This post has undergone multiple different versions in my mind before today. Initially I planned to call this post Living With Depression but I don’t want to suggest, or imply that this is every persons experience. This is my experience, which I’m sharing because I don’t believe I’m the only one.
Personally, one of the hardest things that happens when I’m struggling with my mental health is being asked ‘what’s up?’ It seems like a harmless question doesn’t it? The sort of question anyone can answer. But when I’m in the midst of a tough time, it’s often a question I can’t answer. Not because I don’t want to. Not because I’m trying to be awkward. Simply because I don’t know.
See what many people don’t understand is that depression isn’t simply feeling miserable because life’s given you a bad hand. Depression is an illness that clouds your mind, clouds your feelings and your emotions. Whilst difficult circumstances certainly don’t help the way I feel, and can be triggers, the effects of depression can strike at any time.
One of the hardest things for me has been dealing with questions like this since I started to be able to talk publicly about my depression. When people who know about your illness ask such a question, or, in my mind the far worse ‘what’s up now?’ it rips you to the core. Fifteen months ago when I first spoke openly about my own battle, one of the driving factors behind that decision was wanting people to understand what’s going on in my life. When one of those people then asks such a question I just want to scream at them!
DON’T YOU GET IT! I’M STRUGGLING! BEYOND THAT I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S UP! I DON’T KNOW WHY I FEEL THIS WAY! I DON’T WANT TO FEEL THIS WAY. PLEASE JUST GET THAT!
However what people don’t see is that depression is more than just not feeling great, or, as I’ve had said more than once ‘being in a bad mood’. For me, there are days when life just seems to require more effort than I’ve got. When I wake up and can’t bring myself to get out of bed. When I can’t get the motivation required to open the front door so I spend the most beautiful day of the year lying on my sofa without going out the front door. When talking to friends feels like too much effort so I text them and say I’m busy, when in reality the only thing I’m busy doing is avoiding people.
What I find hardest is that there is no rhyme or reason to it. I can have every reason to be happy that day, and yet I can’t summon the energy to be happy. I can have had great news and yet feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. Some days I can be smiling on the outside and breaking on the inside.
And yet, somewhere in all that I know I’m lucky. Personally, I know there are two things in my life that are crucially important – my work, and my training. They are two things that will always get me out of bed in the morning. Two things that I know I simply cannot miss. Two things that even on the toughest days I’ll brave, even if I’m not feeling brave.
“I push all my problems to the back of my mind
Then they surface in my dreams, they come alive”
(Katy B, Crying For No Reason)
Yet sometimes it feels like this perpetuates the problem. I let the world see I’m OK when I’m not, let the world think I’m doing fine when I’m struggling. And then when I’m alone and have finished the ‘must-dos’, it all comes crashing down, and I’m back on my sofa on my own.
Why write all this on my blog though?
I write it because I want to help people understand. Ever since I started to talk about depression a year ago I’ve been met with many people who think that depression is just ‘feeling sad’. Equally I’ve been met with people who tell me they’re ‘not surprised’ I’ve got depression with ‘everything you’ve been through’.
I want to help people understand that there are so many ways depression can affect you. It’s not just taking news badly, or feeling sad. Understanding the effect it can have on peoples lives is crucial.
I want people to be able to look out for signs with their friends so they can offer genuine care and compassion. Again, this is different for everyone, but there are times for me where I wish someone had understood what I was going through. Where rather than asking what was up they’d seen I was struggling and just sat with me.
I want people to know they’re not alone. Honestly, until very recently I thought I was the only person who went through these periods of lacking motivation for the simplest of tasks. It was only through reading something online I understood I wasn’t alone.
And so I’ve written this post. Not really with anything profound to say. Not with any answers to the huge questions I have. But I’ve just written, very bluntly, about a small part of my experiences. I hope you’ll take it as it is, respect what I go through, and look out for those around you who may experience very similar feelings.