As many of you will know, I was diagnosed with depression a little over 12 months ago, but I have been struggling with this illness for much, much longer. I had suspected as much for the previous 18 months before then.
As you can see on here, I hardly write anymore. It is a special feeling when you can see people reading your writing, but I’ve got nothing new to say at the moment. But with it being a year since I first spoke to my friends about my struggles with depression, I thought it an appropriate time to blog something.
A year ago I came clean, and told my friends what I thought many already knew: I was depressed. Having posted a link to my blog on my Facebook profile I became overwhelmed by the kind messages. To tell the truth, I was amazed that so many people took the time to read it – the post is nearly 3,000 words long! Friends commended me on my bravery and honesty on such a delicate, stigmatised issue. I didn’t feel brave. As soon as I posted the link I spent the following 2 hours out on a run so that I would be unable to read peoples’ responses. And then having showered I watched a film in the afternoon, before finally allowing myself access to my account in the early evening. I had spent the day running away from reality.
For weeks I questioned how best to speak. I wanted to tell everyone rather than a select few, so that it would not act as a burden on them, keeping my secret. I thought an assembly at school would be best, but I left it too late. Then I decided that I would post a link to my blog on my Facebook account the day after the final exam, so that I wouldn’t distract others from their revision. But as the last few days of school passed by, I realised that I needed to speak as soon as possible. With every passing day my distress deepened. I couldn’t cope waiting another month. All alone.
I wrote about my own experience with depression so that I could help to draw attention to it. I hoped that by informing people how depression makes me feel I could help to reduce the stigma surrounding the mental illness as well as encourage fellow sufferers to speak out, but more importantly, that they are not alone. I do not know if I have been successful.
That day – the 17th May 2014 – was probably the happiest I have felt over the last few years, knowing that I had nothing to fear, I had been accepted. But it didn’t last long. What I continually fail to understand is that depression doesn’t care who it attacks. Depression isn’t a weakness of character, but an illness. An indiscriminate illness that afflicts people without regard to their status, success or strength, and regardless of whether these people have all the qualities and possessions that we might think are necessary for a happy life.
Mental illness is still surrounded by prejudice, ignorance and fear. Non-depressives can rarely grasp the power of depression because they don’t understand that it is an illness. People wonder why I see everything in such a negative way, why I can’t just pull myself together, why I’m forever moaning in my monotonous tone. They are not to know that I feel powerless in the face of it. I could no longer control it. When confronted with the subject of depression, most people realise that they have at best a vague idea of the illness. The word depression has a certain stigma to it. I’m sure that for a lot of you, it conjures up images of embarrassment, shame and inadequacy.
It is so frustrating when friends don’t quite grasp the extent of my struggles. But it is not their fault; I don’t talk about it very often. I have cut myself off from the world. I go weeks at a time without speaking to friends. My phone doesn’t even have any battery – it hasn’t for weeks. I used to struggle over the summer holidays, as I would go prolonged periods of time without seeing my friends. Now, I can’t wait for the summer, so that I can see them once more.
In the meantime, doing something, however much energy it takes is always better than doing nothing. I need to give the day a structure, do things, and give my thoughts no chance to go round in circles. Over the past few months, outside of work, I try to keep myself as busy as possible – going to the gym, out for a run, reading a book. (I have read a lot of books!) The important thing isn’t to do anything extraordinary; it is just to do something.
Each day is a marathon. On my darkest days, I lack the motivation to guide my life in any direction. I just can’t shrug off the listlessness, the lack of interest, the feeling of just not caring. Depression kills all positive feelings. Suddenly everything strikes you as pointless, hopeless. In the morning I have no desire to do anything that day, and in the evening I hate myself for not having accomplished anything.
Depression is debilitating. Every day my mind is plagued with unhappy thoughts. There is no let up. The emotional strain of the day leaves me shattered. Keeping an emotional lie takes an incredible amount of energy. And I don’t feel a great deal better when I wake up the next morning because I know what is facing me. Asleep I can dream of anything and anyone. Nearly every morning I wake up anxious and stressed, I am certainly not refreshed.
At times, it feels as if within me there is a double-thick pane of glass that screens me off from the life around me. As if I am viewing the world from a distance, rather than taking it all in and living every second. In truth, I can no longer remember which day of the week it is most of the time, it’s either I have work or I don’t have work, but they all feel the same to me. From my prison, there is no escape.
Depressives are no longer capable of seeing things realistically. I, myself, am no different. And I see everything in a pessimistic, negative way. I have difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what I imagine to be real, which as you can imagine, can cause some problems. I look at the date, but it does not feel like a year ago. My mind is still back there. I still expect to see everyone at school tomorrow. Over the past 12 months, and dating back even further in truth, I feel like I have achieved very little. I feel like a failure. No one and nothing makes me feel good about my life at the moment. I currently find very little pleasure in my day to day life.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix. For me, the first part of overcoming depression is by talking about it, I have to make myself believe that there is nothing wrong with me for being depressed, and I felt that the best way to deal with it was to be honest, and not treat it as anything major. If I kept it a secret, then it felt like I had something to be ashamed of, and I am never going to get better if I view depression like that.
Depressive illness cannot be cured overnight. It takes time, so perseverance is key for everybody involved. Drugs won’t cure someone from depression. You can’t become reliant on pills to live. Treatment has to be much more than that. Depression affects many more people than only the sufferer, so more people than only the sufferer need to respond. Families, friends, communities need to fight back with the sufferer.
If you do think that you are living with a mental illness, please don’t live in silence. I am where you are now, and those four walls around you cannot make a positive difference. Speak to a friend, let them know; you may think that they already do know and don’t care, but they need to hear it from you. Reading about other people’s dealings with depression helps me when I’m at my lowest; I hope that this can be read in the same way. You are not alone. In silence we suffer.
Thanks for reading. Have a nice day.