Many people know me as the person who laughs, smiles and jokes. But not many people know me as the person with a mental health condition. The reason for that is that there is no way of telling if somebody has a mental health condition.
In 2014 I first started noticing that I was struggling. Low motivation, low moods, no energy to do things. Also known as depression. The issue is, depression isn’t like a broken leg. You can’t tell just by looking at someone whether or not they have depression. And it was for that very reason that mine went unnoticed by people around me. With the massive stigma surrounding depression, I never told anyone.
Some people think that depression is just a bad day. But actually, it is a long-term mental illness. When I did open up about my depression, many just brushed it off as a bad day. When I had issues with motivation, it was made to look like laziness. Low moods hidden by fake smiles.
Due to having motivational issues, my attendance in school dropped. Punctuality for me was a major issue. Instead of giving a space to talk, teachers would just question why I was late, in a way that portrayed me as lazy and not caring. One teacher even said just to “try harder” when I did try to open up about having problems with concentration and motivation.
I didn't feel like there was anybody to open up to at school. Other students teased me, and I feared talking to teachers due to them being obligated to inform parents. Coming from an Asian family, there is a lot of stigma and misunderstanding around mental health. Many think depression is just ‘sadness’ or ‘moodiness’.
Because I was struggling with low moods and lack of motivation, I decided to get counselling through an online organisation. I had counselling for half a year, which then had to come to an end. Although I would definitely say that it was helpful to clear my thoughts and have a better understanding of my own mental health, it didn’t change how I was feeling.
A few months after counselling ended, I had my first experience of being suicidal. I still remember it like it was last week. Feeling suicidal is something that people can struggle to fully understand unless they've been through it themselves. The feeling of wishing not to be alive so much that you want to end your own life. That night I reached out to a friend online to tell her how I was feeling. She listened to me and gave me the opportunity to clear my thoughts.
I find talking with friends, going for long walks whilst listening to music and watching TV helps my mental health. Due to all the issues that were going on at this time, I was unable to do these.
Many people tell those who are suffering from depression “you just need to get out more” or “you don’t look depressed”. Here’s the problem: I am somebody who spends more time out and about than indoors and I cycle four miles a day. I also laugh more than most people I know. But these things don’t invalidate my depression. These just show how misconstrued depression is.
Depression is more than just sadness. It’s having no feelings at all. It’s overthinking or not being able to think at all. Due to the stigma of mental health, these emotions are not always acknowledged by those around you. Instead of helping, some people tell you to “get over it”. Mental illness is not something you can simply “get over”.
Where I am on my journey to recovery I’m not sure. One thing I do know is that I am further along than I was this time last year. I am working for a better future for those that will have mental health issues in their life. I want to help shape a future that is stigma free.
Society needs to have a better understanding of mental health and for it to be just as accepted as physical health.