January 13, 2014

Recently I sat on the sofa with my mother. My head hung, and one solitary bubble drifted around the surface of my cup of tea, slowly meandering in one direction, then another, searching for something; dancing a peculiar waltz. My mother asked me how I was feeling; she looked for the bubble but it was cowering on the edge of the mug out of her view, and then it popped. At that moment the whole world was in my mug of tea, and I, the lonely bubble, had burst. It was this bubble in my mug, resting on the warm comfort beneath, which awoke my senses if only for a second, and, like a mirror, reflected my perpetual loneliness and confusion.

I have finally plucked up the courage to seek professional help

My family now know about my anxiety and depression. It has been accumulating like a tidal wave since my early teens and now, as a 20 year old, I have finally plucked up the courage to seek professional help. But it was far from easy.

I had thought that if I hid behind messy hair and hairy legs and disguised myself as a traveller, my problems would all dissolve. The truth is I had packed my depression in my rucksack when I got on the plane to travel after finishing sixth form, and it followed me all the way to the other side of the world. The further I ran the faster it raced to catch up with me, until a year later my body and mind began to shut down and I booked a flight straight home. It took another two months before I was able to tell the people around me that there has been something seriously wrong for many years.

I was determined not to accept that I had an 'illness'

In the following weeks I suffered persistent panic attacks that felt like tattoos to my bones, nearly took my own life, and the only three words that my brain allowed space for were ‘It’s too late’.

I am now having home visits and accepting the help I so adamantly refused during college because I was determined not to accept that I had an ‘illness’: I had truly believed that depression was part of my character and in seeking help, my individuality would somehow have been stolen. I spent a long time in denial because depression and anxiety had been a part of me for so long that I was afraid to even attempt to let them go. Looking back through my college diary entries I see a frightened, lonely, confused and bitter girl in a vicious cycle of self-destruction and inner turmoil. My depression itself prevented me from seeking the help that I needed, and I allowed no one close enough to me to discover how troubled I really was.

I’d spent a large proportion of my life on the edge of a cliff, dangling from an unravelling rope, falling into holes and tunnelling out of them, hoping that one day I could wander off the edge of the earth unnoticed. Throughout college I became increasingly confused, deciding that the world wanted me to fail. My diaries, which had been my method of venting negative thoughts and emotions since I was twelve, became scattered and illogical, and relationships with the people around me slowly deteriorated until I had retreated so far into myself that nobody knew who I was anymore.

I find overcoming depression rather like learning to ride a bicycle

I find overcoming depression rather like learning to ride a bicycle. When you’re faced with the vehicle for the first time you cannot even fathom attempting to sit on it and pedal, and yet you see people around you cycling with ease. You finally decide to try, and inevitably you fall off. You’re frustrated, jealous of the people who ride one-handed beside you, and you feel like giving up.

When we finally do learn however, we often look back at those memories of bruised limbs and sweaty palms on handlebars, and they become comparatively insignificant yet simultaneously crucial. Battling depression is not an easy ride. One day, however, no matter how impossible it may seem to someone suffering from depression, I believe we all have the ability to find the strength within us to persevere in learning to ride our own bicycles, glancing back every now and then at where we’ve been, only to discover how far we’ve come.

The more we share our understanding the more we can battle the stigma

My aim is to share my experiences and encourage others not to be afraid of mental illness like I was. For those of us who know what it feels like to live underneath a boulder that just keeps getting heavier, or to run with a broken leg, we shouldn’t feel ashamed. Depression and anxiety are potentially life threatening illnesses and the more we share our understanding the more we can battle the stigma, spread awareness and encourage each other to take the first steps to recovery, however tough they may seem.

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