I thought I’d talk about why I am so open about my depression today.
There are a number of reasons, some personal, some less so, but all equally important to me.
One is because in the past, and sometimes it’s still the case, I’ve really struggled to talk about my feelings and what I’m going through. This hasn’t helped me, and probably delayed me getting the help I needed sooner. It also makes life difficult for those around me – particularly H. If they don’t know what’s happening with me, they won’t know what to expect from me, or why I’m acting the way I am. Depression makes me uncommunicative at the best of times, but by being as open as possible at least they know I’m on a downswing, and that helps put some context around how I’m acting.
This also expands out to friends. I don’t expect any special treatment because I have depression, but it is part of who I am. I think it’s good for my friends to know that about me, to know who I am. It’s not something I go about announcing to people all over the place, but neither is it something I hide. As I said it’s part of me, and if its pertinent to a conversation I’m having I’ll mention it. I think some friends have known me quite a while without knowing I have depression, and when they’ve found out it hasn’t really made any difference to how we interact – although it has recently given rise to some actions that have made my day so much better on a few occasions recently. I guess there’s also a part of me that thinks it’s better to get it out there when I’m doing okay, so at least if these people are around me when things take a bad turn (hopefully not too bad a turn) it’s not totally out of the blue, leaving them with no idea how to respond. Is this selfish? Is it all about me? I hope not, it’s certainly not why I talk about my depression.
This gets me onto my next reason – even now, where it’s already way better than it was when I was diagnosed – we as a society are not open enough about mental health. Some people still see a stigma attached to it, and in this country we’re a lot better than some other places. If we’re not open about mental health issues, how can we expect others to recognise when they’re affected? If it was something that had been spoken about more openly when I was younger, I may have had an idea about what I was going through earlier and sought help earlier. I’m not complaining about where my life is now – I’m incredibly happy. I have a wonderful partner in H, amazing friends, and a job I enjoy most of the time. I don’t want to change any of that, but I do wish I’d known enough to seek help earlier, because although my experiences have made me who I am today, I wouldn’t wish my lowest points on anyone.
The other things I’ve found from speaking out about things is – I’m not alone. Now I’ve always known this intellectually – I used to provide Health Information for NHS Direct when it still existed, and have seen the stats and figures. But the difference between knowing that ‘1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year’ (figures from Mind.org.uk) and having people react to what I’ve said or written with things like – I get that too’ or ‘it’s like you’re in my mind’ is totally different. I’ve had those responses or similar to a lot of my blogs or recent posts on Facebook, and that sudden feeling of not being alone, that real people I actually know and interact with, online or in person, have some of the same symptoms is amazing. It makes me feel more normal, and that helps me so much. I’ve often been an outsider, I was bullied at school and became very withdrawn. The fact that we aren’t encouraged to talk about mental health publically really reinforced this feeling for a long time. Knowing that friends are going through some of the same things just helps me feel like I belong.
And I hope that other people reading what I’ve got to say feel the same. If it helps me, hopefully it helps others. It may just be that feeling of not being the only person going through it, or it may be that someone recognises symptoms in themselves or friends and maybe starts a conversation about what’s happening. As I’ve said in previous blogs, seeking help was one of the best things I did, and if my writing these blogs encourages someone else to do the same thing that’s great.
Again that’s not why I write these, I’m doing these blogs because I’m genuinely enjoying writing them, I’m enjoying the creativity that’s going into them, and yes I’m enjoying the positive feedback they get as well – It’d be odd if I didn’t. I’m hoping that this might help spark my creativity in other areas as well, those which I’ve been doing less in recently – but we’ll see.
So the actions from friends I mentioned earlier? Since my original post asking for gaming memories to help me remember good things whilst on a post convention downer, one group of friends have each sent me a postcard with some of those memories on them. Totally unexpected, totally unasked for, but massively appreciated and they’ve brought a smile to my face and happy memories each time. Thanks folks, you’re amazing (the photo on this post is the frontside of the four postcards).