Depression was something I never wanted to be associated with.
It has certain connotations, and I would always put a mental block in-between my conscious self and anyone or anything that suggested depression might be something I had.
A family member: “You need to get help”
“I don’t need help”
A friend: “Have you tried counselling?”
“I don’t want it!”
I had this image of myself as a strong person.
Anything that I thought questioned that was a threat. A threat that made me recoil in horror and try even harder to prove that I was fine.
I smiled to the world, and cried behind my bedroom door. I lay awake at night with my head spinning with worries and anxieties, and then dragged myself out of bed every morning to whatever place I was due to attend that day.
I exhausted myself in my determination to not be the person who would be labelled as depressed or miserable or sad.
It was a lonely place, resembled only by the never ending darkness of a black hole. Empty & meaningless. Devoid of colour and hope. It’s only as I reflect that I realise the damage I was doing.
I think many people don’t understand depression, or mental illness at all. There’s this common idea that being depressed is a choice, or relevant to circumstance. Depression is not picky. It can affect the rich and the poor all the same. It doesn’t care who you are or where you came from.
It’s happy to make anyone it’s prisoner.
Something I’ve heard before is “what do you have to be depressed about?” And my response is usually the same.
“Depression is NOT a choice.”
Depression can be debilitating. When you are taken captive, it locks you up so tight that you feel you can never be free. Everyday you wake up and you feel the shackles around your ankles. You carry the weight on your shoulders. You bear the pain as you fall down, and depression kicks you when you are at your weakest.
Depression has no mercy.
After suffering for a long time, I decided I was no longer to be a prisoner. I was no longer going to keep on fighting against the current and refusing to accept what was abundantly clear.
I was depressed. The way I was feeling wasn’t okay, and I knew I needed to seek help.
Depression works in weird ways. I liken it almost to a poison. It fills your thoughts and makes them dark. It takes your dreams and throws them away. It sucks all life out of you until you have no will to live, and leaves you with an empty shell of your former self. Depression can cause achy joints and muscles, alongside other symptoms that people often don’t associate with it. Depression really is all consuming, and it really is a serious matter.
Even though I’d made the decision to seek help, I wasn’t sure what to do or where to turn. I was still filled with a shame that I thought would forever stain me. I didn’t want anyone to think I was weak or unable to cope. I didn’t want people to think I was making this up for attention or that I had no reason to be sad. I was frightened people would no longer want to be associated with me because of the stigma attached to such a thing. I’d become strangely comfortable in my grey existence, weary of change and fearful of failure. Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.. right? Wrong.
The nature of depression is that you feel there is no point or hope in anything.
You lose touch with your true self and mould to the shape of the person the depression wants you to be. It’s a vicious cycle that leaves you constantly spiralling downwards.
With encouragement from my friends, family and co-workers, I went to my local doctor and was diagnosed with depression and was subsequently placed on medication and signed off work. Even at this point I found myself filled with shame and despair, frantically worrying about what people would think and how this would impact my life. My doctor said “You’re sick Estelle. If you had a broken leg would you be saying this?”
And the truth is, no. A broken leg is an obvious physical sign that something is wrong, but with hidden illnesses, there is no way to tell or prove that someone is sick.
The brain can get sick too. Like people with diabetes need the insulin their body deprives them of, some people need seratonin to keep their brain well.
This analogy helped me immeasurably. I made a firm decision to share my journey and my story to show that there is no shame. It is nothing to be ashamed of, and that it takes immense strength to find help.
I’m not exactly sure when I started suffering with this condition. I was always a very worrisome child who overthought everything. I lost my Mum when I was only 12 and suffered other traumas in my young life that I’m sure only perpetuated the issue. However, none of this really matters now.
Seeking help was the best thing I could have done.
Nothing is ever perfect, but it sure is better when the weight is lighter and you can breathe again.
I decided to own the depression. It’s something that will pass through my life from time to time, but it will never have me in its grasp again. I will never be held captive. With help, you get a leg up, and suddenly you are capable of conquering things you never thought you could. Support is everything.
If I can do it, so can you. There is nothing to be ashamed of.
We are all human, after all. We must try to understand each other a little better.
Words by Estelle McLellan
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