I Won’t Let My Mental Health Define Me

When I tell people I suffer with depression I generally get one of three responses; a slightly panicked look and shocked expression before carrying on the conversation as normal, an understanding nod followed by the phrase if there’s anything I can do to help… and my least favourite, ‘yeah I know what you mean, I was so depressed when [insert everyday occurrence]’.

Image Credit: http://www.gemmacorrell.com

The word depressed is banded around in all occasions now, sometimes honestly, sometimes to express how bad a day someone has had, and sometimes as a way to gain attention. Because of this there are many people that look on dubiously when depression is mentioned.

In the meantime, I am sat at home obsessing over the fact that I couldn’t get my words to come out right today, wondering if anyone noticed or thought I was being weird. I’m watching a program on TV that I have no interest in because reaching for the remote requires a level of energy that I just don’t have, and I’m already starting to think about tomorrow; planning in my head the simple things like getting out of bed, washing my hair and putting my make up on because I know it could be hard, and the simplest of actions could feel like the most tiring journey. But when I go into work the next day I look like I always do; clean hair and minimal make up, there and ready to start work, so everything is fine, right?

No it’s not. The thing about depression, about most mental illnesses, is that the people who suffer from them look fine. Of course we do, it’s not like a sickness bug that makes us pale and clammy, or a physical disability that you can see. It’s not something to be brushed off with the phrase, ‘but you look so normal.’ Of course we look normal, we just find some things more difficult than you, but there are a few things I want to point out to those people still dubious about mental health.

It comes in waves

It isn’t constant. There are days when I don’t have to gee myself up to get out of bed. I can smile and laugh and enjoy things. But then, the next day, month or year, I have to live my life from one hour to the next because the idea of anything beyond that is too exhausting to comprehend. I know it doesn’t make sense. It sounds as crazy to me as it does to you, trust me when I say it sucks.

I don’t want this

No one in their right mind would choose to be miserable over being happy. I don’t want to live my life like this, if I could fix it I would do it in a heartbeat. I don’t want to be so scared of going to the shop for some milk that I drink my coffee black and eat dry cereal because I have nothing else in the house. People don’t choose to be sick – this is exactly the same. Saying ‘if you just try to be more positive’ or ‘just pull yourself together’ doesn’t immediately snap me out of it – this is an illness.

It can steal your friends

Or your significant other, your family or your job. Mental illness can ruin any relationship, and it hurts like hell. No matter how patient and understanding the other person is, if they don’t know how to deal with depression, or understand the difference between when you’re ill and when you’re not, it can be frustrating and confusing to the point that they just have to walk away. So to everyone that has stayed, thank you. I love you.

It can be managed

I’ve been dealing with depression for over 10 years now. I don’t believe it’s ever something I’ll be cured of sadly, but it is something I’ve learned to live with. Some years are worse than others, and as with every life there are slip ups and set backs along the way. A big part of managing depression, or any mental illness, is the lifestyle that you lead. Whilst I can’t simply choose to be happy, I can choose to look on the bright side of each situation and pay attention to my physical well being all of which will help me manage this illness.

So really, what I mean when I say I suffer with depression is that while part of my life can be tough, I’m trying to make the most of it. And if you’re willing to roll with the punches and put up with my crazy when most other people would run, I think you’re pretty damn awesome.

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