Have spoken to a few people this week about some of these issues so thought I might re-blog this.
From 13th May to 17th May its mental health awareness week, so it seems like a good as time as any to admit what some of you may already know or have guessed. I suffer from depression and anxiety. If you don’t know, or haven’t guessed, I suppose this may surprise you a little (or not?).
This isn’t something I’ve actively kept a secret, but on the other hand it’s not something I’ve really broadcast either. I’m very lucky that I have some good people close to me who ‘get it’ or at least try to and help me through the tougher times. Some friends and family don’t ‘get it’, but are supportive in their own way, so I’m lucky in that respect also. I consider my ‘illness’ relatively mild (most of the time) compared to some less fortunate people (from my limited research and experience), so again, I consider myself lucky.
On bad days, I can get so anxious about the smallest (or largest!) thing I can shut down. I can’t cope anymore and I’ll either throw a temper tantrum, become irritable beyond reason or just go lie down somewhere and try and shut out the world. If it gets really bad, I can sink into a depression and end up feeling low and hopeless for days, weeks or longer.
Sometimes it’s a situation or circumstances that set me off, other times it creeps up unexpected for no obvious reason. When I’m ‘down’ its hard to explain or demonstrate to people why I am acting so angry/irritable/miserable (*delete as appropriate), as sometime I can’t reconcile it myself. Sometimes I just feel numb to everything, like nothing matters anymore. This is when I develop a hopeless outlook and its really hard to console or even distract me.
What most people don’t understand and/or even judge me for (and I don’t understand it myself to be honest) is why I end up in the state I’m in. I have a wonderful family who I love to the ends of the earth, fantastic friends, I’m physically healthy, I have a nice home, a job (which is shitty but at least I have one!) and a pretty stable life. I’ve heard it said and thought it myself; ‘I’ve no reason to be depressed.’
That’s the thing I’ve stopped trying to get my head round, the ‘why’. I mean when you catch a cold, you don’t spend a lot of time wondering why you are coughing and sneezing, you just get on with treating the symptoms and trying to get better. So that’s what I’m doing, trying to get better. I’ve seen the doctor, I’ve got some medicine, I see a counsellor and I’ve tried to adjust my lifestyle to counter-act anxiety, which causes my depression. I exercise loads, that releases chemicals in your body that make you feel good. As far as I’m concerned a good workout is the best cure for a bad day. I always feel better after a trip to the gym or a decent run.
I try to make time to do things I enjoy and that help me relax. Planning these things in advance helps you have things to look forward to in bad days. Sometimes it’s enough to get you through.
Sometimes it’s exhausting putting on your brave face, smiling and being polite when really I just want to sit alone somewhere. Depression makes you lie too. Making up excuses why I’m off work again, why I’m not coming out this weekend, why I’m acting like a moody prick and so on. I wish it was as easy as just telling people the truth, but people at large are way too judgemental about mental illness. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that unless you’re a sympathetic medical professional or extremely open-minded, you’ll never really understand mental health issues unless you experience them yourself or through someone close.
I certainly used to have many a socially pre-programmed misconception about depression. I used to hear people were depressed and fall on the old ‘well what do they have to be depressed about?’ point of view. That’s one of the hardest things to overcome, anxiety about what people think. Being accused of being weak, making it up, being work-shy, not having a reason to be that way etc. then there’s the useful advice of ‘just pull yourself together and cheer up!’ Gee thanks, as if I hadn’t thought of that, I suppose the advice and medication I got from the doctor must be bollocks and all I need to do is ‘cheer up’.
Anxiety and depression is a bitch. It’s a misunderstood illness that society seems to have a problem accepting or acknowledging. I don’t suppose things will change over night, but campaigns such as mental health awareness week will hopefully help.
Anxiety and depression, I can assure you, is a very real illness. It negatively impacts on my life and my family’s life just as much as any physical illness. One in four of us will experience mental illness in some firm during life. Chances are you probably know quite a few other people in similar states of mind to me, or unfortunately worse. I’m not after sympathy, I’m not after help, I’m not after advice or your opinion. All I ask is for a bit of understanding. If I’m being a dick, feel free to tell me, just try and understand I might not be doing it on purpose and I don’t like it anymore than you do. I’m trying to get better or at least learn to live with it. It’s an ongoing process and not always an easy or obvious one.
In the meantime, thanks for reading and apologies for all those times I was moody/shouty/unreasonable with you (well, unless you deserved it in which case serves you right!). I hope this had given you some insight or even some food for thought. If not, thanks anyway. I urge you to read some of the information in the above link. Thanks.