To describe what living with depression and anxiety is like to anyone who doesn't understand or hasn't experienced it before is to imagine a weight pulling your body down, so heavy that every day you have to summon up the strength to push against it and to lighten the impact. Some days I'm just about able to ease it off a little and get on with the things I need to; there's still a strain there but it's manageable and I can stave it off for a little while if I’m distracted.
However, other times I just don't have the strength and energy to push against it and I feel powerless, completely worn down and unable to move forward. That's what it feels like for me, so intense and so unavoidable.
Of course you can't actually 'see' depression and anxiety the way you might do a physical ailment on the body. On the surface, I smile and talk about the normal things you're supposed to talk about with others and answer 'how are you?' with the expected 'fine thank you, and yourself?'. It can feel like to tell someone you're struggling is to place a massive burden on them, to make them feel uncomfortable, or even worse, there's the fear that it will make them walk away from you.
And whilst if the tables were turned and a friend was telling me they were struggling I wouldn't think any of those things, depression and anxiety can make you second-guess everything and feel unworthy of compassion and understanding from others. What people don't see are the days when leaving the house seems like an impossible feat, when just the process of getting dressed is exhausting and distressing, the days where I can't seem to stop crying, when sleeping is the only way to get away from my thoughts, or alternatively when I feel numb.
Being depressed isn't something that anyone chooses or something that can be solved just by thinking positively (as nice as that would be!). The reality is that you can be a positive person but be consumed by mental illness; you can be seemingly 'fine' on the surface but may have spent hours and hours trying to work up the courage to face another human, even if that’s just going to the corner shop or the post office.
It’s debilitating and complex and no one experience is the same, but we're trying really really hard. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to treatment either. Medication becomes a game of trial and error and quite often the combination of meds and talking therapy is more beneficial; I’ve found that it’s a process of figuring out what works for you.
Because of my personal experiences, like many others, supporting campaigns such as Time to Change are so important to me. For a long time I’ve worked hard to conceal my struggles from the people around me, but being passionate about wanting there to be more understanding and empathy around mental health issues, writing this feels like a small step in the right direction.