3 things I wish I had known when I was diagnosed with depression

By Kirsty Frampton

1. It really is going to be okay

Quite arguably the most important one. No matter who tells you it’s going to be okay, no matter how much conviction they say it with and no matter how many times they say it, it feels impossible to believe. That’s totally okay. That’s kind of the crux of depression – indefinite pessimism and feelings of doom (that sounds so dramatic to someone that hasn’t been through depression, but trust me, it’s bang on the money).

I spent so many days lying in bed thinking “This is my life now. Forever”. Even now that I am much better it’s still hard to ignore those thoughts when I have a bad patch, even though I know now that it’s not true.

But I have been through it and I can tell you that it really does get better. It really will be okay. YOU will be okay. Heck, you’ll be more than okay.

When I was first diagnosed I was signed off work for 5 weeks. I then went back part-time and struggled even with that. Now I work full-time with a 3 hour minimum commute every day (when the demonic trains actually run on time). I also study part time on the side, train in the gym 4 times a week, am learning to drive and buying a house. I occasionally like to sleep and have a social life too. So I guess you could say I’m juggling quite a lot right now. And I’m coping. If you have told me two years ago that this would be my life now I would have told you that YOU were the one with mental health problems, not me!

2. Not being “cured” doesn’t mean you have failed.

Some people will be diagnosed with depression, it will be treated and they will be cured. They will have no problems with the illness ever again (lucky, leprechaun hogging bastards).

But for a lot of people this isn’t the case. They will struggle chronically. They will suffer with ups and downs of the illness, perhaps for their entire life. If that happens to you, it doesn’t mean you have failed and it certainly doesn’t mean the illness has beaten you because ultimately, you’re still standing aren’t you?

I’m not a doctor and I don’t know enough about the medical side of depression to fully explain it, but there are different types of depression and people suffer differently. Sometimes there is literally nothing you can do to make it entirely go away forever. So what’s important is focusing on how to cope with it and better yet, how to live with it in a way that doesn’t total embroil your whole life. It can be there in the background without it consuming your life.

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One of my favourite analogies about depression is that it’s like that one friend we don’t actually like. We’ve all had this at some point in life. They are basically just a massive arsehole and you have no idea why you are friends with them, yet you continue to be their friend. You don’t like them and they are a dick to you and you just put up with it for no apparent reason.

Well now think of depression as that other friend you don’t actually want. The one that is really bloody annoying and hangs around like a bad smell no matter what you do to try and shake them off. They finally start to get the message and they back off a bit, but you can still feel their presence lurking in the background like an amateur stalker. You think “Urgh, they are so annoying but I feel kind of sorry for them so I’m going to let them lurk”. You learn how to live with it, but you ultimate have the control.

When you have a cold it goes away, but when it comes back you deal with it. You don’t beat yourself up about it, you down your lemsip quicker than a 50p shot from Pasha when you were 18 (those were the days) and deal with it. Depression should be no different.

Your ongoing battle doesn’t make you a failure and it doesn’t make you a nutter. In fact, it makes you resilient and it’s a huge achievement to fight it off every time. So well done you!

3. It’s incredibly easy to listen to all the wrong people and ignore all the right people.

The people who want to support you will tell you it’s going to be okay and that they are there for you etc etc, but you bat it all away better than Djokovic on Speed. You can’t accept what they are saying because your illness won’t let you.

But the words of the people who are saying the wrong things (usually by accident/out of ignorance rather than malice) will penetrate your core and stay there for a long time. I mean a reeeeally long time. Remember how long Avatar dragged on? Yeah, even longer than that.

“Cheer up”. Oh good suggestion, why didn’t I think of that?!?!

“It could be worse”. Yes, it probably could be a lot worse, but my illness doesn’t let me release that.

“You just need to get on with it”. Ah, so simple isn’t it. Silly me!

When people say stuff like this it makes someone with depression feel so pathetic and melodramatic; it really doesn’t help at all. It makes us feel like we are being ridiculous. It humiliates us and makes us want to hide away from the world even more. You can’t ignore it, the illness just won’t let you.

When you are ill with depression it’s really difficult to differentiate between what is right or helpful and what isn’t. In retrospect I can look back on certain conversations and say I was an idiot for letting those kind of comments have such an effect on me, but in that moment the illness is too overwhelming to be able to do that. You just believe the thoughts that the illness plants as a result of those comments.

I still struggle sometimes and I will probably live with depression for the rest of my life. But that thought doesn’t phase me because I now know that I can get through whatever it throws at me, as can you.

Reproduced with permission, you can read more by Kirsty Frampton here

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