Let me be honest with you, before I was diagnosed I knew very little about mental illness. It was one of those things that I didn't need to know about. That's not to say that I was ignorant or I didn't care, it just didn't affect anyone I knew...or so I thought.
We all have days where we feel amazing and can take on the world and achieve anything. We also all have days where you just can't be bothered, a duvet day for instance. That's normal, that's life. It has good days and bad days.
However, when the bad days start building up like a traffic jam, on a hot day, with no air conditioning, that's when we start to get in trouble. When we are completely stuck with no way out, that's when we start to give up and believe this is the end.
So many people would say "snap out of it", "get over yourself", or "what have you got to be depressed about?". The truth is that anyone can suffer from depression at any point in their life. You don't need to have gone through one huge traumatic event, and research shows that going through lots of smaller challenging experiences can have a bigger impact on your vulnerability to depression.
The Mental Health Foundation published a report, Fundamental Facts About Mental Health 2016, which stated that nearly half (43.4%) of adults think that they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life.
So, what is Depression?
Mind give the following definition:
Depression is a low mood that lasts for a long time, and affects your everyday life.
In its mildest form, depression can mean just being in low spirits. It doesn't stop you leading your normal life but makes everything harder to do and seem less worthwhile. At its most severe, depression can be life-threatening because it can make you feel suicidal or simply give up the will to live.
When I was on my Mind Blue Light Champion training we were shown the below video on YouTube. I think it's really good at expressing what depression is.
I think the biggest thing for me when I was ill, was not knowing how to tell people. Where do you start telling your friends and family that you wish you were dead? Personally, I lost a lot of friends during my depression, partly due to me not being able to communicate and partly due to them giving up on me because they didn't understand or want to support me.
This year's Time To Talk day focussed on stigma and discrimination and an independent public poll carried out across a sample of 2000 adults living with a range of mental health problems, found that over half (54%) lost contact with a loved one (friend, family member or partner).
I find this staggering but based on my own experience is true. We need to educate so that people have a better understanding of mental illness and how to support someone who is unwell. I know that I was a nightmare to be around and I pushed people away but that doesn't mean that I should have been abandoned.
My biggest annoyance with people is that they are afraid to speak to you after you have been diagnosed. Go on the sick with anything else and you'll get cards and flowers wishing you a speedy recovery. Go on the sick with depression and anxiety and it's complete radio silence. That is stigma and discrimination. You don't have to stop caring or treat people any differently. Yes, I know it's hard to listen to someone being so negative and down on life but showing you care or are thinking about them can make a huge impact. A few good friends did stand by me and found ways to show they cared. Those little tokens of cards, flowers and silly little gifts are what made me carry on and not give up. Knowing people cared was enough to pull me through.
I will be publishing a series of posts around how you can help someone who is experiencing mental illness so stay tuned and subscribe to my blog.
As always, you are not alone, mental illness lies to you, makes you believe no one cares but I guarantee somebody does.... I care, so look after yourself and keep on fighting.