Depression & Anxiety are NOT Dirty Words.
How many people do you know that wince at the words ‘depression’, ‘anxiety’ or ‘mental health’? Chances are, it’s more than just a handful.
This post comes just after mental health awareness week and after opening up and sharing my history of depression and anxiety following an eating disorder, I decided this would be my next post to tackle.
A recent study announced that 2017 saw the highest spike in depression and anxiety. It’s contributing factor? Social media. We live in a digital era and the social pressures that can derive from the things we’ve read and what we see on social media are huge. Humans have an almost innate tendency to self-critique, compare and set extremely high expectations for the way we should or shouldn’t live our lives. Being overly exposed to others documenting how they’re living their lives is only going to enhance these traits and feelings. With today’s society being so cemented online, I want to use this post to talk about my experiences of both depression and anxiety with the hope that the stigma and labelling of the two will eventually dissolve.
The realisation that I needed a bit of help and support came about after admitting I needed help for an eating disorder and looking back, if I’d been brave enough to admit and ask for help at that time, it might have saved a lot of heartache. When it becomes an almost integral and controlling aspect of how you go about your daily life, it becomes nigh on impossible to realise that it isn’t part of your true personality.
If you’ve read my Journey post, you’ll know that for the best part of 4 years, I struggled with and eating disorder and as a result of this, depression and anxiety. For what felt like forever, I cried most days and thought that because I was struggling with recovery and thoughts around food, this was normal. I thought I was just feeing really sad. When I started my recovery, I was expecting these sad feelings to ease off and disappear, and when they didn’t, I was angry, frustrated and could feel myself getting worse.
As well as trying to recover, I was revising and sitting exams, getting ready to go to university and, trying to figure out who I was. There was so much going on and I didn’t give myself any credit for trying to get better whilst going through all this. There was a constant fog over my head and at any time I felt I was going to burst into tears. It was so embarrassing, and everyone around me seemed so able to deal with all these pressures – why couldn’t I? What was so wrong with my brain?
It’s a really tricky emotion and feeling to explain to someone who hasn’t ever felt it. It’s different than being a bit down because its Monday morning again. It’s not the same as those Sunday night or holiday blues. It’s an illness and one that really shouldn’t be overlooked.
My brain knew my life was good. I had and still do have a wonderful family, amazing friends but that ‘cloud of depression’ and anxiety lingered and was able to put a big damper on everything. Some days I would wake up feeling I could face it all and others, I would struggle completely to get out of bed with a ‘what is the point’ mentality. It is so hard. Harder than anything I’ve ever had to overcome and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
Anxiety usually comes paired with depression. My anxiety didn’t and doesn’t come in the form of panic attacks, but more an overwhelming sensation. It’s as though I’m looking for a worry to pin my anxiety too and these ‘pins’ are usually the most prominent things in my life. Work, money, family etc. It can feel like serious heightened self-consciousness and I could find myself believing that because my friends didn’t text me back, they hated me and I’d done something horrible.
As with any mental illness, there are still days when it can feel a little bit too much. I can find it harder to focus, panic creeps back in and the ability to rationalise mundane situations is complicated. But although it can sometimes have a presence in my life, I. Am. Happy. And I know it is absolutely okay NOT TO BE OKAY.
One of the hardest things to hear when you’re battling with depression and anxiety is, ‘but you’re always happy, you don’t seem depressed’. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that. Now I know that people were trying to help, but being told to ‘be positive’ made me feel 100 times worse because I struggled to find the positives.
Depression and anxiety affects 1 in 4 and those stats are on the rise. Lets talk about it. Remove the stigma and educate ourselves and those around us. Opening up about mental health is the only way we are going to get those numbers down. If you broke your leg, would you go for a run? Probably not. You’d seek help – and that’s how we should treat mental health. Look after yourself, and give mental health the same care and attention you do to your physical health.
Avoid comparison and don’t believe everything you see on Instagram. This is easier said than done, but it’s so important. Take what you see with a pinch of salt and remember that we all chose to share the best angles. Be mindful and set realistic goals for yourself. Accept that change can and probably will happen. Stay true to you and know yourself – because you are capable of amazing things.
It’s incredibly easy to do what everyone else is doing and follow the path we think it set because not following the norm is unheard of. But if that means sacrificing your own happiness, well-being and mental health – is it really worth it?
I think it’s safe to say moving back to Bath and quitting my ‘proper’ job is definitely not following the ‘traditional’ path. But when it really comes down to it, who really cares if I’m super happy and content with the new path I have and will continue to set myself?
If anyone else has any feedback*, tips or questions on any of the above, I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment below or contact me.
*Disclaimer: I am not a registered psychologist and if you feel that you need to speak to a professional, please do so. However, if you want to talk about anything, I will always try to help.