Buckle up kids because this is going to be a bumpy, rambly one. It didn’t feel right letting depression awareness week pass by without speaking up. As we all know many people suffer from depression, in a tie with anxiety it is the most common mental illness in the UK today, and those are just the people we know about as half of all depression sufferers do not even receive the medical help they deserve. As somebody who lives with the unpredictable beast that is chronic depression I can tell you that although we are more aware of the problem than ever, we as a society still don’t understand it. We don’t understand it because we still don’t really want to hear about it in all its gory detail. Afterall it’s sad, it’s scary and in all likelihood it’s probably happening to someone you know right now and that’s a painful thought.
We don’t like to hear about depression because it makes us feel helpless. When someone you love is hurting, there’s nothing worse than knowing that you can’t pull them out of that dark place no matter how strong you try to be. Nothing worse except perhaps being that depressed person that everybody is trying to help and being eaten alive by a special strain of super guilt that only exists amidst the murky waters of depression. As both an outsider and an insider, it’s so frustrating because depression somehow surpasses logic and circumstance. When things are going perfectly well in life, you can still feel empty and lost and it makes no sense to anybody least of all the person who is feeling it. When things go wrong, it’s rough…really rough and it can feel like the more you try to wriggle out of it the tighter that knot in your chest gets.
So how can this ever get better? When both good things and bad things still give out the same shitty results? When nobody can really help you but yourself? Well the fact is you can’t save somebody from drowning if you can’t swim yourself – you can’t take it into your own hands and you can’t expect them to suddenly conjure up a lifejacket out of thin air either. It’s a tricky one, because ultimately that person is the gatekeeper of their own future and with the right support from loved ones and professionals – it WILL be okay. But it turns out that believing it will be okay when you’re drowning isn’t that easy. You know what makes this situation a hell of a lot better? Not having the added stress of trying to drown with a smile on your face uttering “I’m fine, really” using your last breath. I don’t know the answers to any of the above questions but I do know this: stigma and shame surrounding depression has to stop and this can only be achieved through a better understanding of the illness and what it does to people.
I want to live in a world where I don’t feel afraid to admit that I’m depressed, where I don’t need to worry about who will see this article or how it could affect my future, where I don’t feel too scared of asking for help when I need it in case people view me differently. This can only be achieved if more people speak up and talk openly about mental illness, this will only be achieved when educators, employers and other influencers use their authority to make sure that mental health is being spoken about and not kept as a taboo subject. For me, the antidote to the cripplingly awkward silence that surrounds depression and mental health is undoubtedly rooted in acceptance and openness. As far as illnesses go, depression and anxiety are about as common as it gets and yet 9 out of 10 people with a mental health problem will still experience discrimination and stigma. Most of us will encounter these illnesses either up close and personal or by proxy during our lives – we all collectively need to work on publicly normalising what has been silently “normal” for years.
If you’re reading this and you think you might be suffering from depression visit Mind or Depression Alliance for more information. Go and book an appointment with your GP, speak to a loved one and try to remember that you are a resilient, beautiful being and you deserve all the best things in life.
If you’d like to learn more about my personal experiences with depression visit the PlusGuidance blog.