Bravery comes in many forms. We need to be brave enough to admit that some battle wounds are the invisible ones we carry every day, brave enough to seek help and no longer suffer in silence, brave enough to admit that more needs to be done in terms of NHS mental health funding, or brave enough to lead the way in research and technology for future therapies.
Depression can be frightening. Often we can doubt whether it will ever get better. Being told that it can, is what we want to hear - even if we may find it hard to believe. Being told that we are the one, who has to take responsibility and do something about it, is not something we may want to hear.
I don't use the term breakdown lightly. In fact there is still some doubt in my mind as to what I actually went through, (breakdown was used by my counsellor), but I know that it was big. I suppose I use a variety of terms to do with my mental health rather interchangeably; emotional instability, unhappiness, depression; for me they are all aspects of the same thing.
It took a long time for me to realise, with the help of counsellors at the Rainbow Project and Lifeline (two fantastic resources that I was able to use to save my own life) that I am loved, I am valued and I am as deserving of happiness as anyone else. But it has to start with accepting yourself first.
My sessions of talk therapy back at university helped my story telling. Every week, I'd walk through one of the colleges, past the restaurant where students were sitting and laughing with each other, past the duck pond where the college cat was watching hungrily from behind the bushes, to a door tucked away behind a wall -- Counselling.
I can't remember a time in which I wasn't obsessed with my appearance. There is a harsh, vindictive little critic who sits on my shoulder and breathes his bile into my ear incessantly... He tells me I'm grossly overweight, unattractive, and undesirable. He turns my head towards every reflective surface and excoriates every lump, bump, crease and curve, imagined or otherwise... I no longer feel I have any concept of what I actually look like.
The experience of not feeling understood, or feeling misunderstood in therapy is not uncommon. It may be felt in the first or early sessions or later on. Sometimes we may find that we are not well matched with our therapist or counsellor and that the chemistry is not working. But before settling for that explanation it might be worth considering some other possibilities.
I keep collapsing into a ball of tears, mourning my father's departure (as far as euphemisms for death go, that one is bearable, don't you think?) back in September. It was followed swiftly by that of a close friend, Kate, an accomplished artist whose personal kindnesses to me had, over the years, become impossible to keep count of.