June 13, 2013

MandyI have lived with depression since a very young age. Despite this, not many people know about my battle. It just isn’t something that people talk about.

The incidence of depression is on the increase yet it isn’t a subject that many feel they can speak about freely. Perhaps it is because we live in a society where we have to wear a facade and act like everything is fine. Whatever the reason, the stigma surrounding mental health issues leaves many people feeling isolated and alone.

My depression worsened after giving birth to my son and I was put onto anti depressants. Very few people, to this day, know about the added help I received from medication. It has helped me to function and carry on with life although it doesn’t work for everyone.

I saw a psychiatrist soon after my son was born and he explained that depression is an illness and can be likened to breaking your leg. If you broke your leg you would want a crutch to get around on until your leg had healed. He told me that antidepressants work in the same way. They help you get back on your feet, so to speak (excuse the pun!).

Stigma means people avoid talking about mental health

I work as a psychologist/counsellor. I regularly tell my clients when I first meet them that it is my policy not to acknowledge them if we happen to bump into each other in public. This is due to confidentiality and, sadly, the stigma associated with mental health issues. Many clients do not want family and/or friends asking awkward questions about who I am. I am always happy for them to approach me if they wish. In this way, they get to choose whether they feel ready to divulge the truth about the nature of our ‘relationship’.

I do find it odd how we accept physical illness as long as it doesn’t involve the brain. Almost as if a mysterious brain ailment might be catching.

My grandmother lived with depression and so did my mother. They also drank alcohol, which didn’t mix well with the anti-depressants they were taking. It seems as if the increasing pressures life places on us all predisposes some of us to feeling low and/or anxious.

Many friends have revealed their struggle with low mood and anxiety

Couple that with the general lack of support and it can be a recipe for disaster. Since I have been more open about my depression, I have had many friends and acquaintances revealing their own struggle with low mood and anxiety. Many of us have experienced similar symptoms – not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, losing interest in activities we usually enjoy and feeling numb and detached from life. I also found out how common it was for many to experience problems for at least a year before deciding to do anything about it.

I have felt a huge relief since sharing my experience with others. It made me feel less alone and opened up a whole world of support that I never knew existed. I realised how many others were going through exactly the same experience and realised how we all shut ourselves off from the world and didn’t reach out to anyone. We all felt we would be a burden to each other.

Life is so much better now that I have a wonderful support network. I feel proud for accepting who I am and for honouring that part of me that sometimes needs a little extra understanding.

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Mandy blogs at http://www.counsellingandtherapy.blogspot.co.uk/

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