Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Understanding Depression and Anxiety: 6 Valuable Quotes

A few months ago I wrote about my decision to drop out of university and my experiences with depression and anxiety. The post was, and is still being, shared and viewed more than I ever could have imagined, and the response was completely overwhelming. I've had hundreds of conversations in the past few months - blog comments, Facebook messages, emails, even brief conversations in the kitchen at work - and I've come to a few realisations:

Firstly, no statistic could ever have prepared me for the actual, real life, right-in-front-of-me prevalence of mental illness.

Secondly, most people are open to talking about mental health.

Thirdly, however, somehow there are still people who are unwilling to talk about or understand depression, even when it affects the people they care about, even in 2015, and even given the incredible progress we've made in recent years. This doesn't sit right with me at all, and it's something I'm all out of patience or sympathy for - it's ignorance.

Talking will help end the stigma, and allow for a society where our mental health issues are not hidden in shame, secrecy or fear. That's why the mental health conversation is so necessary. That's why campaigns like Time To Change's #TimeToTalk are so important. That's why I have pledged to always be fiercely and unapologetically honest about my mental illness, even if (and especially if) it leaves me feeling vulnerable or ashamed.

Pretty much everybody I know has read my university blog post, and that's a daunting reality. Now all my cards are on the table, though, I have very little to lose. I'll continue to talk openly about my battle (and I use that word hesitantly, because I don't think it's always that fitting) with depression and anxiety, and I'm no longer sympathetic if my openness makes you uncomfortable; one in four people will suffer from a mental health issue in any given year (source), and, really, it's 2015... it's about time we all stopped avoiding the subject and faced up to reality.

Mini (and somewhat tangential) rant over and done with, here's six quotes on depression and anxiety which I think are valuable to the mental health conversation:

Andrew Solomon - Depression, The Secret We Share (TEDxMet)

"I found myself losing interest in almost everything. I didn't want to do any of the things I had previously wanted to do, and I didn't know why. The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment. Everything there was to do seemed like too much work. I would come home and I would see the red light flashing on my answering machine, and instead of being thrilled to hear from my friends, I would think, "What a lot of people that is to have to call back." Or I would decide I should have lunch, and then I would think, but I'd have to get the food out and put it on a plate and cut it up and chew it and swallow it, and it felt to me like the Stations of the Cross."

Anna Spargo-Ryan - I exist in a fog. Some days it blows away, but some days it's heavy and suffocating

"We climb out of bed every (OK, most) days and we exist in the world inside a fog, and some days the fog is light and it blows away for a while, and some days the fog is thick and it rolls in around us and we suffocate."

Ben Locker - My battle with depression and the two things it taught me

"It’s often said that depression isn’t about feeling sad. It’s part of it, of course, but to compare the life-sapping melancholy of depression to normal sadness is like comparing a paper cut to an amputation. Sadness is a healthy part of every life. Depression progressively eats away your whole being from the inside."

Katie Oldham - Hello Darkness My Old Friend

"It's kind of like a deep cut that will always remain delicate- at first it bleeds and bleeds and you don't think it will ever stop, but then eventually it heals. From that day on you can be happy and healthy, but you will always have that scar, and every now and again when you least expect it, that little wound opens up again, and catches you completely off guard, and the process has to begin again.

...Or perhaps that's not the right analogy, it's not a new presence that creeps back - it's more like a draining absence. A sudden feeling of empty 'Oh.', that you can't quite remember what it's like to be excited about anything, like you're going nowhere in life and you can't remember where you used to think you were going, like all and everything just has an unavoidable tinge of pointlessness about it. And all for seemingly no reason at all. It's fucking terrifying.

...And the tiredness, dear god, the tiredness. This thing doesn't just drain your mental energy, it drains your very life's vitality".

Anya Briggs - Anxiety and Rest

"Anxiety, as those who struggle with it will know, is a force that grips you when you wake up in the morning and leads you through an adrenaline charged day, for no apparent reason at all. It’s like having the feeling that you’re about to go on stage when you’re actually just living a normal day."

Heba El-Husseini - Living with Ghosts and Why #IGetCounselling*

"I referred to my depression as a ghostly, dark version of myself because she was just like me, but devoid of all happiness and spirit. When things got bad it was like she would eclipse the real me, the me that reacted normally to things and loved people. She diluted me until that confidence and character that I used to be loved for was murky and out of reach."

*Heba is part of the PlusGuidance team. PlusGuidance is an online platform providing people with immediate online counselling, securely and anonymously.

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