I was part of a loving and stable family.
I was lucky to experience no trauma in my life.
I was the captain of my school, club, and county.
I was the leader of the Senior Concert Band.
I was a young coach and referee.
I handed in all my homework. (Well, most of it.)
I passed all my GCSE’s.
I was privileged.
I was lucky.
I was successful.
I was high-functioning.
From the outside looking in, I led an ideal life.
In truth, the smile I wore was a mask; a mask that portrayed an illusion to the outside world. The illusion that I was confident, proud, and happy.
Instead, my life was a burden; one that kept me moving from day to day. I had all these things to be thankful for so I couldn’t just stay in bed. I had to get up to appreciate all the opportunities I had been given. I had to work hard and make the most of what I had, I could not waste the life I had been given. I had to keep on going.
How could I be blessed with such a loving family and feel so alone?
How could I be the captain and feel like such a failure?
How could I be a ‘model student’ and not be motivated?
Why did I have to fight to get up each morning?
Why did I have to battle to stay calm if I left the house?
Why did I have to argue with myself to play football?
I had depression.
I had anxiety.
But I didn’t speak up.
I could not see that I was ill. I believed I was ungrateful, unkind, and undeserving. I could not believe that someone of my background could reach the depth of despair that is depression. But I had.
To me, depression is like leaving the real you in a locked room. It’s like standing outside that room and looking in. You can see the old you. You know they are still there. But there is something stopping you from being them. It creeps up so slowly you don’t even know that is has arrived. Suddenly, it closed that door and locked the old you in it, without you even hearing the click of the lock.
Depression keeps you locked on the wrong side of door. On that side, depression that holds you hostage and everything becomes ten times harder. Getting out of bed, having a shower, brushing your teeth, making and eating food, getting dressed, leaving the house, doing your job or going to school, living your life is simply overwhelming. The world seems so big and scary that there are no words to comprehend how lost you really feel.
Once I realised how unwell I was, it did not seem to get any better. Depression began to hold the key to the door and dangle it teasingly right in front of my face. I knew that my thoughts and my depression were controlling me and that if I could simply take over, I could continue on with my life as before. But like the donkey and the carrot, no matter how hard I tried to simply work through my depression on my own I could not make it.
I simply could not make myself be happy, or get out of bed, or do my homework, or socialise, or play football, or do music, or live. I wanted to. I really wanted to. All around me were people who seemed to be enjoying life and getting so much out of it. I wanted to do that too. No matter how hard I tried to grab that key and unlock the real me, I just couldn’t.
Why? Because depression makes you feel alone when, in fact, you are the opposite. Whether it be your family, your doctor, or your friends, there will always be people around you that care.
The war against depression is tough and it does not finish overnight but, with hard work and lots of support, the war can be won. For someone with depression, remembering this is difficult. There will be many difficult days when surviving seems like the only focus in our lives. Before I began recovery I simply accepted these days; I let the depression take over and control my every move. Now, I follow a different path: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass; it’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
Whenever I am physically unwell I tend to curl up with a hot drink and a movie and many others do the same. If we have such simple and effective techniques for a physical illness, why don’t we do the same for a psychological issue? Now, when a bad day comes, I use the small amount of energy I have to deploy techniques that help lift my mood. I exercise self-care in whatever way I can, from going for a walk or colouring in, to meeting up with friends or watching TV. The most important thing I try to do is talk. By talking it will invite those who care for you to fight your battle alongside you, while often lifting a weight off your shoulders. Depression is hard, so talk and let others help you.
Overall, my battle with depression has been difficult. It is not yet over and I still have a long way to go before I can say I am recovered. However, I am determined to not let my suffering be in vain. Today, I want to use my experience to try and help others, in the hope that, maybe, by sharing my story and giving my own advice, I will help at least one other person through their struggle with mental illness.
I urge anyone to do what I have eventually done but to do it even earlier. Over the last year, I have sought treatment for my poor mental health, even though my symptoms started years before that. Through my GP, through my local mental health teams, through my school and, of course, through my loving family, I have slowly accepted the help I deserve.
I hope that if you ever notice a change in your mood or your actions, whether that’s this year or ten years down the line, you will never forget that there is help out there. If you are unsure about what you are feeling, ask. There is never anything too big or too small if it concerns your mental health. Please do not let weeks turn into months.
Depression, sadly, could happen to anyone, of any age, gender, or background, regardless of what they have or have not been through in their lives. Please do not forget – depression does not discriminate.