August 6, 2013

FionaI first realised that being open about my depression might not be such a bad thing while in hospital receiving treatment for the most debilitating episode I’ve ever experienced (and there have been a few).

At my absolute lowest point, virtually unable to talk to my husband, incapable of looking after my kids or doing any of the myriad things that we all take for granted when we’re well, I came to the conclusion that hiding wasn’t helping me anymore. The difference that decision has made, both to my recovery and my outlook, has been phenomenal.

I first 'came out' on Facebook

I remember clearly when I first ‘came out’. It was on Facebook, a simple post about where I was and why. The response that I got was amazing, and wonderful, and liberating. I didn’t have to hide any more. Everyone knew and nothing changed. From then on there was a steady stream of calls, texts, messages and visitors. Some days I felt up to it, some days I didn’t, but the important thing was, I knew people were there, and I knew they cared.

When I was discharged, although a lot better than when I’d been admitted I was still far from well, and I think understandably apprehensive about speaking to people face to face for the first time since I’d gone public about my depression. It’s one thing to put it in writing and send it out into cyberspace, another entirely to come home and actually talk to people about having been in a psychiatric unit.

My neighbour told me she struggled with depression too

The first time I was home, I was out the front with the kids. A friend and neighbour saw me, came over and gave me a huge hug and told me how glad she was to see me. She wanted to know how I was doing, genuinely wanted to know. A few days later, in the local petrol station, I bumped into another friend. Not only did she come right over with a hug but also with tears and relief as she told me that she too has long struggled with depression, had no idea that I did, and was so relieved to be able to talk about it. She had always hidden it, and hidden it well, as had I.

Being able to talk to people about how I’m doing has been such a relief. No more than when I was in hospital, if I’m having a bad day or a bad week, I still find it hard to admit to. Old habits are hard to break, and I sometimes still find myself putting on the happy face, or else avoiding people entirely. But, other times it’s a relief to talk. I can be honest. I find that in general, people are happy to follow my lead. If I’m clearly not ok but change the subject, they don’t push. If I want to talk, they listen.

My friend gave me a hug, let me cry and then we went for a walk

Depression is an incredibly powerful illness. The very nature of it forces us to hide, to avoid contact, to feel shame and guilt for how we are. It forces us to isolate ourselves, and that’s something that’s hard to fight. Hard, but not impossible.

If we allow the enforced isolation to continue, depression gets worse. But maybe, when things get really bad, we can take a chance on not ignoring someone who is reaching out. Not too long ago, on a very, very bad day, I got a text from a friend about going for a walk. Initially I wasn’t going to respond at all. Then I changed my mind, and said that I was in the horrors and would stay where I was. She immediately offered to come in. Again, my first instinct was to lock the door and hide under the duvet - I was a tear-stained, snotty mess at that point. But I didn’t. I took a chance and she came in. She gave me a hug, let me cry, then insisted I eat something and go out for a walk with her. So I did. And do you know what? The world got brighter.

What do you think about the issues raised in this blog?

Share your views with us on Twitter >>

Or sign our pledge wall to show your support and find out how talking tackles mental health discrimination.

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.


Mental Illness

Mental Illness is a big stigma in the Black Community. I've tried to share with friends how I felt but they do not understand and ridicule my feelings. Since Black people put a huge emphasis on religion most just believe you can pray your way out of depression or any type of mental illness. I've chosen to stay in the closet and hide. I'm home today from work but I would never tell anyone the real reason. It's not worth all the ugly, snarky, sarcastic comments. I will say the young lady in the video was brave. It took courage for her to take a chance. If I did the same I'd be rejected. Many days I wish I had a support system but for now I rely on my cats, spending time with my autistic brother Stephen when possible and of course prayer.

Deborah's Isolation

How hard for you to be in this situation of opening up and being ridiculed. Some people or communities take time to get to awareness and support. Your cats sound cool, I wonder how many you have? Are they are part of your routine that gets you up and going. I hope that some other people can help you, are the church people the same? Sometimes people don't realise they can help in practical ways, popping in, listening, making a cuppa, a smile, perhaps by asking them what to pray for you or suggest a prayer and if they have prayed on the subject? Even if that isn't the answer for you it might start talking about it. A lot of rejection in my experience comes from fear or having something similar in their own 'closet.' Good luck, God Bless.

Well done for reaching out!

I think you are courageous and sound like you are coping with a very hard illness as I know from my own experience. I've been in hospital a few times for my schizo affective disorder, which affects me with depressive episodes. I have always found once you open up its so surprising how people open up with you. They either have personal experience themselves or have friends who have had difficulties. It can help to open up as it can make you feel less alone and cared for which all aids recovery. Thank you for your blog it does help to read about people's experiences. Good luck and thanks again, Sam Collins .


Hooray to you Fiona. You sound liberated in a way. And it's great that you know it's ok to still have down days and not to feel up to things. But it's also great when you can push yourself to go for a walk or answer a txt. As you know, some people struggle to find the support from those around them. But your story will give everyone hope that accepting and caring people are out there. X

Brilliant honest blog

Thank you for such a powerful and honest blog. I suffer from schizo affective disorder and I've had many hospital admissions. I'm glad you had such positive feedback and I think you are very brave. I've found on the most part people can react well and will often share there experiences and that can help you feel less lonely.ive had lots of bouts of depression so I can relate to so much that you were saying and I think with lots of good support that can aid with recovery as like you say it can be so isolating . Good luck and thank you for sharing, I find the blogs so helpful and one day I might share my story. Thanks again Sam x .

Wonderful! :D I can so relate

Wonderful! :D I can so relate to the decision to just go for that walk after all, and the difference it makes. Such a huge thing when you're depressed.

Coming out

I had a similar experience of coming out. I wasn't on Facebook but I let it get around through the few people who did know. While a lot of the reactions I got were more 'blokey' they were no less heartfelt and only one or two people were at all freaked out. It's a hard step but people are a lot better than we are sometimes led to believe.


Its good to go for a walk even if you dont feel like going out.When i was in reabilitation i was asked to join the gardening club and i diddent enjoy it one little bit but after a few months i began to like gardening. Now that im residing in a house again i have the back garden full of flowers and got big plans for next year. Every body needs something to look forward to Good luck Fiona and all the best to you

Getting out and about

Depression is a horrible thing and is difficult for anyone who hasn't experienced it to understand. I have a friend who used to suffer from terrible bouts of depression and still has occasional, although a lot milder, episodes. The one thing that totally changed his outlook on life and has almost cured him of his depression, is exercise. Whenever he feels depression coming on, he takes some form of physical exercise and if he doesn't feel up to a heavy workout, he will go for a walk, no matter what the weather. He swears this is the best cure for depression he's ever found. He is definitely a changed man since he's started exercising and whereas he used to enjoy a glass (or two) of red wine most evenings, he now works out or goes for a walk instead and I am sure this is also a contributory factor.

To be understood

I think it's extraordinary to have support. I didn't have support for a long time, I was feeling isolated and misunderstood. With time I started to tell people I am depressive and anxious and some understood me which made me feel good. I also met online people who suffer from depression and anxiety and who got better and they became models for me, like I wasn't ashamed anymore. It took a long time to accept and make people around me accept that depression and anxiety are real not in my head. Some days I would isolate, wouldn't go out, avoid people. But I figured out that it wasn't a solution all the time. we have good days and bad days and we have to figure out how to act when these days happen and teach people how to act with us. Very encouraging story.

What did you think of this blog? Tell us in the comments