May 19, 2014

I have had problems with depression for my whole adult life.  Despite running as fast as I can away from it, with a desperation to put it behind me, it always comes back. For all my successes, for all my acceptance and understanding of myself, for all my progress as a well-adjusted adult, it won't leave me.

Depression will still hijack my feelings

It's scary. And it's terrible. At first it wiped away my optimism. At its worst I would wake up in the middle of the night, swamped in sweat, with an utter, sheer bleakness. I was 19 when I read an article in a student newspaper describing exactly the problems I was having, it was called depression. Everything can be going well in my life, and it will still hijack my feelings.

I felt that having depression was my fault

Antidepressants have helped, as have talking therapies. I have been making use of both of these off and on for the last 15 years. Often, I have thought that my problems had been put behind me. I went back to university to get a First in my degree, I won a place over hundreds of candidates to gain my first serious job on a graduate scheme, and I now do a job that I am passionate about. I had a wonderful girlfriend who has become my beautiful wife, and is now also a great mother to our little boy, our boy who makes my heart flip with joy.

Depression has always come back to haunt me, and to grab me in its vice-like grip. When I first started having problems with my mental health, when I was about 16 or 17, I felt guilty. I felt as though through the choices I had made in my life I had brought problems on myself. I analysed my life and attempted to correct any imperfections. I would now be the perfect student/ son/ friend/ boyfriend. Unfortunately, this just made things worse. By trying to be perfect I was doomed to constant failure, I got caught in a vicious and unpleasant cycle of feeling worse and worse and trying to make up for it by being 'better' and 'better'. I felt that I had no right to be depressed and that it was my fault. Thoughts that have had their echoes in others' reactions to it.

There has been a reluctance from some people close to me to engage with me about it

There has been a lot of shame in the way that I have thought about and acted on my mental health problems. First of all from my side, I have been ashamed to be honest about how I felt and I have tried to keep it from people, which has made it difficult for some of those who care about me to talk to me about it. And also from others, there has been a reluctance from some people close to me to accept it and engage with me about it; on telling one employer that I was struggling with depression, they responded with 'well that's obvious, it's written all over your face. It's not our responsibility if you've joined our company with existing psychological problems.' One friend epitomised a fairly frequent view when they commented that they knew people with real problems who actually had things to be depressed about. Attitudes like that have made me all the keener to think I could put it behind me and present myself as 'normal'.

It would be good if there was no reason not to be honest about how we felt

Before I had a problem with depression, I was ignorant about it. I thought that people should 'get over themselves' if they had a mental health problem. I understand that we as a society have a long way to go before there is enough information and honesty about mental health in the public domain. There are two main reasons I support the Time to Change campaign to put an end to mental health discrimination and stigma. First, for myself now, and people like me, it would be good if there was no reason not to be honest about how we felt and what state our mental health was in; to be able to look after ourselves and seek professional help in an open way. And second, for people like I was when I was young. To be young, and to have a mental health problem and not understand it, and to feel guilty about it seems to me to be tremendously sad and an indictment of our society in 21st century Britain.

I am proud of myself, all aspects of myself. Like everyone, I have flaws, these are not a product of my mental health, they are just my flaws. I experience depression, there is also much more to me and I'm happy to be open about all of it.

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Caring for a depressive

Thank you for your excellent and heartening post. My probem is that my daughter who has ME and depression now thinks nothing works and doesn't want to try any more. I am at a loss as to what to say next. I really don't know how to help her further. What would you advise? As a fellow depressive?


It's only stupid people who think they have the right to judge those who suffer from mental health issues. I read a book called Depressive illness: The curse of the strong. It takes the view that it's strong people who become mentally ill because we don't stop and take the time to stop and think about ourselves. We don't give up. If you apply enough pressure to anyting, it will break, that's what happened to me. Putting ourselves together again is more difficult and takes time. You are not alone with this illness Rufus, look in your local area for support, or online forums. I can recommend "Live lifet o the full" and "Talk Depression" You will get understanding there because we have been on the road that you're on and know what you are talking about and how painful this illness is without experience of feeling it for themselves. Please take care Rufus, there is help and support. Check what your council can offer in your the community Please look for online support. I'm sure you will find some comfort there. Take care, Rufus x

Depression - Rufus' blog

Just read the blog and wanted to say well done and thank you for being honest and open about it. A friend of mine posted a link to it on Facebook and I read it before I was due to go to a meeting with my manager to talk about my depression (fortunately she is sympathetic having experienced it herself). Not all my colleagues have been so understanding though, even when I worked in Mental Health! You have explained perfectly the feeling of not being able to escape depression; like you it has always come back to exert its unwelcome grip on me, often when I've thought I was happy and everything seemed right in my world. So many times I have believed I'd managed to break away from it only to become overwhelmed again. I am 54 now and it has been part of my life (and completely my life at times) since I was 20. I know drugs and alcohol haven't helped but with family history it's likely depression would have got me anyway. Like you I have tried CBT & Mindfulness and have used medication all with some success. I now find that being able to talk helps a lot but understandably not everyone wants to listen. Running and walking also help me. I'm not at the stage where I can truthfully say I am proud of all aspects of me and may never be, but at least and at last I can accept that depression is not me but is part of who I am and I will have to live with it. So thanks to my wife and children for being there and thanks to you Rufus for having the courage to tell people about your depression; I'm sure many people will be moved and strengthened by your words, as I have been.

Thank you

Thank you all for your comments. I really value them and appreciate them. Best wishes, Rufus

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