I spent the first ten years of my adult life living with the crushing weight of depression bearing down on me constantly. This weight stunted my emotional growth and development just when I should have been standing tall, emerging as the woman that I was to become. It took me a decade to find treatment that could help me. This decade left its mark: scars that run deep, flashbacks and fears that are never far from the surface.
As well as shaping who I was then and who I have since become, my depression also profoundly affected my friendships and relationships. It was so hard to be ‘me’, even to know who ‘me’ was, that I found it almost impossible to feel true to myself and connect with people in any real way. Depression drowned out everything else. And my inability to feel connected to people fuelled a vicious cycle of isolation, loneliness, despair.
I was lucky enough though to cross paths during these years with a couple of people who were able to see past my depression, to see more of ‘me’ than I could myself. I would like to say thank you to these people.
Somehow they were able and willing to see me as distinct from my depression – something that even I have not yet fully been able to do. As a result I didn’t feel I had to struggle to hide my depression, and so I felt real. What a relief this was! When I had to, I cried, I got angry. I made unfair demands, I ruined plans, I let people down. And I never felt judged for doing so, and I was never abandoned. My friends never added any guilt to my burden, and they never made me feel in any way like they thought I chose to be this way, or that they thought this was who I really was. I felt as if I existed, in their eyes, as Josie who happens to suffer depression – the depression wasn’t me. They were able to cut through it all and reach the real me and, incredibly, they liked me. When I needed it, they supported me and cared for me as they would for a friend with a broken leg or a bad cold. Ice cream, movies, cups of tea, quiet company.
I will forever be grateful that these friends came into my life and were able to see past my depression.
Since those worst times I’ve had some short spells that remind me of how hard life used to be. And I’ve been lucky again: one or two people who have come into my life more recently have been there for me and seen me through. They haven’t been scared of my emotion, or dismissed me as damaged, or stayed away because they don’t know what to do. They have simply asked how I am. Brought me something to eat. Handed me tissues and not minded my tears. They haven’t felt the need to offer a solution, but have been willing to just be there.
Depression is something I have suffered. It is not me. Thank you to the strong, kind people who have been able to see that, even when I haven’t been able to myself.