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The Column: Depression and Me

Given that today is World Mental Health Day it seems apt to be open and honest with you all about my own mental health.

The term “mental health” has in some ways gained a bad rep these past few years.

While continued discussion around depression and anxiety is vital, there has also been a snobbery around who actually suffers from mental health issues, and who is just using it as an excuse.

Is anxiety about an upcoming exam equal to the anxiety a mum feels about her sick child? No. Is feeling sad over a breakup equal to clinical depression? No. But that doesn’t mean you have no right to feel the way you do.

I have struggled with my own mental health issues for as long as I can remember. I do recall being a bright, bubbly, smiley little girl at one stage, but that little girl started to fade away as soon as I started getting bullied in school.

I was only 5 years old when I came home crying because a girl had pushed me off a wall, I was only 10 when I ran home crying because the same girl had succeeded in isolating me from my entire class, I was only 12 when I tried to self-harm for the first time.

There are many times in my childhood and teenage years that were dark. And looking back now I can still feel the sadness, the loneliness, the longing to be liked and accepted, and to be honest, it’s never truly gone away.

I started going to therapy when I was 13, in a bid to tackle the issues I had had with bullying. But no matter how much I tried an empty feeling continued to linger.

Years later when things were going well, life was getting better and my career was flying, I still felt an ache inside of me.

Small things that would only slightly upset someone else were hugely affecting me. And on most occasions, sadness was accompanied by crippling anxiety.

It took me a few years to realise that I have depression and now I know this is something I will have to live with and manage for the rest of my life.

I wish it was a small upset or a specific worry that I could just think away or go for a brisk walk and it would be gone, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.

It has been tough at times to explain what I go through, especially to people who have never truly been depressed or have never had anxiety.

“Just change your way of thinking”, “don’t worry about that”, “get that out of your head”, all advice I wish I could use. If only a magic wand could be waved and I didn’t feel so bad at times. But that is just not reality, well not mine anyway.

The only way I can describe depression is like a dark monster that lies dormant inside of me. Some days he doesn’t come out, some days he sleeps, sometimes he can sleep for weeks, months.

Then one morning I’ll wake up and so will he and he won’t leave for me alone for days/weeks/months on end. Getting through the day is exhausting, mustering a fake smile takes up all of my energy, then I go to sleep and wake up facing the same day again.

As someone who has dealt with trauma throughout my life, I can be triggered very easily into anxious episodes which in turn can cause panic attacks and, you guessed it, another bout of depression.

It’s something I have to live with, it’s something I need to manage, and so many others are in my shoes.

There are days still I struggle to get out of bed, I can struggle to do very basic tasks, I can even struggle to eat. I don’t want to see anyone or talk to anyone, I just want to lie in the dark and let the day pass me by, hoping tomorrow will be better.

But I know that I just have to just take things hour by hour, day by day, and just do my best.

On this World Mental Health Day, I want you to know that you’re not alone, others are going through this and I understand that some days seem endless and that it can feel like life will never be good again.

But know that things will get better, and no matter how bad your day is, tomorrow is a new start.

If you are suffering from mental health issues, you can contact the Samaritans on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org.

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