In my late teens, I developed depression and anxiety with obsessive tendencies. It took me a long time to come to terms with the idea that I was ill, but I managed to get a diagnosis when I began to undertake a life counselling diploma. I also went to my GP.
I became withdrawn and sought to isolate myself as much as possible. And I felt a need to put on a façade for my family and friends. To play the clown, even though I was doubting everything on the inside. Whilst I was feeling low, I found a certain comfort in my mood. I didn’t enjoy it, but it was safe, so I withdrew from my friends and shut myself away.
I lost all self-confidence, and constantly doubted my ability to do anything. This resulted in a recurring low mood, which eventually developed into self-harm, even though I never really understood why I was doing it.
It took me over eight years to open up about my mental health. I haven’t experienced any stigma, but I know that it’s out there, which is maybe why I kept it hidden for so long. There’s definitely a “macho culture” that can make it harder to speak up.
The turning point has been accepting my illness. Recognising when I’m feeling down is important, and knowing to be easier on myself and seek support if I need it. Shying away from problems only delays getting the help that is out there.
My parents have been incredibly supportive of me too, but it’s been difficult for all of us. I’ve had to educate them about my illness a lot, not only explaining how common it is and how it can happen to anyone, but also to reassure them that it wasn’t their fault.
I think it’s important to understand that depression is common and can happen to anyone, no matter your upbringing or lifestyle.