January 25, 2013

Stone StatuesThere has been a reasonable amount of dark in my experience of depression and anxiety. I don’t think any amount of understanding or insight can prepare you for how it really feels to have depression.

For me, at times, there was such darkness that I couldn’t believe anything would be good again. However, having gone through the recovery process, there has been one positive from it all, which is something I definitely didn’t expect.

I went through the lead up to diagnosis with my family, who have always been incredibly supportive so I was really lucky to have them there for me. Once diagnosed, I also decided to tell close friends, as they had known I was struggling, so I felt they would understand. I am lucky in that no-one has reacted in a negative way to me telling them or talking about my mental health.

I started to hear from friends and family with similar experiences

I think that is also because I chose carefully who to talk to. In fact, the more people I shared it with, the more I started to hear from friends and family who had experienced something similar and who I was able to share my thoughts and feelings with. I massively value the support I have from everyone, but there is nothing that quite compares to talking to people who have been there and felt the same or similar emotions, had the same thoughts as you have. Only this week I received a message from a friend who had suffered from anxiety and panic attacks, offering support and a chat any time, as a result of me sharing a blog from Time to Change on Facebook.

Not everyone has the same experience of course. A friend of mine had also been diagnosed with depression around the same time as I was, for completely different reasons, and instead of finding it supportive, I almost felt more isolated as I felt there was little about their experience that I could identify with. So of course each of our journeys is our own, but now I find it incredibly reassuring to know there are certain people I can go to, when the general support from friends isn’t quite enough.

I have to remind myself that their intention is to help

I have noticed a difference between support from people who have had depression/anxiety and those who haven’t. It isn’t that I value their support any less, but I know before I had depression I didn’t really know what it’s like to have it, and also to live with it 24/7. At times when I feel they don’t understand, I have to remind myself that it isn’t for a lack of trying and that their intention is still to help, even if that is not the result for me.

With those who have experienced something similar, I think knowing that they have shared those darkest feelings or a similar struggle, brings you closer on some level, that there is an understanding you don’t have to articulate with words. That is the light for me which came from the darker parts of depression.

I am surprised to find myself writing about mental health

That is also why I think talking about mental health is so important. Of course, you don’t always have the energy for it. I am surprised to find myself wanting to write about it, I would never have considered it a few months ago. But now it is quite therapeutic and I hope other people can recognise something in this and find some hope from my experience. I never expected there to be a positive from such a difficult thing as depression but it is true that you never know what can arise from any situation.

I think there is still an underlying stigma surrounding mental health and I really like the ethos behind Time to Change as I hope this will highlight the true experience of having a mental health condition, and dispel some of the myths around it. From my experience I would say sharing your thoughts and feelings with the right person can have great benefits which will long outlive the negative experiences I had at the worst point of my depression.

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