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By Alex: 023

Depression. Oh that word. Oh that diagnosis. It’s a shitter isn’t it?

With all the mental health/illness talk, all the social media outpourings, all the acts of solidarity, all the rising awareness…it still sucks and it still feels absolutely personal, absolutely unique…you still feel absolutely alone.

I’m glad that the conversation is going, and that more people are aware of mental health – both their own and those around them. But I also can’t help but feel like it’s a bit of a let-down. Having some celebrity (or influencer) tell you that talking helps or to reach out, that they have been there and that such-and-such helped them just feels, well, a bit removed from the reality. My reality, anyway.

Sure, talking helps (if you can stop crying long enough), exercise may help (if you can get out of bed), eating well helps (if you’re eating at all), and reaching out to a medical professional is a good thing (and a courageous thing), but it’s not a case of ‘problem-solved’ once any of these happen. Sometimes that downward trajectory just keeps on going. For me, the ever-present feeling of guilt or even shame for feeling this way in the first place cannot be overstated, and when compounded by the opinions of the world, the outlook can be grim.

Because unless you have been touched by depression, my experience is that you really cannot empathise fully. I understand, I really do. When somebody seems to have it all, or seems very fortunate in so many ways, it appears self-absorbed or needlessly self-flagellating for them to be sad or unhappy. It seems like they should be able to look on the bright-side, count their blessings, and pull themselves right out of that funk.

I feel the same. I even say those things to myself. And you know what? It all just adds a lovely new layer of self-hatred, guilt, and shame. Depression is mental, it’s in your brain, and so it seems like you should be able to talk yourself out of it. I should be able to cheer up! But depression is an illness like any other.

You don’t ask to get it, you don’t actively try to catch it, and you can’t just pretend it isn’t happening once you have it and hope for the best.

Depression is life-threatening if not treated. The statistics are terrifying.

Like most illnesses, treatment isn’t an instant cure, and it can feel like an uphill climb too steep to even attempt at times. I’ve reached the top of the hill a few times in my life, and now I find myself back at the bottom, staring up at that vast mountain that seems to have somehow mutated and grown whilst I wasn’t paying attention. It’s now more treacherous than ever, and the stakes are far higher too.

I’ve recently reached out, and what I heard were five words that have comforted me more than I can say: ‘help is on the way.’

Help is on the way.

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