This is a post I wrote a while ago which I shared on my personal Facebook page. I would really like to share it again because the content means so very much to me.
This week is Mental Health Week, so I thought I would share this. Although I am usually quite open about my personal mental health battle, I know that this is not the case for many people who struggle. It can be extremely frightening to open up about something with such a negative stigma surrounding it. There is still so much to learn when it comes to mental health and mental illness, but I find that every story shared is a step forward in the journey of defeating the stigma.
When I first noticed the symptoms of depression & anxiety creeping into my life I had no idea what to do. It was my first year living away from my family and friends and I didn’t feel that I had made any particularly strong relationships in Sydney. Being ‘alone’ with depression is a terrifying experience. I put quotation marks around the word alone because I felt alone even though I didn’t have to be. I pushed people away because I was afraid of social situations. I wasn’t the bubbly, fun and outgoing person I had always been, and I was constantly anxious about having to be around people. I didn’t even want to get out of bed in the morning, the anxiety was that paralysing. I had become a very different version of myself.
The first person I’d chosen to share my struggles with, after months of keeping it bottled up, was my best friend. She’d had experience with depression herself, which I will never forgive the world for giving her, but for me it meant not only did I have someone who loved me unconditionally, but also someone who knew firsthand exactly what to say when I needed it the most. There is nothing that upsets me more than thinking of how she had to go through the early dark days without me being able to properly understand, but knowing that she would be able to be there for me was a godsend. The first time I told her I was worried that I had developed depression she sent me this passage:
‘This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out. A doctor passes by and the guys shouts up, “Hey you! Can you help me out?”. The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down the hole, and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, “Father! I’m down in this hole, can you help me out?” The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole, and moves on. Then a friend walks by, “Hey, Joe, it’s me! Can you help me out?” And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, “Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.” The friend says, “Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.”‘
In hindsight there are actually a lot of wonderful people who would’ve sat with me and had a chat – I just had to speak up. But depression clouds your judgement in a way I can’t explain. Depression will lie to you and tell you that the people around you don’t care and that you will just be a burden on them. Please – PLEASE – don’t let it lie to you. Please know that I will always be here for you. I don’t care who you are or how well we know each other. If you need me, I will always be there to jump into the hole with you.
Depression is nothing to be ashamed of.