THE BLOG

Judging People by Their Depression Creates a Sorry Society

01/04/2015 12:01 BST | Updated 30/05/2015 10:59 BST

I am very open about the mental health difficulties I face. I learnt that it was better to not care about people's judgements and, in a sense, embrace my illness. Being ashamed of an illness doesn't fix it, so the shame was rather redundant. Its reality was no less real because it was not physically present like a cut or a burn. As soon as I allowed myself freedom to be ill and recover without worry about others' opinions it enabled me to, well, recover. That sense of ownership of an illness and confidence in its validity also helps to push the darkness back. It doesn't mean there's a magic mental illness wand waved and everything's okay but it does mean you care less about the minds of others and more about your own mind.

That's not to say I am not deeply concerned at times about how my openness will affect my progression professionally and personally. I generally believe people are good and always remind myself that we all have things happening to us which other people simply do not know about. An argument before you leave the house, a scare whilst driving, a bad dream, an unexpected bill, these all contribute to our mood and interactions with others both consciously and subconsciously. In turn, we can be quick to judge someone's cold demeanour without taking into account what they are experiencing. We must remember that life is complex and clouded with factors beyond our limited scope of perspective; therefore when we judge someone's validity because of depression we seriously undermine the fact that we all face challenges and should never be arrogant to think we exist outside the murky, muddled manic world of our existence.

Depression can be deeply distressing and seriously impede someone's life. When I confronted how severe my depression was it hurt because I had to deal with the inability to do tasks I was so sure of. Temporarily. With support, love, therapy, medication and will I have battled the dark demon of depression and flourished. I have taken massive steps out of my comfort zone to not only prove to myself I can do it but also show that a life of integrity and beauty and success is possible with a mental illness. Even if others have judged me weaker or a potential liability because of depression I have endeavoured to show that I am the opposite.

I struggle at times. I enter moments of darkness that is hard to explain but makes feeling a bit sad seem like a wonderful alternative. It's not only hard on my own wellbeing but incredibly hard on my wife-to-be as she has to navigate the difficult waters of my mental illness. She is a true saint at times in her understanding. Even though I struggle occasionally it does not mean I am unable to do my job as a restaurant manager, it means I just have to be open and also aware of how to carry on doing my job to the best of my ability. It's not a sense of 'snapping out of it' but rather having processes in place to understand triggers and also ways to cope with the darkness. There's not a formula and it's not easy, but we manage. We manage.

If we decide though that people with depression are less able than 'normal' members of society we face the reality that we truly aren't a civilised society at all. As I mentioned, we have no idea at times what is really happening with people and my illness is a part to my life which I have to handle but it does not define me completely and, like other illnesses, should be taken with an understanding of the person as a whole. Making people afraid of being open about their mental illness seriously creates a potentially confounding situation where fear of being open about depression assists in depressive feelings.

After all, some of the most creative and brilliant minds of history are people who battled mental illness, so society benefits from giving people space to know that even though they struggle they will not be discriminated against because of their struggles.