Depression. It brings many different thoughts to many different people. Some use the word in flippant conversation “I’m so depressed”. Some think it’s another word for feeling a bit sad. And some, those who have been there, know that it’s a collection of heartbreaking emotions.
Depression is different to each and every person who kicks, screams and tumbles their way through it.
In 2018, it is still such an important conversation to have. Mental health. Why do we, as a society, still treat mental health nothing like we treat physical health? My stomach hurts, “get help”. My leg is broken, “get help”. I’m suffering with depression, “what do you have to be sad about?” How is that still the go to response?
I was diagnosed with depression in 2012. At a time when I spent more time crying than functioning. More time laying wide awake staring at my ceiling than I did sleeping. More time pinned to my bed by anxiety than enjoying being 21 years old. I “joked” about suicide in conversation. Only to go home and think for hours about how little I was actually joking. I made plans with friends and bailed every single time.
From the outside my life probably looked great. I had travelled the world, had friends in various countries, in a happy relationship, accepted to university and running a business with my family. However, internally I was an empty pit of despair. I went to bed every day telling myself that tomorrow would be better, that I’d do better (I’m naturally optimistic). Every morning I woke from the 2 or 3 hours of sleep I could steal, and nothing had changed.
Over time, sadness became home and empty became a choice. I knew sadness, and still do. I understood what empty felt like. I stopped looking for happiness. The thought of being happy was terrifying. My depression told me that happiness was risky. Happiness can be broken. And in my fragile state I didn’t have the courage to try. I stayed and I sat. I existed, barely.
I remember the exact moment my mum said to me with pain in her eyes “I really think you have depression Rach”. I finally went to see my doctor. He prescribed me, in his own words, “an old granny dose” of an antidepressant. In just 2 weeks the insomnia left, the weight pinning me to my bed was lifted, I even smiled once or twice.
It was only then that I began to see how deep the darkness within me truly was.
Now I’d love to say that the antidepressants were the miracle cure. But there are no miracle cures in mental health. It was, and still is, a long treacherous road through recovery. It is something I see and feel every single day 6 years on. Now, I am not a big fan of medication and attempt to live my life as naturally as possible. But that shit saved my life. Not only is there a stigma around mental health, but also the medication associated with it. Countless times I heard, “you don’t need to take that stuff!” Only me and the universe will ever know how much I did.
Although I was diagnosed in 2012 it is now clear that I suffered with mild depression through my entire childhood. My teenage years were racked with despair and hopelessness. At the time I just thought I was weird. It is only now that my childhood makes sense. I wasn’t insane. I had a chemical imbalance that just could not be righted alone.
It has been almost 4 years since I have taken an anti-depressant. Mostly because the withdrawal from taking those that pills was horrific (but at least I was alive to feel it). I now manage my mental health through working out, yoga, vitamin D, mental health days and good company. I have developed a very deep connection with who I am. I am aware of my emotions, I notice my triggers and can now catch myself at the peak of the very very slippery slope downwards.
Depression is still very much part of my every day life. It is part of who I am and part of how I see the world.
Although one of the most horrific things to ever feel, it has created such a strong sense of gratitude in my life. I feel happiness so much deeper, hear bird song so much louder and see sunsets that much brighter. In such contrast to the darkness I carry around each day. Though not an experience I would wish upon anyone, the world would be a lot kinder if more people had been there, and survived.