Depression is the dark horse of mental illnesses. It’s the one that creeps up on us and wins almost every time. It’s the one that makes us feel worthless, pointless and empty. Depression makes you feel weak but when actually, depression can make you a stronger person.
My battle with depression was a rocky one. After my dad died, my depression tagged along with my PTSD and sometimes they worked together and then sometimes they worked separately. I was 12 years old when he died and I tried my best to power through it but it’s an age where I knew what had happened but accepting it wasn’t easy and I didn’t have a fucking clue of how to cope with it. I didn’t know what feelings, thoughts or emotions were to follow. I’d never dealt with grief before. I felt like my life had just suddenly been turned upside down and I didn’t know how to get it back.
Being depressed as a teenager wasn’t something I had ever planned on and it was such a confusing time. I was very aware that everyone in my year at school and my teachers knew that my dad had died. I think I had about 6 weeks off after his death and went back to school for the last week before the summer holidays. I was still crumbling inside but high school was the last place I wanted to crumble. I had heard rumours of people saying that I shoulda been over it by now, I had people who were overly sympathetic around me and I had people walk on egg shells around me. It was awful. My high school threw me into counselling without mine or my mums consent which was even more awful and then we broke up for the summer holidays, thank fuck. My summer was spent mostly sleeping, playing with my new puppy (this is when we got Barney) and every now and again going out with friends. I felt a huge change in myself. My interests weren’t the same, my energy levels had dropped and my general outlook on day to day life was bleak. I had no ambition, setting goals for myself seemed pointless, I felt there was no point in looking forward to any sort of future I had, I was just existing. I was in a dark place but I tried to not show it. High school can be a brutal place and the last thing I wanted to do was to provide people with a reason to make fun of me. I didn’t want to feel any more vulnerable as I already did.
For the first few years after his death I had self harmed, attempted suicide and cried all my water weight out in tears but nobody ever knew this. I was so confused. I didn’t understand why I was feeling so down and nobody else was. I was still grieving even though to me it appeared everybody else had moved on from his death. Questions began to go round in my head. Should I be over it? Why can’t I stop crying? What is even the point in me being here? For a teenager it was a lot of added pressure and some nights I just cracked, but I’d always try and avoid cracking around my friends. I was seen as the happy, bubbly, smiley girl. That’s the girl I wanted to be, so I tried to maintain that whilst out socialising (sometimes it just wasn’t possible) but in reality I was actually the depressed, sad, almost suicidal girl. Imagine you’ve got an unopened bottle of fizzy pop and you drop it on the floor. You know that if you were to take the lid of straight away it would go everywhere and no one wants that. But if you unscrew the lid a little bit you can hear some of that pressure escaping. That’s what it was like for me. I had all this pressure built up in me but I’d only release a little bit every now and again to avoid annoying anyone I knew, until I had my break down at 21 years old and everything just exploded everywhere.
I remember when I was coming towards the end of my counselling. I was this happy, bubbly, smiley girl but legit this time. All the pressure inside me had been released and I was on my way to a fresh new start. I had my fears of relapsing but I felt stronger than ever. Conquering my mental illnesses made me stronger but I had that strength all along.
I had the strength to still go to school/college/work despite the fear of leaving my bed/home. I had the strength to put on a fake smile which is not something I would recommend but fuck, if you can go outside and smile, even if it’s a fake smile that shows a lot of strength, courage and bravery because only you know how god damn difficult it was to do that. I had been battling my depression for years with the wrong mindset. Instead of continuing to think that I was fighting a battle I lost every time or that I was a failure, let down and that I couldn’t do it, I began to see my battles for what they actually were. Battles. You need strength and courage to fight, you need some sort of determination to get through it. I had all that but I had the wrong mindset. So I began to praise myself for the small things. I’d always tell myself well done at the end of the day or every evening I would write something positive that happened throughout the day. I became my biggest fan. Only you know how difficult some tasks can be for you, if you don’t get that praise or understanding from someone else, give it to yourself. Be proud of what you are doing and who you are becoming.
There is this stigma that surrounds depression. Not many people get it. They can’t understand how you can feel so sad without a ‘valid’ reason or why you can’t get out of bed or why you hurt yourself. They can’t wrap their heads around it because they haven’t been through it (if you haven’t had depression, count yourself lucky), however the stigma is fading and we are more open to others mental battles. Encourage your friends to keep going, show them that they have fans, that they can win this battle and prove to them how strong they are.
Depression is a lonely, scary and dark place to be. Don’t leave someone there. Help them fight.
You’ve always had the strength within you to do this,
Sending my love,