I’m not a fan of attention grabbing lines, but I feel that mental health is something that needs attention. Or at least awareness. I can’t speak for everyone who has experienced depression, but I can share my experience. At least a part of it. Hopefully by the end of reading this, it will make sense to you why I am choosing to share this picture and these words.
When I first experienced severe depression, it was terrifying. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I drank. A lot. I smoked. A lot. I talked to no one. I hid how bad it was from those who cared. Until I couldn’t. I went mute for a few days. I had panic attacks. I believed I was losing my mind.
I hated myself. Completely. Every single bit of me. I hated all of me. Like the opposite of being truly in love with someone, where everything is seen through a lens of love. I saw myself through a lens of hate. I felt no hope. No love. I believed I had lived everything I had to live and had nothing more to do. I felt a failure. A burden. I believed it like it was an irrefutable truth. And I couldn’t wait for everything to end.
But I didn’t die. And I’m still here.
Someone I met in that time, someone who had been through it, they told me that it does get better. Something I could not believe. I just couldn’t see how. The depression wouldn’t let me. And it’s only now that I can see it was the depression that made me see things as I did. At the time I felt it would never get better. It couldn’t. It was hopeless. That was the truth.
But it was not the truth. The real truth that depression made impossible for me to see, is that there is hope. There is always hope. Even when it can’t be felt. And there is help. And things can change. And it is worth it. It is so worth it. In whatever capacity I can, as someone who wanted to die for every second of the day I was awake, I want to pass on that truth to anyone reading this who is under it right now. There is hope and there is help.
My GP helped. Medication helped. Therapy helped. The Samaritans helped in ways I couldn’t imagine (116 123). Reading the stories of others made me feel less alone. Even though I think depression is experienced uniquely by those who go through it, there were commonalities in the stories I read which made hope feel a little more real. I hope now, that what I am writing here has that effect for even just one person. Because that kind of hope saved my life more than once. And if there is a chance this might do that for one person. I don’t know how I can’t take that chance.
There is another side to these words . A more selfish side perhaps. A more frustrated side. A more defiant side maybe.
Yes. I tried to kill myself once. And that is something I am not ashamed of.
20 years ago, I kept a secret about myself. I felt confined by my own ignorance and that of others. I felt threatened by prejudice. I felt angry at discrimination. I felt hurt by judgement. And I had no voice. Because I kept mine silent. Until I came out as gay. That was 20 years ago, nearly to the day.
It’s funny that I have been feeling many of the same things lately. It adds up to one thing for me. Shame. Shame, for something that warrants none.
I’ve read that shame feeds depression. And depression feeds shame. I found that after I came out, there was nowhere I could hide from the truth. And that no one else could hide from it either. The shame could be faced. And I started to see it for what it really was. A lie. A lie grounded in a lack of understanding and ultimately, a lack of acceptance. Both mine and that of others.
Currently, in the UK, there are issues I see every day regarding mental health that I feel need attention:
- insufficient funding in mental health service provision
- poorly structured patient care
- social and professional stigmatisation
The issues I see seem to all stem from a lack of understanding, in those experiencing difficulties, and those who are not. A lack of knowledge and understanding enables ignorance. The best way that I’ve ever known, to address ignorance, especially my own, is to be open and to converse about what we don’t know. Until we know something more.
I want to spread awareness of mental health by breaking the taboo and challenging misconceptions. To that end, there is one misconception I want to highlight. One that I need to challenge for myself and for anyone else that it resonates with:
I am not my depression. I am not emotionally fragile. I am not incapable of handling pressure or stress. I am not weak. What I am, is a combination of my experiences, my feelings, my thoughts, my memories. Depression is one element of that. And like this image illustrates, there are times depression has taken prominence. But the rest is always there. It’s here now in what you are reading.
At the start of this message, you had a split second to choose to move on from these words, or to read on. Thank you for staying.
I am tired of having to hide, and by doing this, it isn’t that I won’t be able to, it’s that I will not have to hide like I am ashamed. And if I’m right, that will only lead to good things.
Love. Always love.
Reproduced with permission, originally published here