One of the main problems with mental health issues is the fact that it’s not visible. Depression and anxiety show no real visible symptoms that can really be recognised. This makes it pretty hard for people to relate to what the sufferer is going through, and that can be really hard on not just the sufferer but also their loved ones.
Depression often takes you out of your social groups. You find it hard to relate to people, even close friends who’ve known you for years, and they can struggle with you. Just the fact of being able to open up and tell people what you’re going through can be a totally daunting prospect.
Why is it so hard to ask for help? Do people worry that it’s a sign of weakness? Are we worried of showing our vulnerability? By the act of asking for help do we feel like we will lose aspects of ourselves by relying on others?
When I started having my most recent episode last year I decided to be quite open and honest with it. People could see that something wasn’t quite right with me. I thought I’d be open with my family, friends and work colleagues. Everyone was okay with me, nobody shunned me. Just the fact of explaining to people that I might not be my usual self seemed to help me by having it out in the open. When my feelings felt worse and the anxiety and depression closed in on me, people were already of accepting of it. I didn’t have to create some web of bullshit to make myself and others feel comfortable. It meant I could focus on healing and trying to fight the illness. The more I shared the more support I’d find. I decided one day to admit on Facebook about the struggle I was having, mainly because I felt that if I said what was wrong with me then I wouldn’t have to put up with ridiculous rumours. What I found was plenty of people who offered their help or support, people who said they knew how I felt, others that didn’t but wanted me to know I was in their thoughts.
Fighting against depression and anxiety isn’t really tackled alone, no matter what you think. There are always people around you who are willing to help you. I let people into my life that would be able to support me.
My first line of support is Sarah, my partner. We’ve been together just short of nine years together and out of everyone in this world, she’s the person who knows me best. Over the years Sarah has had to get used to me being the way I am and how sometimes I’m hard to be with. She works in the NHS but sometimes she’s found it hard to understand why I am this way, I think mainly because it’s so hard to describe to someone what you’re going through and make them understand something you find hard to comprehend or even articulate to yourself. Also she cares for me and nobody wants to see someone they care about and love suffer. She’s the perfect person for me. She knows when to push me out of my comfort zone but she also knows when to leave me alone. Sarah has been such a massive influence in my life. Not only has she helped make me a better person but she’s also been there unquestionably for me, unwavering in her support even when she couldn’t grasp why I needed it. I’m convinced that without her I would be nothing.
After that there’s my immediate family. My parents are still protective of me in their own way. That part will never change, no matter how old you become, where your are or what you do. When I get like this they know enough to give me space whilst still being there for me. My mam often jokes that when she doesn’t hear from me she knows I’m fine. They know that when I’m this way I’ll let them know when I need them. Same as my two sisters, Lisa and Susan. They both live busy lives with their own families but it’s reassuring to know that they’re there for me, without question. That’s the joy of your family. I believe that these ties surpass everything, they’re indelible.
After that there’s my friends. These are the people that chose to be part of your life and you choose to be part of theirs. I know they’re there when I needed them too. The guys from the band I’m in, my work colleagues, people who I’ve known for years and others who I share a love of music with. They’re the ones who’d drop you a message every now and again to see how you were doing. I also cultivated some new friendships during this time, people who I’d never physically met but who wanted to help me. And they did. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who’s a relative stranger. I really don’t know why, I think it’s to do with the fact they really don’t have any judgement of you. That’s part of the joy of the world wide web. You can be as close or as distant to anyone you want to be. It’s opened up new channels to for me to vent, to explore, new ways to express myself and reach out to others. Miles become transversed in microseconds. Our community now truly is global, something I still find amazing to this day. You can talk to someone as quickly and easily on the opposite side of the planet as someone in the next room. Every day, the world we’re in becomes that little bit smaller, that little less daunting. All you need to do is make a connection, any connection,
It’s easy to say you’re on your own with this. Depression fools you into thinking that way, into thinking that you’re alone and that you amount to nothing in the great scheme of things. But really you’re not. It blinds you into believing this but it’s really not the case. You can choose to live this way or you can choose not to, the decision is always yours to make. But by opening yourself up to the people around you can connect with so many people in so many different ways. By taking that first step and being able to talk about it I’ve been able to listen to other people’s stories, to offer support and be able to console, as well discovering other people out there going on their own journeys. Yes, there is always a risk that people will hurt you. But that is still better than feeling numb, pain is still better than nothing at all. Depression is already causing you hurt. We just need to break free of the isolation it imposes on us. We’re all social creatures, we all depend and rely on each other, even when we blindly deny that this is the case. We’re all connected, we’re all individual strands that intertwine and mix to create bonds that time and distance have no domain over. And that is why, truly, we’re in this together.
As usual, I always end this by saying if you want to talk further you can email me at email@example.com. Myself and a few others have created a closed support group on Facebook, also called The Order Of The Dog, where you can come and find kindred spirits. Also, please feel free to share this blog and it’s page. The more people we can educate the more we can try to help each other.