For 12 years, depression has wheedled its way into my life. Unperturbed by the fact it was simply not welcome. Tenacious, terrifying and turbulent.
In those 12 years, I've seen friends come and go. I've seen myself come and go.
I've been on the edge of life, plotting how to escape it. I've had happy moments too.
But I'm different now. I am aware of a pain that is so indescribable that I can only reassure you that I'd rather give birth a million times over than return to depression's grip.
A pain magnified by the social stigma and the misunderstandings. By the guilt and shame.
And whilst I have found a place and space where I am comfortable talking about those experiences online - from behind a laptop, I still struggle to say the words aloud.
My husband calls it 'dropping the 'D' bomb', but a quick Google search tells me that's not at all what it is.
But there is a weird thing that tends to happen when you talk openly about depression. Sometimes a silence, perhaps a shuffle of feet, usually an avoidance of eye contact or a complete swerve in conversation. I've encountered them all. And it's those experiences which make it more and more difficult to own my truth - that depression is, as much as I detest it being so, a big part of my life. It affects everything and influences decisions I make.
For the past 12 years, I have been nothing short of petrified to own my truth, from anywhere other than from behind a laptop. But I'm also acutely aware that in doing so, I am continuing to give depression a lot of my power.
In April of this year, I was asked to be a speaker at TEDxBrum.
When asked what I might like to speak about, I considered absolutely everything including the kitchen sink, rather than to talk about depression.
It's not fun to lay yourself bare, to allow others a window into your vulnerability or to talk about something that in the past has just made you, and others, feel so uncomfortable.
I was both terrified and electrified. In my head, I was going to face-plant the stage as I walked on, would be heckled, people would hate it so much that they would leave and all sorts of other negative shenanigans. My anxiety was having an absolute field day.
But I also know that unless we take these opportunities to talk about depression, to allow ourselves to bring our vulnerability, challenges and pain to the world, the stigma will forever live on - leaving a path of devastation in its wake.
I left a part of me on the stage that day - that part was made up of fear, shame and an unwillingness to accept me for me.
It took a while, but I am now 100% owning my truth.