I don’t think depression can be summed up in one image. I think at times it’s a lot of images. I spent some time with my niece a few days after I had felt the lowest I have ever felt. My nieces and nephew mean the world to me. They remind me of the simple joys in life. I had just taken my niece to the park and she was so happy just sitting in a swing and it made me think “Why can’t everyone just feel that happy all the time?”. They make me want to fight for my life, so I can watch them grow up and be the best aunty I can be for them.
I find it hard to explain to someone who hasn’t had mental health problems what depression feels like. It’s so many different feelings all at once, yet you feel nothing at the same time.
I have had anxiety and PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder) in the past which I found I could hide from people more easily. Depression crept up slowly and completely wiped me out. It was my counsellor who first mentioned depression to me. Hearing it out loud hurt, but I needed the wakeup call. Looking back, I am glad it was her that noticed first. She has supported me ever since.
Admitting you have depression is such a massive step. It took me far too long to admit to family and friends that I was struggling. I felt ashamed and weak. I thought I could fight it alone, but the truth is you need their support more than ever when you aren’t coping. My family were starting to notice I was getting quieter and had lost my spark, yet I still pretended like everything was ok and tried my hardest to carry on as normal which eventually broke me. Don’t get me wrong, I have supportive family and friends, but I really struggle to talk to people about my feelings. It makes you feel so alone and such a burden on people even though they want to be there for you. It’s wanting to be around the people who love you, but also wanting to lock yourself in the house and cry alone. It’s having no energy to even get out of bed, but you have to get up and go to work, faking a smile to get through the day.
I was blind to how depression can also affect the people that love and care about me. When you are in a dark place you might think people don’t care about you, but this isn’t necessarily the case. My family told me they feel helpless and don’t know what to do to make me feel better, but small things like just spending time with me, going for a walk and chat or just giving me a hug is enough to make me feel more human. You need to let people take care of you when you are down. It will make them feel better and having someone there to make you a cup of tea or something to eat can make you feel better too. When I did tell my family I was depressed, it was a small relief to no longer need to fake how I was feeling in front of them. I slowly started to see that I needed to accept help.
There is such a negative stigma surrounding mental health and that’s what I was most afraid of; people judging me and not understanding what I was feeling. Some people see mental health problems as attention seeking or a sign of weakness, which is why so many people choose to hide them. I feel frustrated that mental health is not talked about enough today.
The way I see the journey of recovery is like a tree, leaves may fall and weather may rock a tree but the roots remain and new leaves will always bloom. My leaves and branches may have fallen, but I have amazing people in my life that will help me to grow and keep me rooted and I am thankful to them for being there for me when I needed them most. I have good days and bad days, but I now know I am stronger than my black dog and I will keep fighting for myself and for the amazing people around me!