I was first diagnosed with depression towards the end of 2011, although my doctor and I agreed that it had manifested itself a number of years before I sought help.
I had many theories as to why I had it, which included the fallout from my parents’ divorce and that it was in my family with my grandmother and cousin having been treated for it. I can remember, at the age of about 14 or 15, believing I had something ‘wrong’ with me and deciding to research my symptoms on the internet.
My symptoms included feelings of extreme guilt, paranoia, worthlessness and loneliness. I can also remember ticking off each symptom that my internet search returned but I remained silent. It was like I felt guilty for believing I had a mental illness.
I was frightened of actually being told I was depressed
I now know that I went into a kind of denial, as I was frightened of actually being told I was depressed. People had even suggested to me that I may be depressed but I just laughed and brushed off their comments, too scared to tell them how desperate I was feeling.
After 4 years of extreme mood swings, alcohol abuse, self- harm, suicide attempts and a failed relationship I finally confided in a friend who advised me to speak to my GP. Even though we did not agree on a course of action immediately, as my doctor suggested that I have some time to think about what treatment would be best for me, just speaking to someone whom I knew could help me was such a relief. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders – a weight that I had been carrying on my own for too long.
The support of my boyfriend, friends and family removed the stigma
The next year was not the easiest but, with regular check-ups with my GP and the support of my boyfriend and some family members and friends, the stigma of my condition was removed. I realised that depression is just an illness that requires treatment, like diabetes or high blood pressure, and it is a lot more common than I first thought. In fact, it is even dubbed the “common cold of psychiatry.”
If I were to give anyone advice who is suffering from a mental illness, or knows someone who is, I would say that talking about it is the first step on the road to recovery. Once that step has been made, the fear is reduced and now that I am not afraid of my illness I know how I can control it so it doesn’t have as much of a negative effect on my life anymore. Even though I am better now, I know that it may return one day. However, now that the stigma and fear are not there anymore, it won’t have the same negative effect on me as it did have when I first suspected that I was depressed.
All it takes to feel better is one conversation with someone willing to listen and not judge, and from there, all the doors for support will open.