I’d wanted to write about my experiences for a while, but I never seemed to have the courage to do it (thanks anxiety!), thinking that nobody would read it and nobody would care, but now I feel that if I just change one person’s view, I will have made a difference. So, after quite some time and almost 7 years since first being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, here it is.
I was diagnosed with depression in 2009 after my Dad died, very unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. This, as you can imagine completely blew my world apart and I struggled to cope with my feelings from this point. Coming from a family that didn’t talk about things such as feelings, I kept my mental fuzz hidden away. I continued to go in a downward spiral and after having no support from my employers after my Dad’s death, I found it so difficult to cope, my work suffered and we amicably decided that it was time I should leave. I never really had the typical symptoms of grief, I can’t ever recall crying, it was more that my whole body felt empty, it really did feel like the ‘black dog’ was sitting on my chest. I couldn’t talk to anyone and even the thought of visiting my doctor made me physically sick, I knew that I had to do something.
Bella and Vicky showing that looks can be deceiving!
I made an appointment to see my GP and off I went the next day, she didn’t seem particularly sympathetic and just wanted to send me to counselling, which at the time had a 6 week waiting list, not something that I could see myself being able to stick around long enough for, so I insisted on tablets, I ended up on Sertraline, which did work for me. It was then so hard to tell people, but, I have adopted an attitude of telling anyone who will listen. I know of at least two people, who have then turned the tables and told me how my speaking out has helped them to put their own feelings in to words.
People didn’t believe me when I first told them, as on the outside I was always the person cracking jokes and helping others (stereotypical or what?!) It took a long time to feel that I could tell employers, but again, they were mostly all super supportive. I also need to stress here the importance of friends, some of whom have been my only reason for existing.
"When people look at me, they see a 28 year old with the house, new car, good job and going off on holidays, they think that I have a great life and what can I possibly be depressed about, I mean, some people have it so much worse than I do. Well, what people need to realise is that I don’t choose to have an off day."
The stigma behind mental health is the most ridiculous thing in society, I have arthritis in my ankle and whenever I am having a bad day, people will rush to my assistance, however when I am having a down day, nobody asks anything, they just think I ‘got out of bed the wrong side’. Why the difference? Maybe the people who judge are actually scared of their own feelings and are worried that they may get branded for ‘being mental’. When people look at me, they see a 28 year old with the house, new car, good job and going off on holidays, they think that I have a great life and what can I possibly be depressed about, I mean, some people have it so much worse than I do. Well, what people need to realise is that I don’t choose to have an off day. I don’t choose to doubt myself and everything I do. It’s my brain, it’s a chemical imbalance, think of an extension lead with too many plugs coming off it, eventually, it blows up, and that is basically my brain!
I got a dog two years ago and I can honestly say that it was the best thing I did, she gives me a purpose to get up, because honestly, I would stay in bed all weekend! She knows when to just snuggle up and give me love too. I came off the Sertraline over a year ago and don’t feel that I need them, although that isn’t to say that I don’t have bad days, but just focus on something that will get you through, even if it is just to see the sunshine that’s forecast for Friday!
Depression is evil and mix it with anxiety, it’s just torture, I know, but without wanting to sound like a massive cliché, there is light at the end of the tunnel, so speak up, tell people, because you never know who might just mirror your story and be the rock that you’re looking for. To any of my friends reading, thank you so much for letting me be me.
If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email firstname.lastname@example.org