May 27, 2015

My depression and anxiety started after I experienced a lot of stress in a job that really wasn't for me. I'm young, yet I started to tell myself I would never amount to anything - on top of that I was working constantly, and never had any time to do anything but that. One day I was getting ready to go to work and I had very sudden panic attack: this turned out to be just the beginning of a very long journey. I was diagnosed with clinical depression and severe anxiety by my doctor and, although it was hard to hear, things suddenly starred to make sense. Just having a reason for why I was feeling this way was a huge help.

Depression does not define you

I spent a long time trying to get back to the person I was when ultimately that was the mistake I was making. I needed to see this through so I would be stronger for it, so I could really see myself at my darkest and still know I was worth the fight. Depression caused me to lose every inkling of your self worth and every little detail in my life became analysed. Depression and anxiety are clever and imaginative; if someone said anything slightly negative or constructive to me it was replayed over and over again in my mind and my illness had more ammunition to fight against me.

This is what I learned on my journey with depression: depression is not part of you, it does not stand with you and does not define you. It is not your friend and it's not part of your personality. I've found that I could best challenge depression by letting my thoughts play out and saying "oh, there goes another silly thought again". The most important thing I learnt was to stop agreeing with my depression.

Stigma is still very evident in society

The stigma is still very evident in our society; once I told a couple of friends how I was feeling and why I was withdrawing myself - they completely ignored me and only came back to me when they thought I was better. Then, when they realised I wasn't better, they ignored me again - this only fed the illness because it was more proof that I was a burden on everyone and that everyone else was better off without me. I'm 24 and I have a lovely home and a great partner, to everyone else I just had no reason to be depressed.

I have a wonderfully supportive partner but he wasn't an expert from day one, he said all the cliche phrases like 'I swear you like being like this' and 'cheer up'. So one day he came to my GP with me and after sitting in on my appointment he immediately got home and researched how to help someone through mental health issues. It wasn't quite the same situation with my parents - in the beginning I felt like they didn't value what I was saying and didn't see it as a serious problem; people find it hard to understand something they've never experienced. But they now understand how difficult it's been and how strong I am for seeing this through.

Share your good days and your bad days

I'm not weak because I've had depression, I'm strong because I've seen it through and, now I know the signs, I feel braver than ever. I know when depression happens to others I will see the signs in them too and be able to support them.

Overcoming depression is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world, I feel like a completely different person now and like I can conquer anything. There is no miracle cure for depression, you just have to see it through. And the most important thing for you to do is share, share your good days and your bad days, share your worries and your thoughts. There is truly someone for everyone, whether that's a doctor or a friend a partner or a parent. You are valued always.

Do you see yourself in Charlotte's story? 

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