Depression and loneliness go hand in hand. The sense of crushing isolation it can bring is as much a physical pain as it is a mental one. Actions so everyday as walking down the street, holding a conversation, going to work, all became part of a very elaborate performance that, come the end of the day, would leave me exhausted. The sense of detachment and unreality leaves you so cut off from the outside world, that it is all too easy to fall in on yourself and ignore those who care for you. Depression is a selﬁsh illness, and one which feels like it entirely consumes your very being. It has taken me over a decade to realise the destructive consequences of not talking about your mental health.
My illness is no fault of my own
I have suffered from depression and anxiety since I was 14 years old. It was initially dismissed as the typical ups and downs of teenage hormones, and I was all too eager to agree. I had exams to pass, achievements to gain; too much was expected of me for me to have time for feeling sorry for myself.
Ignoring my illness proved to have a devastating effect not only on my own confidence, but also on those around me. Ten years later, it is only because of campaigns like Time to Change that I am ﬁnally able to confront my illness for what it is: an illness, no fault of my own or anyone else.
I remember that I am not alone
I signed the Time to Change pledge wall with one word in mind: honesty. I pledged to be honest with those around me about how I was feeling; to give them insight into the terrible, black and lonely pain that is depression, so that they might be in a better position to help. The pledge has also changed my own attitude towards my illness; it has made me more aware of when the depression is talking, of when the clouds are moving in and I want to shut people out and retreat. As much as I crave to stay at home, staring at the ceiling, fully immersed in my own silent mental agony, I remember that my Time to Change pledge is one of thousands, and that I am not alone. It has gently encouraged me to actively and mindfully let people have an open conversation with me about my mental health, rather than maintaining the ridiculous pretense that I am absolutely ﬁne.
I am a person who is always ready to have the conversation about mental health
I used to wish that I could wear my illness like anyone can wear a sling on their arm, for all the world to see. I thought that I never could share with anyone how I was feeling, for the shame, the stigma, the admission of weakness. Now I can see that my depression has made me a far stronger person, and one who is always ready to have the conversation about mental health.