September 28, 2015

You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve tried to write this. Somehow the words just don’t come out. To give you some idea, there was a six month gap between me writing this and me clicking “send”.

"I love you" is a walk in the park compared with "I've got depression"

“I’ve got depression.” Why is it so hard to say those words? Three words. I’ve felt less nervous saying “I love you” and those are supposedly the three most difficult words to say for the first time. “I love you” is a walk in the park compared with “I’ve got depression”.

I was first diagnosed with depression in December 2009, and I was at my lowest point when I was diagnosed. I knew I had depression. I was most recently diagnosed with depression in October 2014. I argued so much with my GP. “But this doesn’t feel like last time,” I recall saying. “It doesn’t feel as bad. Maybe it’s not depression.” I think it was diagnosed before I’d sunk any deeper. I started to feel better after a short while. I was back at work (I work in informal science education) and I was so sure my GP was wrong and it wasn’t depression. Turns out I was wrong. She was right.

Sometimes you have to share how you’re feeling with others

In an interview in 2013, Stephen Fry said that when he is presenting QI, “there are times when I’m going ‘ha ha, yeah yeah’” but inside was saying to himself “I want to die. I… want… to… die.” I remember thinking how I couldn’t understand that. My experience of depression, the first time, was that I could barely get out of bed, let alone leave the house. I know that everyone’s experiences of mental health issues is different. I didn’t realise that each of my experiences with depression would be so different. I present shows for children. For a while after I was diagnosed, I didn’t present shows. Then I felt better, so I started presenting again. Then I stopped. Now I’ve started again. I don’t feel like I’m ready to, but I just want to cling on to normality and “me” by my fingertips. Now I totally get what Stephen Fry was talking about. Not to the same level, but now I understand. Now I know all about putting a brave face on how I feel. How I’m smiling and laughing and joking on the outside but I’m crying inside, hating myself and wishing I could be anywhere but there. Sometimes it does get too much though. Sometimes you have to share how you’re feeling with others because it becomes too much to keep inside.

One day, I’ll be able to open up to more people about my depression and not be scared of what they think

I’ve got a very small but incredibly perfectly formed support network. I can count the number of people on one hand. They’re the ones who know me too well to believe me when I say I’m fine. They’re the people I share my feelings with when I’m at my worst as well as my best. They don’t have any issues with me having a mental health problem – they’re just proud of me for dealing with it and taking ownership of it. The problem is I spend significant amounts of time worrying a gust of wind, or even a slight breeze, will make it come tumbling down. However low I’m feeling, I can make myself feel worse. How do you share this with people? Even people who care about you don’t want to constantly hear how you’re worried that one day they won’t be there.

The question “how are you feeling?” is such an odd one. Because however much someone genuinely cares, you can’t actually tell them you spent the whole day crying inside (but laughing on the outside, of course) because you’re worried that one day they’ll get bored of you being “the one with depression”. But you hope they won’t. One day, I’ll be able to open up to more people about my depression and not be scared of what they think. If they have a problem with it, all it’ll show is their own lack of knowledge about it. I know I can do it – and when I do, I’ll have my small but perfectly form support network to thank.

Rachel tweets @penglet.

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