They managed to sell the idea of secret option number 3 – I could get better and remember what it felt like to be happy.

I sometimes still fear talking to people

Now I am taking time off work, trying different medications and receiving weekly counselling including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to challenge my negative thinking patterns and self-critical behaviours.

I’m not better yet. I still have days where I think I should have kept quiet and just disappeared. There are times when I feel so close to the edge and desperately want to talk to someone but stop myself out of fear of their reaction being anger, hate or rejection. But fortunately these are getting fewer in number.

I have no reason to be ashamed about having depression

I’m beginning to believe that I have a positive future ahead and losing my mum at a young age doesn’t mean I have to fight depression for the rest of my life out of respect or decency. Also I now know it doesn’t have to be kept inside; I have no reason to be ashamed and embarrassed about having depression because it isn’t a sign of weakness. In talking to people I have been rewarded with more compassion, understanding and love than I ever thought possible.

These people have given me another shot at life and no words or actions will ever be able to express the love and gratitude I feel towards them.

This poem is dedicated to a special friend

I wrote this poem in the midst of the darkness, when someone managed to get a tiny light to shine through. It is dedicated to a particularly special friend, who has a heart of gold and refused to give up on me. Thank you.

I want to sort my life out,
I mustn't be afraid.
It's time to face the darkness.
Or else I'll fade away.

I've waited too long already,
Been scared and full of grief.
But now its time to confront the fear,
Because I'm not ready to leave.

I want to tear the wall down,
To let other people in.
I'm just scared that they will leave me;
That this illness will win.

Will you promise to stand by me?
Through the good and bad and numb?
Can I scream, shout and cry?
Or do you just want me for fun?

This journey won't be easy,
It won't be linear and quick.
But I'll need you right beside me,
To help me when I slip.

I'm trying to get better,
I'm doing everything I can.
But the darkness is hard to break through.
I wish you could understand!

Just trust that I'll keep on trying,
Trust that I'm giving it my all.
Hopefully one day I'll be strong enough,
To catch YOU if you fall.

Thank you for not leaving me,
Thank you for being there.
Depression is such a lonely place,
But at least I know you care.

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