It has now been a month since I was diagnosed with the dreaded ‘D’. Depression. The elephant in the room or should I say ‘Black Dog’, which is commonly associated with the inconvenience, has been haunting me now since January. I had tried ever so hard to disguise my sadness with an OTT happiness (which of course is exhausting and impossible) in the hope that my own prejudices towards being labelled with the dreaded ‘D’ wouldn’t come true… Even if I knew those were the murky waters I was sailing on.
I had lost all motivation and passion for the things that had previously dominated my life. My self-care waned in my physical appearance and because I had stopped eating (which is unlike me as I LOVE food). My body was solely reliant upon smoothies, soup and sugary tea, as my taste buds were on strike and my stomach refused food any access. I didn’t like to be alone with myself, so I made sure I was always busy so that I could build on the facade that everything was “fine”, allowing me 0 chance to register the sadness.
Unfortunately, I had praised myself on being this “strong-minded”, confident individual that would try to deal with not only my own problems but others also. I would take on so much that I didn’t know how to process or cope with the pressures I was putting on myself. This last year I had experienced bereavements, setbacks and a level of stress I wasn’t willing to ask for help to deal with. Having depression, to me, meant that I was a failure, that I couldn’t “deal” with my responsibilities and this is 100% a self inflicted stigma. What I failed to realise was that I hadn’t allowed myself the opportunity to rest and process my thoughts, in turn making my brain work overdrive 24/7 and that is not healthy.
There ARE still stigmas around mental health, which I have been subject to. “Just pick yourself up, and get on with it” “Just smile” “You have no reason to be unhappy…” that one really gets me. I feel like people unaffected by mental illness view it as a lifestyle choice, as if sadness and unease are luxuries that can easily be discarded by replacing it with a smile. I mean, being emotionally unable to feel anything other than exhaustion and sadness is the perfect way to enjoy life, right? If you could choose an emotion every morning, I don’t think anyone would CHOOSE depression or any other mental illness.
Unlike the rumours you hear, my GP was reluctant for anti-depressants to be my first port of call, which I found heavily reassuring because I didn’t want to be on medication. I really wanted to train myself to deal with my Depression. I was advised to exercise more which is a natural feel-good hormone inducer, take up activities to ‘relax’ my mind and counselling.
You may be wondering why I am sharing something so personal with you all… Well, this week is Mental Health Awareness week and 1 in 4 of us are affected by Mental illness and a larger number of us don’t talk about it. Talking is power. I use my blog as my outlet and my power and together talking openly; without fear, is OUR power.
I hope that in me doing this, I can inspire a change. Whether it is seeking help, gaining an understanding that mental health comes in many shapes, sizes and experiences and is uniquely different and more common than you think.
Thank you for reading.