I suffer from depression. I have for a while, and I'm tempted to say 'on and off'; but I think it's always sort of there, waiting for a moment to rear its head. Some days it's an effort to leave the house; some days I want to run out the door and sprint to wherever I'm going, singing showtunes. I've always been Mr Jokester, cracking wise and being silly, so it's often hard for people to get that I have depression.
One of the big things with mental health issues is that people who don't understand it (and notice I haven't said people who don't themselves have issues) can't get how it may affect your life. "What have you got to be sad about?", "you've just got to try and be positive", "cheer up, it might never happen", "you've just not got to let it bother you". All these wonderfully helpful and understanding statements make me want to scream. All have been said to me at some point in my life, and the worst part is that they're often said when I've just spoken to someone about how I'm feeling.
Look, this article isn't me doing a 'woe is me' piece. This isn't even a declaration of need, or a cry for help. What I hope is that someone out there reads it, and maybe gets a bit of an insight into someone else's life. Does how I feel accurately reflect how other people with depression feel? Probably not. This is actually the point.
When someone mentions 'depression', what is the first thing that pops into your head? A mopey, unwashed, deep set eyed person, in bed crying? Imagine a slowed Kevin the Teenager. This isn't necessarily how it goes. You can be so depressed that you get to a point where you don't eat or sleep, or function much at all. Or you can live your life perfectly normally for years, but just feel awful a lot of the time.
I can only speak from my experience; I have no training. I've worked in situations where an understanding of mental health is vital, but I haven't studied it bar living with certain issues. What's clear with mental health is that the vast majority of people don't get how it works. It's not like a leg break, say. You break your leg so there's an issue, and there's a response. Your leg is broken; they maybe pin it, and plaster it. If you suffer from depression, you could just have that, but there's a multitude of other things that could be going on that are making the situation harder. You could have OCD, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleeplessness, to name but a few; this makes treatment a tricky thing. Some people swear by therapy, some by medication, some by both. I've heard cases of people who just deal with it themselves by talking to friends. There is no standard answer.
What people have to understand is, it's not a case necessarily of having major reasons to be happy or unhappy. I suffer from depression, but I have a home, friends, and most importantly an amazing family who I love very, very much. Does having them mean I can't be depressed? No. Does being depressed mean I don't value them? No. I can even enjoy things, I can laugh, make jokes, feel happy, but the feelings I have surrounding my depression mean that I feel crap a lot of the time.
It's exceedingly hard to quantify, because some days I'm fine, some days I want to die, some days I'm manic and I know it's the depression. I see a counsellor and I expect I will for a very long time. Is this necessarily a bad thing? I don't think so. I can order my thoughts with an outside advisor and I can say what I want in there without upsetting the people around me.
Going back to one of the silly statements said to me, I'd love to just be positive all the time. I don't like negativity, I don't like bashing. In fact a few years ago I made a conscious decision to cut back on criticism of the world at large, and to a degree I've succeeded (cue: people I know gasping at the levels I still piss and moan). Though it's often hard to avoid being negative, not because the world is shit, but because seeing it in a good light can be hard. I can be playing with my son and genuinely be enjoying myself, but still feel low. For someone who hasn't felt that way, it's hard to get across. God, I've tried when at a low ebb to think positively and lift myself, but it's like trying wrench your leg from thick mud.
Another issue is my physical health. Revelation time: I get sick a lot. People comment on it, and have for a while. So big shocker, my physical health is tied to my mental health. I'm not saying I'm faking as I genuinely do get ill. But with my depression and anxiety, my mind being down means that my body is also down. I'm up half the night thinking, worrying, stressing, and I walk through my days coiled and ill at ease. Are you surprised that every virus that floats around London moves in? I'm like an abandoned house in Kensington with an open window; squatters paradise.
I don't want you to take the above as an admission of defeat. I don't want you to take it as me saying let me be a lazy, grumpy arsehole because I have mental health issues. What I'm saying is that the world at large needs to understand that mental health problems aren't easy to live with, and they're definitely not easy to get through. I know in my heart that I will feel better than I do right now. I hope that I won't feel low like this again after I do, but I know that I cannot feel this way; so I try not to let that possible future concern me. This could be a sign I'm moving from this phase. This piece could be my catharsis. All I ask is that when you're presented with someone (even yourselves) with an issue, don't think it's cut and dry.