It’s a big word and one that until this year, I didn’t really know or understand. It’s also a word that we all need to talk a lot more about, because I bet your bottom dollar that you, or a vast majority of the people you encounter each day, have gone through (or are going through) some form of it. See if you can guess what it could be from this wee checklist I’ve made:
Not that long ago, I was ashamedly one of those people that probably quietly laughed off anyone who told me they were depressed. It’s a word that myself and my friends would throw out lightly – “ugh I’m so depressed that Downton Abbey has ended”, “I feel so depressed that the weekend is over”, “It’s so depressing that I’ve just chipped my freshly painted nail” – vacuous comments that I never really gave much thought to. But when depression becomes a reality in your life, it brings with it a whole new meaning to the word. I think I saw it as a weakness or something that only attention seekers would suffer from – it wasn’t a “real” thing. Even when I started going through it, whilst I told my nearest and dearest, talking about it with anyone else felt extremely vulnerable because I knew (or thought I knew) that they would be thinking exactly what I once did. How horrible is it that in this day and age, when we communicate more than we ever have done before, that something so impactful on your life and SO many of us suffer from, is deemed such a taboo subject to discuss openly.
My experience stemmed from deeply embedded family issues (you can read a bit about them here), combined with a whole series of tough events that all happened within short succession of one another at the start of this year, which simply became too much for me to cope with. After 3 days straight of being in PJs, crying almost non-stop for no apparent reason and not really moving from a cocooned position on the sofa, my mum gave me a stern talking to – either carry on falling deeper in to a hole or go and get help. The next day, I got myself to the doctor and was put on a dose of antidepressants (fluoxetine aka Prozac) and referred to the NHS counseling service. Following a phone call from someone that asked very abrasive questions to determine whether or not I was suicidal (I wasn’t FYI) and then advised to have another call with a professional before getting any face-to-face appointment, it didn’t take long for me to decide to go private. I was recommended a therapist by a friend and began seeing her for an hour every week. Before I reached this point, there wasn’t anyone more cynical than me when it came to the thought of therapy. Paying someone £50-60 an hour to be asked “and how do you feel about that”, was never going to be for me. Sue adopted integrative therapy, which picks out lots of different methods depending on the issue in hand. Through my sessions with her, as cheesy as it sounds, I realigned my life. She helped me acknowledge my strengths, face my weaknesses and learn how to work through them, talk about the hard stuff and shine a light on the true root cause of why I was depressed. Therapy, combined with the pills, as well as a lot of self-determination to get better, got me out that black hole pretty quickly.
Talking about it openly and honestly with people really helped (and continues to help) me get through it. Interestingly, I found that the more people I discussed it with, the more open they were with me about similar situations they’ve gone through or their loved ones have experienced – even people that seem so happy from the outside. It’s been a totally eye opening experience to see just how many of us are dealing with this stuff and not talking about it. Why?! Hearing stories of other people’s experiences made the whole thing feel a lot less lonely and manageable. I think we hear a lot of stories of depression through the media, but it doesn’t really hit home unless it’s people you know.
Something I discovered was that my friends over in the US talk a lot more freely about mental health than us Brits and it’s pretty normal to have a therapist. We’ve got some serious catching up to do over here and it’s going to become my new year’s resolution to do my bit to make that happen.
In attempt to crack on with that, and I should state that I am obviously by no means a professional and can only talk from my personal experiences, I’ve created a couple of easy-to-digest lists for people dealing with similar issues or for those who know folks going through it, which hopefully might be a useful reference for someone out there.
I am sure this isn’t the last post I will write about this subject but in the vein that knowing sharing is caring, I would love to hear from anyone who has gone through similar experiences. How did you deal with shiz? What were your biggest learnings from it?