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