This article is aimed at hopefully raising some much needed awareness about depression and mental health in general.
Depression is a very real and very common problem, with the Royal College of Psychiatrists reporting that 1 in 4 people become depressed at some point in their lives. Yet, despite it being so common within our society, there is so little understanding of what it means to be depressed.
For the past 4 years or so, I have struggled with depression. I was only diagnosed around 18 months or so ago but on discussion within a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy session I received whilst working as a social media apprentice for West Midlands Fire Service, it turned out the misery I had felt for the long period previously had been depression.
Depression is an immensely complicated issue to discuss. Partly because we don't fully understand it but mostly because there is still so much taboo and ignorance around the topic.
Without turning this into a sob story a talent show contestant would be proud of, I have faced a lot of adversity so far in my short life. I have experienced bullying, serious illness and homelessness among some other bad exeriences that I'm not willing to go into out of respect for other individuals involved.
Depression is an inevitable consequence of things that have happened to me and I don't hide away from that. In fact, I'm incredibly and sometimes frighteningly open about it.
So, from the perspective of a sufferer of depression, what is depression like?
It's as if there is a perpetual battle between two parts of your mind. One part is your logical, sensible part which knows your own great worth. The other is depression, which defiantly tries to quash any positivity. It's a formidable and dangerous enemy, which, if left unchecked, can have serious consequences.
I am very lucky in the sense that I have been put in a much better position to wrangle with depression, thanks to The Prince's Trust. However, just because I'm happy with my circumstances does not mean I don't suffer from it - this is where the ignorance and lack of education is rampant.
Depression is not about being happy or sad. Those are arbitrary terms we use to describe how we feel at any given time. It's an immeasurably more complex system of emotions that are difficult to predict.
I often have major mood swings from the smallest of triggers. It's difficult to explain to people around me that this is why I go from happy to in a mood over seemingly nothing, because there isn't much awareness around the subject and often I don't even know the reason.
It's a difficult condition to live with because it can sap all the energy from you. Even though it is very much a mental condition, the effects it can have on you physically are staggering. I have spent countless days, when depression really took a hold, feeling almost paralysed from a lack of energy and motivation.
It also makes you draw away from people around you. At the very moment you need the support of those who care about you, you don't want to be around them. A sufferer of depression becomes reclusive and anti-social. It's not about what they want because I can guarantee that they want this interaction more than just about anything. You feel almost a need to be alone and isolated. "Isolated is good," that part of your brain tells you. "If we're alone, we can't screw anything up."
It's very much a condition that counters our basic human logic - perhaps part of the reason so many people have difficulty understanding it. It deliberately deprives you of the things that you need so that you submit to its will.
It takes great courage and fierce determination to battle against depression. I'm proud of where I am today, in a position where I am, mostly, in control. It's been the most difficult thing I have had to overcome. But I'm not complacent or naïve enough to think it'll go away just because I'm in control, it doesn't work like that.
To those who suffer from depression, I have good news - it is beatable. You can control it. If you're struggling, take the scary step of asking for help; you won't regret it. There are people out there who can make a difference to your life and have a positive impact. When it comes down to it, the only person who can rein it in and control it is yourself but there is help out there to assist you getting to that point.
It's a massively misunderstood condition that not only prevents sufferers from being happy, it can cause severe damage and can also lead to tragedy. There is nothing worse to a sufferer of depression than someone who doesn't understand it trying to make light of their situation.
If you know someone who is going through this, try to understand what they're going through. Be empathetic and most importantly of all, be patient. They'll get there, but they'll need you.
The last four years of my life have been difficult but I finally feel like I'm getting there, thanks to the amazing work of The Prince's Trust and my own refusal to give in. Depression is a terrible topic but with a little more education and understanding, we can move forward as a society in coming up with a solution.