When it comes to talking about how I feel, I’m a pretty open book.
From a young age I found talking about my feelings pretty easy. I was lucky enough to be brought up with a knowledge that if I had a problem, I could always talk to my family about it. No judgment, no questions asked, just listening.
So when it came to light when I was 16 that I was suffering with depression, there were no questions. I got all the support I needed. But that doesn’t make living with it any easier. As much as having people around you who support and love you helps, your head doesn’t suddenly decide to mend itself.
Mental health is a personal thing for everyone, in any respect. Whether you know someone who has suffered from it, have been directly affected by someone else’s struggles with it or suffer yourself. It affects us all.
In times like now when a lot of people are starting new adventures, I feel it important to stress that not coping is ok. Not being able to deal with your own mind isn’t weak, it’s human. With everything that’s thrown our way we’re all doing pretty well to still be standing.
Depression and anxiety are difficult to explain. Everyone, I feel, has different experiences with them and the same diagnosis doesn’t mean the same experience. One person can go years living their life without another soul knowing what they’re battling, another can completely crumble under the pressure of dealing with it. It’s always different, and doesn’t need to be explained.
For me, depression comes in waves. When I feel like I can’t cope with the pressure I put on myself, or I feel like I’m losing control of a part of my life, it comes back around. Like a slap in the face, I suddenly don’t want to see people, don’t want to get out of bed and any discussion about my feelings is promptly shut down. I know the signs, I know when it starts. But everytime, no matter how much help I’ve gotten, it’s never easy to admit I need more.
More help, more love, more support. You start to feel selfish for needing it.
But no matter how much I push against it, I always end up giving in and admitting defeat. Yet again I’m knocked down by my own mind, my own strength, or lack of.
I have to remind myself that I am in a constant beta state. I am not complete yet, I will always have more work to do and be faced with more lessons to learn.
Mental health is not a quick fix. There are so many outlets to help you cope with it, and it’s all about trial and error. First step is asking your loved ones for help with it. And if they’re not around, or you’re not ready to involve them, your doctor, support worker, school counselor or even school nurse is your first point of call. Tell them how you feel, even if you don’t really know what it is. Feeling upset, lost, numb from feeling or just confused is reason enough. Talking about it, and letting it out into the open is the first big step to helping it get better.
It took me a long time to get my head around the fact that one session with a therapist wasn’t the fix. It was countless sessions, processing them when I got home, logging my emotions, writing down how I felt if I couldn’t verbally explain it. And then accepting that the underlying reasons for my depression were done and had to be let go. It was confusing, it hurt at times, but it’s the best thing I ever did.
I know a lot of people will feel confused by a post like this.
“Why’s she telling the internet about this? Why does she think people even care?”
But I wish I had read something like this at 16. When I needed someone on my wavelength, of a similar age, to tell me how I felt didn’t make me a ‘psycho’. That feelings, deep or not were valid no matter what other people thought. I wish I had had some reassurance that this internal struggle didn’t have to rule my life, and it would eventually teach me a lot more than I ever realised.
Winston Churchill famously referred to his depression as ‘The Black Dog’. It supposedly dates way back to poets and writers who used it themselves, but regardless it is still used to describe a person’s depression.
It may not help everyone, but I was shown the video below when I was struggling to help better understand what it is I was going through and feeling. It isn’t a cure, or a fix to anything, but a little knowledge can take you a long way.
So, if you’re struggling, or know someone who is, just remember it doesn’t stay this bad forever. Every new day is a new opportunity to get better. And it will never, ever define you.