Let’s Talk.

I must have been around 7 years old and I remember crying my eyes out because I wanted to be adopted. I didn’t want to live with these people who had only ever shown love to me.  I had the most wonderful up-bringing imaginable. The best parents I could have asked for, a bother and sister who I love to pieces and extended family around me who I adore. Yet, in the mind of a 7 year old the grass was greener on the other side – I didn’t want to live there anymore.

At around 14, 7 years later, I felt the same desire to remove myself but this time from my friends. I remember apologising to my three best friends at the time for being a ‘crap friend’ when they continually reminded me this was never the truth. I had a boyfriend I would fly off the handle with for no reason because it was easier to push him away yet he still stuck by me. Despite this support I still shut them out and shut my mouth for over a year and only talked when absolutely necessary. I became in a sense a recluse, I hibernated into myself to a place that no one could reach because it felt safe there with me. I continued to believe the lies in my head telling me I was ugly, worthless, had no friends. Really I began to think life would be easier if I just didn’t have friends – a lie that so often still pops up now.

This continued throughout my childhood but I always put it down to being an attention seeking child and a melodramatic teen. (Like I mean, we all had those MSN’s with the deep meaningful lyrics right?). I just assumed this numbness, emptiness and the emotion ‘it’ was normal. I never fully understood what it was that was happening to me. Why? Well because I was never fully educated on it.

Sure I had PSHE lessons we learned to some degree about mental disorders but it was never highlighted to us that anyone can suffer a mental illness. Despite the attempt at education a stigma still existed in my mind and of course in my own eyes I didn’t fit this stigma. I didn’t ever suffer abuse, I would never say I was bullied, I didn’t have any family trauma so really what I was feeling was self-pity, a very selfish kind of self-pity that I could not pull myself out of.

Now at 21 years I am learning that depression doesn’t attach itself to one type of person and it most certainly is not self-pity.

I have finally acknowledge that depression really can affect anyone and I have to be one of those anyone’s.

Since ‘coming out’ so to speak about my depression numerous people have come to me with encouraging words of their own experience. These people are never the people I would have expected or fit in with my stigma. Recently, I read a book Depressive Illness – The curse of the strong and even in the period since I have read it I realised the truth this title holds. The people who have confided in my are those people that I look at with admiration, the people who seem to be the strongest and hold themselves together, the type of people I would want to turn to when I am having my own meltdowns. There have been people who have held me up this year who have over time come to admit they also suffer(ed)…these where the people who were helping me survive.

From conversations over the last week I am coming to realise that my passion is to eradicate to some degree the stigma’s and stereotypes of mental illnesses. Those people are hesitant about sharing their experience because of what people might now see them as. However, as I see it if more of these people open up and share their experiences the more chance we have of removing this stereotype. We no longer feel abnormal we can, to a certain degree, feel normal with an illness and can know the stereotype that is so easy to believe in is in fact completely and utterly false.

Although I long to remove the stereotype myself – I want to make a worldwide difference because I want people to understand they are not alone, they are loved  and we are survivors together – right now I can’t. Right now all I can encourage people to do is talk. The more stories of unexpected people experiencing depression the more chance we have of elimination this stereotype. We can stand beside each other and say it’s okay because you know what I was at the same stage as you, I stood staring death in the face but here I am today, smiling, laughing and writing a blog on my experiences.

People who don’t suffer depression are great support, they really are but those of us who understand really do have a heads up on this one. I am not saying if you don’t suffer depression you can’t help us. In fact, when you don’t suffer but we are in the depths of a bout having someone who doesn’t suffer but is sensitive to the illness can be one of the biggest blessings. However, I have found that the best people to help me in my meltdowns are those who have been there themselves. They know exactly how to act, they know what to say or even if anything needs to be said.

So really, I have written this because there are three things that need to be done:

1) Educate, Educate, Educate.

2) Let’s get rid of the stupid stereotype

3) Knowing others suffer can be the reason we survive

LET’S TALK.

