August 31, 2017

Picture of blogger: Shantene

When I reflect on the past eight months, I look back at what has been a successful time in my life; but one that has been struck with depression.

In April this year, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I'd been battling with symptoms for a long time and while I think I know the trigger, (a situation which occurred in January), I recognise that anxiety and depression can happen to any of us and I therefore do not feel this event alone directly lead to my mental illness. As expected, this situation knocked my confidence and I spent days on end locked in my room at university, constantly crying, feeling hopeless, emotional and severely low. This was such a pivotal stage in my university career and I began to grow even more anxious through fear of falling behind.

Thankfully this was not the case and I'm so grateful to two of my closest university friends, who supported me through some of the darkest and toughest days. They were my biggest support and they often reassured me that things would get better. In fact, they were the ones who persuaded me to go to the doctors in order to discuss my feelings and emotions. My uni friends were definitely in my corner and they provided me with constant guidance, ensuring that I always had a shoulder to cry on. I was always able to open up and express my feelings to them without feeling judged.

I never really understood mental health until I was diagnosed with it. I always showed sympathy towards my friends who were sufferers of mental illness, but never empathy. I was unable to fully and wholly understand their perspective, as I had never experienced it before. However, this changed following my diagnosis. I gained some sort of an understanding of how they were feeling, because I was going through similar feelings myself.

It is important for us all to recognise that mental illness can happen to any of us. In fact, it affects 1 in 4 of us throughout our lifetimes. This is why it is so important to understand it and support those who are suffering. Though I've battled with depression and anxiety for the past eight months, I was able to graduate with a first class degree and secure a job, which I absolutely love. I'm thankful for the continued support I've received and continue to receive. 

Needless to say, a lot of people see the outer me, the shell of me, the one that wants to always be happy. While I am doing well for myself; some days continue to be extremely difficult. There are days I feel I can't face the world, days I spend locked in my room and days I don't even want to speak to my nearest and dearest.

Understandably, this has deeply affected my family. Mental health is still a taboo subject within the African Caribbean community but I'm thankful for a family who now understand my condition. Slowly, I've been able to break down the stigma attached to mental health within my family and I only hope this attitude can spread to others.

It was initially difficult for my family to come to terms with this news, especially my mum who still gets really upset whenever I feel low and experience a bout of depression. I've also witnessed my brother in tears, following a situation where I felt so low I was taken to hospital. This, more than anything, really hit home. It made me see the true effect that mental health can have on families.

As a successful young woman who prides herself on being happy and positive, there was a sense of shock when my family and close friends found out. I received comments such as 'wow you would have never guessed you'd have it'. Once again, this is why it is so important to recognise that mental health can happen to any of us. You never really know what someone is going through, so never judge someone by their outward appearance.

I take each day as it comes and strive to overcome every battle I'm faced with. Mental health will not defeat me. It will not defeat you. It will not defeat any of us.

"Life is a blessing. Live it"

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