For a long time I was embarrassed about my depression, I felt weak and stupid for having it. For an even longer time I did not even realise I had depression. So many people around me used to crack jokes about self harming, or suicide, or would degrade and mock people who they seen as 'too privileged' to have depression.
Despite the fact that depression knows no class, family, intelligence, or friends. Depression can happen to everyone, it is not selective in who it consumes.
I spent a lot of the time comparing myself to this apparent criteria that I felt I needed to meet in order for my depression to be accepted. Was I just attention seeking, or if I sought help would they actually try and help me?
It took me a long time to understand, and accept the fact that I had depression.
It wasn't easy, I had lived under a blanket of self loathing and guilt from the jokes, and the stigma that those with depression are just lazy or stupid, or that everyone with a mental health issue is a danger. A large part of me was desperately hopeful that it would not be depression, fearing that I would become a social outcast, that nobody would ever want to associate with me. People's jokes made me feel as though I should just learn to 'get over' my symptoms, that they weren't serious enough to seek help for. After all, they wouldn't make jokes about something so serious, would they? I spent a long part of my formative years thinking that crying myself to sleep every night, always being tired, and having no motivation was a normal part of puberty. That it would somehow all magically go away once I hit a certain age, but if anything it worsened.
That magical year came and went, and the symptoms still consumed my everyday life. The longer it went on the more embarrassed and ashamed I was. I can't remember when or why something inside me just switched, and I realised that I shouldn't be ashamed. In a way I then became guilty that I was originally so fearful and embarrassed about it. I remember crying the first time a mental health campaign appeared on my Twitter. People retweeting and talking about things that related to me, my experiences, my fears. I suddenly felt less alone, I suddenly realised that I could get help, that these symptoms could be managed.
It is things like that, that make me so passionate in fighting mental health stigma and raising awareness.
We should use our voice, we should talk about our experiences, and not be called attention seeking or accused of faking it.
We shouldn't have to prove that our depression is valid, because all our mental health issues are valid. Even just one tweet can encourage people to look into their mental health, seek treatment, or even ask a loved one how they are doing. You might not believe that a few retweets of statistics or helplines can do much, but they really can.
It is time we all got more involved in raising awareness, we should all start sharing our stories. We are not alone in our struggles, but if we do not reach out to others then we can all feel isolated and alone as a result. We need to reach out and help those, who like me, were scared to seek help, or didn't know to seek help as a result of the stigma they faced, or feared they would face. I remember being terrified that if I got diagnosed with depression, that employers would look down on me and decide not to hire me based just off of that. Something that should never have crossed my mind. Nobody should have to live in fear of being rejected due to being depressed, or any mental illness.
We need to challenge those who would reduce our struggles to a joke, if not for ourselves, but for other people. We need to come together as a community and support one another, to encourage each other to take their medication, attend counselling, open up to people. Without a sense of community we are all just struggling through recovery on our own. That doesn't need to happen. We are not alone. Let's come together and raise awareness, let people know that their feelings and struggles are valid, that they can get help. Nobody should feel ashamed of their mental illness, or too scared to seek help.Back to stories