Ten years ago I was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. It wasn’t surprising really, there is a strong family history of depression and mental illness. My depression is an illness, caused by chemical imbalances in my brain. The medication balances out these chemicals, and prevents me from curling up in a ball and crying all day long. It’s all perfectly scientific. Like the insulin I take to balance out my blood sugars because I’m a Diabetic. There is nothing embarrassing or shameful about being a Diabetic. Yet I struggle with the shame of my depression. There is a constant battle going on in my head about whether to be honest about it or not. Part of me is indignant and determined to shed the stigma that surrounds depression by being upfront about my illness. But another part of me is ashamed and afraid of being judged as a ‘crazy’ person.
Depression can make people act ‘crazy’. It can drive people to do crazy things. Both my uncles committed suicide. I have attempted twice. Some people self medicate, using alcohol and drugs to numb the pain that they cannot understand. I like to think that I am lucky in a way, that I have always been aware of the ‘Black Dog‘ that has lurked within my gene pool. I recognised the signs. And I got help.
I hate the fact that I have to be medicated to live a normal life. My ex husband believed it was all just a farce, that anti depressants act as a placebo,tricking us into thinking we are better. (‘us’ and ‘we’ being a collective term for people like me, who apparently just needed to harden up) I have tried to stop many times, only to slowly sink back into that black pit where everything is hopeless and to get out of the bed in the morning seems futile. In the end, why would I choose to live like that, if I actually have the choice? So I will keep taking medication in the hope that maybe one day I wont need it. And I will keep reminding myself that I am treating an illness, and the only control I have over this illness is the choice to take the medication that makes me feel human, and dare I say it, normal.
I will seek to find opportunities that allow me to dispel the myths around depression. I will one day find the courage to admit that I have depression as easily as I can admit that I have Diabetes. Because depression is not a dirty word. Depression is not a shameful secret. Depression can be a treatable illness. And for every person who stands up, maybe one less person will feel the need to hide. xx