I am me, but not the me you think you see. That me, “…A fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy…,” is me, but only a part of me. People are regularly shocked when I tell them about my mental health. “Not you, you are so happy-go-lucky, so calm, so confident…,” they have said. The act I act has worn so thin. My antic disposition is just that. I have depression. I am clinically depressed. It stops me being who I want to be. It hurts. It destroys me.
I’ve had severe depression for most of my life. I’ve hidden it well. It’s been my dirty little secret; something I couldn’t tell anyone, something I dared not mention in case the mask slipped. I couldn’t talk about it, for fear… fear of another failure. Those times when I sat in the corner unable to speak, think, or move, you couldn’t see me. The hours I sat in my room ashamed, crying, staring, cutting, drinking, smoking, cutting, thinking, trapped; lost in my head, wound up by anxiety and insecurity to inaction. Days, when I thought I might not see the next day or hour or minute. No-one saw me. No-one knew, but I still hoped they cared.
I’ve always wanted to write, but for so long I was a writer who didn’t write – who couldn’t write. It was safer not to. I wouldn’t be any good if I tried, so why bother trying. I would just fail anyway: depression. I felt a natural-born failure, so another level of failure would be one too many: depression. Doing nothing was easier…but it wasn’t. I hid myself in a pipe dream. Reality became the stories inside my head that would never see light. Absence of light brings darkness, deep darkness. My inability to countenance failure, intensified failure. The gloom deepened as the black dog barked louder. Alone in my room ashamed, I cried, stared, cut, drank, smoked, cut, thought.
“Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar?” Like Yorick, in death, I lived in life until I could live that life no more. Something had to give. I can only compare it to coming out. Before I could tell the world, I had to accept my depression. I had to understand it. I had to stop feeling ashamed. I told people. I started a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. I had to write. I loved writing. I had seldom enjoyed anything as much. Ideas given form, images taking shape as words painted pictures. Every fibre of my being vibrated with joyous glee. With a blank page before me, everything was possible. Cathartic redemption was at my fingertips. This was my truth. This was me. This is me.
"People cared, they understood, empathised, and advised and through their support, I found the strength to communicate the truth of my fragility."
Until, that is, anxiety and depression stopped me writing. I could talk now; I had come out. This is me, this is the who I am. I could say it, but no longer write it. When I needed to write my internal computer froze, my pen ran dry. The words tumbled and tripped through my mind unbidden; ideas without form, unwritten. As the despair deepened, the insecurities intensified but the words would not flow. Trapped in an endless cycle of inaction, I told people how I felt – I had to – how the world (inside and out) affected me, and light came. Slowly at first, but becoming brighter later. People cared, they understood, empathised, and advised and through their support, I found the strength to communicate the truth of my fragility. Without them I would not have completed my postgraduate degree, I would never have been published, and I could never have written this.
Together we are stronger. The #timetotalk is always. Without the space and opportunity to talk and listen, the backing of a supportive employer, and without the love and care of family, friends, and strangers I wouldn’t have been able to get this far. Being able to talk openly about my mental health, I have begun to lose the fear. There is a distance left to travel to #endthestigma, but I have come so far in ending my own.
If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email firstname.lastname@example.org