Let's be honest, if someone brings up in conversation how they suffer from depression we can involuntarily gaze at the floor hoping for the subject to swiftly change course. Depression, in light of the attention the illness received after the tragic demise of Robin Williams, is still rather awkward a topic for many people. I suffer from the illness and have done for many years and notice the jittery glances when I mention it. I'm not offended or even surprised how the ignorance about mental illness still pervades in the West. It's not easy to talk about.
Before I was diagnosed I remember feeling emotionally impotent in how to cope with whatever was going on in my head. I certainly felt powerless to talk with anyone about it. Surely all I needed to do was pull myself together, slap on a smile and get on with life? That misguided mantra crumbled when, one morning, I attempted to make a cup of tea. I walked into my kitchen and was suddenly rooted to the spot. All I wanted to do was walk over to the kettle and flick a switch; it seemed impossible though. I stood there, helpless and screamed. Depression has the ability to mentally and physically cripple you and I encountered the effects rather dramatically.
That horrible moment propelled me to get help and even though I felt embarrassed to speak to a doctor about how I was feeling it was a huge step to healing. Thankfully my GP was extremely compassionate and guided me through the process of getting help to not only manage the illness but overcome it. That was in 2008.
Nearly seven years later I can confidently write that I can make a cup of tea, but it has not been seven years of bliss. I sometimes refer to my depression as the Intruder because it feels like I have an unwelcome guest in my head. I keep him locked up most of the time but occasionally he slips out of the cage and litters my mind with inky, dark thoughts. In 2010 I had a very difficult year and battled with demons almost every day. It was draining and it pushed me to the very limits of wanting to live.
It was only because of a wonderful support network of friends, family and professionals I am still alive today and happy to be alive. Sometimes a lot of the stigma surrounding depression can come from within and our perceived belief that people don't want to talk about it. When I was really low the talking, the listening and the hugs empowered me to want life again.
We live in a world of instants where results have to be immediate; freedom from depression is not an instant. It's a process that needs to be nurtured and always respected. The times where I have been flippant about my illness have been the times where it has snuck up on me and caused me to take ten steps back. Exercising, eating right, communicating and understanding negative triggers all contribute to a better mind.
I don't know whether depression can ever be cured because much of me thinks that depression contributes to what makes me the man I am. I do know that it doesn't have to be the controlling force in my life though. The Intruder in my mind fuels my creativity but a desire to be balanced, happy and at peace adds to my wellness. You may be embarrassed to talk about your illness but talking creates a doorway to healing and who wouldn't want to talk about that?