“Bloody hell… I wish she’d cheer up! There are people in far worse situations!”
I walked out of the coffee shop, exasperated and annoyed. I’d met an old friend for coffee and a chat only to end up being used as an emotional dumping ground. I knew she suffered from depression (and had done for several years) but she appeared to have suddenly hit an all-time low – and, to be honest, I didn’t get it.
She was smart, relatively healthy, had a job, had a large circle of friends… how could she possibly be so miserable? As far as I was concerned, she didn’t have the right to be depressed. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t just lighten up! I honestly believed that she was actively choosing to feel like this, to view life in a negative way, and her problems could be fixed by a simple change in attitude.
Looking back, I’m disgusted with myself – and thankful that I never voiced those ignorant thoughts.
I was in my early twenties when the aforementioned meeting took place and, less than five years later, I would learn the harsh realities of depression for myself.
* * *
I attribute my experiences with depression to a fantastically shite (excuse my French) series of events that took place between 2011 and 2012. I was made redundant from a fairly lucrative job, I was growing increasingly stressed due to the looming deadline of my master’s degree dissertation and, the cherry on the cake, my beloved grandma passed away after a long battle with dementia.
I honestly don’t know when it started, whether the change crept in slowly and subtly over a period of time or whether it hit me suddenly like a dead weight… my memories from that time are hazy and shrouded in fog. All I remember is that I no longer felt like myself.
My emotions were volatile, to say the least. The hatred, anger, and rage I felt was so intense, it was frightening. I was also grieving and bitterly upset. Then, there was the feeling of numbness. In a way, that was the worst feeling of all – to feel absolutely nothing. Empty.
I slept all day and stayed awake all night. I lived in my pyjamas and went days without showering. I didn’t cook, clean, or do any of household chores. I didn’t want to go anywhere, do anything, or see anyone. I had no energy. I retreated within myself. At my very worst, I was suicidal. I simply didn’t want to exist anymore.
Believe it or not, I lived this way for over two years. Sure, some things changed – I found a new job, forced myself to socialise, and tried my best to appear ‘normal’ – but, inwardly, I was a wreck. I didn’t want to admit to having depression because it felt like admitting defeat. I was also terrified about the stigma attached with mental health issues. In time, the situation became so bad that I barely ate, couldn’t sleep, could hardly function, and was drinking wine every night after work just to take the edge off my nerves.
This was the point where I decided that enough was enough. I needed help.
* * *
As I write this, it’s May 2017. I have been depression free, and antidepressant free, for a good while now. I never thought it possible to feel human again, to get my mental and physical health back to how it was… yet here I am. Proof that, even at the end of the darkest tunnel, there is light.
If I could turn back the clock, I would never have waited so long to seek professional assistance. My doctor was wonderful, understanding, and gave me the help I so desperately needed. Within less than a month of taking antidepressant medication, I could feel a positive shift in my mood. My recovery was aided further by CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). It didn’t take long for my health to improve by leaps and bounds… yet I allowed myself, and my loved ones, to suffer for over two years. Two unnecessary years of suffering due to my pride and inability to accept my illness for what it truly was. Silly, right?
If you know someone who is suffering from a mental health issue, please don’t be a jerk, as I was during that coffee shop meeting all those years ago. Reach out to that person. Help them to help themselves. They need you far more than you know.
If you’re suffering from depression, or any other mental health issue, please don’t suffer in silence. Confide in a loved one. Talk to a professional. Don’t be scared or afraid of what people may think. You are not alone! There is help – and there is hope!
“Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.” ― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.