April 10, 2013

ImogenStruggling with an illness like depression can often leave you feeling isolated, scared and unable to open up to others about how you feel.

Aside from the difficulty of dealing with the illness itself and the isolating and dark feelings, I found I often felt ashamed of the way I was feeling and therefore wanted to hide away from everyone around me.I dealt with depression on my own for many years before I first started to try to approach others about how I was feeling.

Having spent many years in school feeling very disconnected from my peers and finding socialising with friends and talking with other people around me really tough, I decided that I wanted to make people aware of what I was going through and to have a fresh start when I moved away and to university. The initial move was particularly hard and I think this pushed me even further to admit to others what I was going through.

I've received mixed reactions from friends to my depression

I’ve received mixed reactions over the years from friends about my depression.

Thankfully, the majority of my close friends have been absolutely wonderful and supported me all the way through - recognising when to give me space and when to step in and help. However, the reactions have sadly not always been as positive. I found some people tried to smother me after I told them and although it was because they were worried it left me feeling very patronised and like my friends didn’t trust me to look after myself.

Other friends took a less caring approach and responded very negatively. I think the most difficult thing to deal with is when others, often unintentionally, make you feel guilty for being down or complain about how it makes them feel bad whenever you’re struggling. Although it’s incredibly difficult for all involved it often made me feel like I wanted to retreat even further into myself and contributed to my feelings of worthlessness.

I also came across lots of people who didn’t recognise depression as an illness and became very frustrated when I couldn’t just ‘cheer up’ after doing something nice or having someone try to comfort me.

There is a lack of understanding about mental illness

I came to realise in time that these kind of responses were due to the general lack of understanding about mental illness. Having the right kind of support from those around you is so fundamental in the fight to get better and so I felt it was of particular importance to try to educate people as to what illnesses such as depression actually are and to address some of the misconceptions surrounding them.

With this in mind I decided to create a video for youtube talking about some of my own experiences. Since I began suffering with depression, I’ve started to recognise just how many people suffer with mental illnesses or know someone who does and. I think it is paramount that people begin to learn more about mental illness and to begin talking about it to eradicate some of the social stigma surrounding it and to help those suffering not to feel ashamed of themselves.

It’s all too easy to forget that you are suffering from an illness and that it’s not your fault. Posting the video was very nerve wracking but I realised from the feedback that so many people had experienced depression themselves or knew someone who had and the positive response has pushed me further to start conversations about mental illness.

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