November 12, 2013

FarahDepression (Noun): “Severe despondency and dejection”, “Hollow; low spirits”

The dictionary presents us with many definitions, but they’re all just letters, letters on a page that barely even scratch the surface.

Living with depression is like living with lungs that only have the capacity to take in poisonous air. Waking up in the morning with what feels like a clamp inside your chest. Just as the wheels of a car get clamped, those which enable its movement, motivation, and meaning, depression clamps the wheels of a person’s sense of self.

The mind is such a powerful thing. But unlike a broken leg or fractured wrist, we can’t put a plaster on it. When cracks appear in the mind, the outside world is blind. But does that mean that mental illness is any less harrowing or debilitating? Absolutely not. Of course, it is harder to understand, which makes it even more isolating for the person suffering and indeed those watching.

In a room full of people there is a man with a broken leg and a girl with major depression. The man whose leg is in plaster is greeted with endless ‘get well soon’ wishes, and hugs of concern. The young girl is sitting on her own at a table, watching the world go by from behind the transparent screen she is trapped behind. They are both in pain. But only one of them is invisible.

"Pull yourself together", "just snap out of it", "think positively". Things I have heard endless times. But would you make the same remarks to a patient with cancer? Of course it’s immensely tragic to watch your daughter, girlfriend or best friend crying their heart out. But what doesn’t work is suggesting they have control of these feelings, that they have a choice. It’s out of their hands. And saying otherwise only causes the sufferer to believe it’s their fault. This amplifies that mentality of worthlessness, which manifests inside the sufferer to lead them down a road of self-loathing. Imagine having a brick wall looming down over your head that physically impairs your movement and won’t let you get up to even try and make things better. That’s what my bad days are like, my days when I’ve fallen off a cliff.

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