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A hidden blessing

It is easy to be surprised when someone tells you they are suffering a mental illness. We usually look at these people as if they have ten heads – why? Well because quite frankly they are not who you expect. They are the ones who make you smile, laugh and seem to have it together. They chat away to others or seem to be content just being by themselves but really underneath the surface it is really complete chaos…you know like the swan analogy? Calm on the surface but underneath their feet are paddling like crazy.

I recently read a book titled ‘Depressive Illness – The curse of the strong’ (Chris Cantopher) and each day I realise the truth in this. The more people who tell me they know what I have been through because they have too, the more I realise they can be the ballsy-est boy or the most confident girl (outwardly) but their outside appearance doesn’t reflect the reality of their feelings.

I find those people who seem to be suffering are those who hold their head high, can sort out any problems and they tend to be the people you run to when you need help. Why do we run to them? Because they are the ones who understand.

Earlier this year while having coffee with a friend and she asked “How has it been having depression?” My answer, “A blessing.” Now, I bet you didn’t see that one coming.

A disease which well at times seems as if it has taken everything away from me. My hopes, my friendships, relationships, determination, motivation absolutely everything can disappear in an instant. Yet, I still call it a blessing – yea I know I’m a bit odd believe me I learnt that a long time ago but let me tell you why I have learnt to take it as a blessing.

You see suffering from this means we can sympathise with those who feel the same. We can understand exactly how it feels when someone comes to us and says they are upset but do not have the reason or words of explanation. We know how to react when no words of comfort seem to be working because we have been through it all. We know a hug or someone watching pointless TV can make all the difference which words will never do. I am not saying those of you who have never suffered do not do a good job of supporting us – you do, believe me, you really do. However, I do feel we (we referring to us that have depression or anxiety) have one up on this occasion. Part of me feels privileged that I can turn to that teenage girl and say yes I know exactly what you mean but you know what it is going to get better, I can say this because I have been in your shoes.

When times have got really tough you learn to see how many friends you have that will stick by you through thick and thin. We can lash out without even anticipating it ourselves; we fly off the handle for an unknown reason; strike up an issue that frankly is not an issue. We understand we can be a handful sometimes and maybe there are some people who cannot be around you for these reason. That is okay, I understand it is not easy we don’t blame you for this. Yet, at the same time there are those who will hold tight no matter what. In March, I went to visit a friend, one of my closest friends and I ended up having one of my ‘outbursts’ I didn’t know what I was saying, didn’t understand what I was doing. She should have turned around and walked away from our friendship but she didn’t. She stuck by me despite my unexplainable actions. Thus, depression has been a blessing in that my eyes have been opened to truly understand the friendships that we have surrounding us stand strong even when we fail to recognise them in the depths of our despair.

The most import blessing probably goes without saying; it was coming back to the foot of the cross to be cliché. Okay so for those of you who aren’t Christians you are probably thinking wth is she on about. Well, if I hadn’t had depression I can say that it is pretty likely I would probably not be a Christian. You see I prefer to believe I can do things on my own (independent right?) but the times I find myself reaching out to Jesus are the times I sit in my bed room, in the dark with my arms wrapped around my knees as the tears trickle down my cheeks and don’t believe I can go on anymore. I know I am surrounded by a world full of people who will listen and despite everyone knowing what is going on I find it difficult to really say when things are tough. I prefer to sit in own little room with Jesus. Just me and him.  So the biggest blessing is that I have been able to have my Saviour in my life and no matter what it throws to me it is nice to know that He is my comfort blanket He has it sorted. Really, it is kind of reassuring when you cannot even make the decision whether to have a chicken sandwich or a bowl of soup to know that someone else has it in control already. It lets me escape for a while and allows me to set down the weight I carry on my shoulder because it is no longer mine to bear.

I am not saying for a minute the disease is a blessing; it is the furthest thing from and I would not wish it on anyone (literally noone).

However, I am realising it isn’t going to get up and go anytime soon so I now look to see the ways it has changed my life (and hopefully others) for the better.

Depression really is the curse of the strong.