Last week I was unsure whether or not writing about my experiences of depression was wise or not. I received many messages, both public and private from friends, family and colleagues wishing me the best, offering support and advice, and sharing their own experiences of depression. I am so thankful for all these messages. I would best describe it as a relief. Having gone public I plan to write a blogpost every so often, but I won’t be making this “John’s depression blog”.
One thing I understand for sure about depression is that everyone experiences it differently. You can’t tell if a person is suffering from depression just by looking at their demeanour. Last week many others came forward to tell me about their experiences of battling depression, anxiety and addiction. Like me, they don’t come across as depressed or unhappy. And perhaps like me the ‘darkness’ is not a 24/7 experience.
So why did it take me so long to a) seek treatment and b) start telling other people about it.
On the face of it these are separate questions, but in one respect they both have the same answer. I really believed that if I was ever diagnosed professionally as having depression I would be signed off work and become unable to cope with everyday life. And if others knew I was depressed it would become my main identity. I suppose this is part of the anxiety element. The prospect of being unable to work is not just a financial issue for me, but central to my sense of self. Some say that having too much of your identity invested in work is a big problem, but maybe I’ll write about that another time. Either way these fears are irrational. Recognising that you have a condition doesn’t suddenly make it worse.
I genuinely believe my depression to be fairly mild, but that does not mean it is not a problem. In the back of mind I almost felt the fact I was able to function at work meant it wasn’t proper depression.
My only real advice to anyone feeling depressed is to seek professional help. I’m one of those people who finds it difficult to talk about my feelings. Being a bad patient is also part of the problem—I never really told the doctor how I was really feeling. We all need to remember that doctors are not mind readers.