There’s a common misconception that having nice things and a ‘good life’ makes you immune to mental health, particularly depression.
As much as we’ve come on leaps and bounds with our understanding and tolerance towards mental health problems, there’s still a real belief that if you appear to ‘have it all’ then you must be completely content with your life but that just isn’t the case.
It’s often the people that appear to have everything anyone could want in life that struggle with mental health conditions such as depression the most. Being lucky enough to have a nice house or flash car doesn’t protect you from the harsh reality that in the eyes of mental health, we’re all fair game.
I’ve personally struggled with depression for years and have often fallen foul to the misunderstanding that depressed people spend their days crying, don’t get out of bed, never turn up for work and are generally not living a functioning life but for the majority of us suffering with depression, that isn’t our reality.
I’ve been told a number of times when opening up about my battle with depression that ‘I have it all’. It’s often been insinuated to me, if not directly said that ‘I have no reason to be depressed’. With a good job, a secure income, a nice house and a swish car, how could I possibly have anything to feel down about?
Well, seeing as depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain and not a lifestyle choice, the car I drive and the wage I earn was never going to determine whether I was one of the unlucky 3.3 in every 100 people to suffer with depression, a statistic reported by mental health charity, Mind.
Although my logical mind knows that material things don’t buy happiness and certainly aren’t a cure for depression, I often find myself feeling guilty for saying I suffer with depression when I’m more than aware of how fortunate I am.
I know how lucky I am to be surrounded by a loving support network, have a roof over my head and the ability to buy myself everything I need but I think it needs to be understood and accepted that you can feel genuinely grateful for your lifestyle whilst still feeling depressed and dissatisfied with your existence.
In my experience, material objects only ever bring temporary happiness and true happiness comes from the people and experiences in your life but even those things aren’t always enough to eliminate the crippling symptoms of depression because depression isn’t a choice, it isn’t something you can just choose to not have, if you’ve got it, that’s just the way it is.
It can be difficult to not feel guilty or ashamed of having depression full stop but I think it’s particularly hard to be accepting of the fact you have depression and that that’s ok when you appear to have a life others would love to live.
It can be difficult to tell your parents you feel depressed when they do nothing but shower you with love. It’s tough to tell a partner you’re suffering when they’re always there to support you. It’s challenging to explain to an employer that you’re struggling when your job is going from strength to strength.
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling like a fake when I say I’m depressed because from the outside, I don’t appear to look depressed nor have any reason to feel that way.
A coping mechanism for many with depression is to hide it. Paint a smile on your face, show off the best bits of your life and burrow away the negative thoughts whilst refusing to ever let people know you’re suffering but as I know from experience, this makes things so much harder.
Not only does this result in struggling in silence which is always going to be tough, it can also make it difficult to explain to people why you feel depressed and how long you’ve felt like that because you’ve hid it so well, for so long.
Depression is likely to touch all of us in some way at some point in our lives. Whether we get it ourselves or someone close to us does, there’s not one of us that will escape witnessing the effects of depression for our whole lives, so we need to understand that there’s no terms and conditions to depression, there’s no entry requirements, any of us could suffer with it.
No matter what your age, your occupation, your relationship status or even your net worth, no matter how much someone appears to ‘have it all’, they may still be suffering with mental health problems and they have every right to feel the way they do because they simply, can’t help it.
Don’t just check on those close to you that you know are struggling, always check in on those that seem to be fine all the time because you just never know, they may be the ones struggling the most.
Let’s keep the conversation about mental health going and let’s make it known and understood that the life you live does not determine your right to ask for help when it comes to mental health; in the eyes of depression, we’re all the same.