May 15, 2013

Katharine Welby | Photo taken by Jonathan Self; all rights reserved 2013. www.jonathanself.co.ukSo, I am sitting here, writing a blog for Time to Change on the impact and effect that writing a blog post on depression has had on me.

This week, I am in retreat mode. I want nothing more than to run away from everyone, not because people have hurt me or upset me. Not because I wish I had never written the blog but more because I am simply overwhelmed and exhausted. How do you process gaining 1000 followers on twitter, in less than a month, all because you spoke about how you are often miserable?

Within a couple of hours of posting the blog, a journalist had been in touch to let me know they would be running a story on it the next day. By the time I went to bed that night, I was getting tweets, emails and messages from all over the place.

I had emails coming in from all over the place asking for interviews and I began to get a little nervous that this can, I had opened, was something that would perhaps be a little more than I could handle.

Interview requests aside, the thing that really struck me was the number of people commenting on my blog, tweeting me, emailing me, and later writing to me. I have had depression for a long time and have often thought about the fact that depression is often not spoken about or mentioned, particularly in church.

More often, when I have told people that I have depression, there has been an awkward silence. However, some people say 'me too but I don't know who to talk to'. Depression is a common thing, yet, here I was, surprised that so many others were relieved to hear someone, speak of it themselves.

I realised that I didn't want to be someone who mentioned it briefly and ran, so I decided, with the help of Time to Change, to speak a little more. I knew of Cole Moreton and he had asked for an interview for the Sunday Telegraph, so I decided, that this would be, a good way to go.

That interview was relatively easy and he was so kind, generous and funny that I relaxed. I am not really afraid of talking about my depression, on a one on one basis. I never have been. However, when I first saw the article in the paper, I suddenly realised that it was a little bigger than I had imagined. I was terrified. Everyone was going to know how 'messed up' I really was. All my fears came out and I just waited, wanting to see the response. Cole wrote a very kind article about me. He was considerate and sensitive, but it felt like I had bared my soul for anyone to see.

The reaction was huge. It was generous, loving and kind. Once again, hundreds of people in a similar situation got in touch. I felt overwhelmed, I was touched by the fact that simply talking about my depression had had such an impact.

I then had another interview coming up, that was for BBC breakfast. I did that last Thursday evening as a pre-record and I can say that it was harder than anything else I had yet done. I find myself now, the night before it is broadcast, emotionally drained, thinking about what I have done.

Life has changed and I can't help wondering whether perhaps the 'title' I gave myself as ABCD (Archbishop of Canterbury's Daughter) will now become ABCDD (depressed daughter), in response. Will this illness be what I am known for? Will it be my defining feature in the eyes of those who encounter me?

I guess it is one of the great fears and reasons that so few speak out. Who wants to be defined by their illness? However, I see no reason why I should be. I am glad I have made a noise. I hope that by doing so others will feel that they can tell their family, friends, or go to the doctor, without fear of judgement.

I am many things and one of those is depressed. Yes, it affects my day to day life. Yes, it might last a long time. But, no, it is not my defining feature. Those who have only seen that side of me, might only be able to define me by my depression but those that know me, will not find it possible to see it as all that I am.

I am happy I wrote the blog and I am grateful for the enormous support and encouragement I have received since. Thank you, and I would encourage you to speak too. I have received a huge amount of love, from the most unexpected places. If I could take one thing away from all of this, it is that we are not as alone as we might have thought.

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