Tuesday 29 August 2017

Loving Your Life With Depression

I remember when I first got diagnosed with depression a few years ago and how unaccepting I was of seeing myself as someone who was depressed. As I saw things my life was everything I wanted it to be. I was, and still am, happily married. I had just moved into a new house in a new area and I was so excited for our life together there. I had a solid career and loved my job and the people I worked with. On paper there was literally no reason for me to feel unhappy or suffer with depression. 

It really didn't make any sense to me until I started to read up on the illness and realised that depression, just like any other illness, can just happen to you. There doesn't always need to be a cause and effect when it comes to suffering from depression. I guess in my own naivety back then I saw people with depression as people who had suffered in their lives or been through a traumatic event. I had no idea that it could affect you just because. I didn't even know or understand that it could also be passed down genetically.

Even though I personally found it difficult to come to terms with my diagnosis I hadn't really expected or anticipated how hard it would be for the people around me to come to terms with. Suddenly everyone was questioning what I had going on in my life to make me feel depressed. I would have people say things to me like 'but your life is perfect' and 'you have more than me and i'm not depressed'. I almost felt under attack which made me question the illness even more so.  

Ironically the year I was diagnosed was, on paper and in my mind, the happiest year of my life. I'd just got married, moved into a bigger house and was about to go travelling for my honeymoon. So I guess the fact that I became unwell with depression seemed to come as a huge shock to everyone, including myself. No one, not even me, seemed to understand that although they were really happy life events, they were also really stressful. No one, including me, realised or understood how stress, even happy stress, can lead someone to feel anxious and depressed. I had no real understanding of stress and maybe if I had done then I would have gone easier on myself and not taken on so much all of the time.

I found it really difficult to deal with people around me questioning whether I was happy in my new marriage or whether I had made a mistake moving to a new town. I had people making me doubt myself as they continually questioned me and asked me questions like 'what happened?', because something must have happened for me to feel like this. At one point, and in the midst of feeling a mass of anxiety and panic, I even began to question my own sanity and wondered if some terrible event had happened to me but my mind had blocked it out so I couldn't remember. I worried that something had happened to me in my childhood which i'd blocked out and it was finally catching up with me. 

The fact of the matter is that anyone, at any time in their life, can suffer from depression. There doesn't always need to be a cause and I think it's really important that people understand this. Everything in your life may be absolutely perfect but it's not going to stop you catching a cold. It's the same with depression.  It really is like any other illness, the only difference is that it affects your mind and it's sadly invisible to others.

The idea of someone loving their life but suffering with depression may sound like an oxymoron but in actual fact it's a normal reality for many people. For many of us depression is the only thing in our lives that we do want to change and in many ways it feels as though a sick joke is being played on us. Like you're finally at a stage in your life where you want to be so lets throw in depression to shit all over your parade! Oh and I know, how about some anxiety and panic attacks to really screw you over.  

You can feel depressed for no reason and if anything I would say that this is just as difficult to deal with because it makes less sense. If someone feels depressed because they are grieving a loss or have experienced many hardships in their life then there is an answer for the depression which people around you will be more sympathetic towards. You can also explain the depression to yourself and feel valid for feeling how you do. I am obviously relieved that I haven't experienced any trauma, and I wouldn't swap my situation for one like I have mentioned above, but it is important for people to realise that it really can affect anyone. 

I'm at a stage now where I still suffer with depression and low moods. I take antidepressants, which I am about to review with my GP, but I still have days where the symptoms are there. The medication has certainly helped with my anxiety and panic attacks but the low moods still persist. It may be that I need to up my dose or even change medication, i'm not sure yet. But even though I still suffer with depression I can thankfully still say that I love my life. 

I know that I am very privileged and I am fortunate enough to have an amazing husband and a home to live in. There are very few worries in my life at the moment which I am grateful for every single day. I get to travel a lot and do what I want to do on a daily basis which has always been my goal in my life. There really isn't anything I would change in my life right now, other than the depression. 

My point is that people should never judge someone or their illness purely by what their life looks like from the outside. Someone may lead an idyllic lifestyle and still suffer with their mental health. We only have to look at the cases of certain celebrities who have ended their lives due to depression but whose life from the outside looked incredibly wealthy and fulfilled. Robin Williams and Chester Bennington stand out as more recent cases. Depression really isn't picky about who it affects.

Every day I think how lucky I am. Even when depression tries to convince me that everything is shit I only have to look around me to see why my life is so great. The evidence is clearly there staring back at me. The numbness, indifference and lack of emotion makes it difficult to appreciate anything some days but I'm working hard on ensuring that the positive voice inside me remains stronger and louder than the one always trying to bring me down.  

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