I would first like to preface this post by saying that it is serious, and it may be triggering. However, I think it is an incredibly important topic that needs to be discussed more openly within society.
There are some numbers at the bottom of this post which you can call and receive help if anything ever gets too much. You are never alone.
Sometimes, I feel sad, and I have come to realise that this is okay. In Australia, depression is the leading cause of disability. One in six people will suffer from the illness in their lives. Six Australians take their own lives every day. Six. Every single day. So why are we so scared to talk about it?
Depression, anxiety, and all mental health issues for that matter, are an incredibly complex and stigmatised issue. While we seem to recognise their prevalence in society, we also seem to struggle with how to deal with them, how to react, and how to talk about the issue at hand.
Australians are known for having a ‘toughen up’ attitude. We seem far more likely to tell someone ‘it’ll be alright’ then we are to take the steps to help them make things alright. The stigma of mental health issues means that they are seen as weaknesses. They are seen as flaws in your character, rather than seen for what they truly are – the brain struggling to balance the chemicals it’s producing.
Talking about mental health issues and recognising the truly debilitating nature of them is something that we, as a community, society and country need to work toward bettering ourselves in. We need to be able to discuss our feelings as openly as we discuss the weather, and understand that the ‘invisible illnesses’ that may fall under the mental health issues banner can be as crippling as ailments that stare you straight in the face.
I have always been open about my advocacy for mental health issues, but never have I spoken about why I am so passionate about the topic. Making this post about myself is not my intention in any way, however I feel as though to fully explain my perspective, I need to tell my story, albeit briefly.
I first recognised the signs of depression in myself at the age of 14. Assuming it was a rough patch, I chose to ignore it rather than seek help. It wasn’t that I didn’t like talking about my feelings – I’ve always been a very open person especially when it comes to my emotions – but the truth is, I was embarrassed. Looking back I wish I could talk some sense into myself, but it took four incredibly long and tiresome years before I said the words ‘I’m just never happy’ to my beautiful mama.
It’s been tough. Eight years is a long time. To see where I am now compared to where I was then makes me incredibly proud of how far I’ve come. Honestly, yes, I still have my days (my weeks, my months…) where I feel as though I’ve lost all the fight left within me. But I push through like I’ve done all of those times before and I pick myself up. I do, however, recognise that it’s just not that easy for others. My support system was and still is incredible, and I am lucky that I am surrounded by such wonderful people.
While I may have never written it out before, I have generally been fairly willing to tell my story to others. I believe as part of my personal recovery process, this has allowed me to properly understand what has actually been going on in my mind, and in many cases really brought home that I am not alone, by any means.
One such instance occurred last year. An off topic story during a conversation with a friend led to a realisation on his behalf. Similarly to myself years earlier, the symptoms he had been pushing aside had been staring him in the face. Seeing how open he has been with his struggle, as well as how far he has come has made me realise the importance of conversation. Not even necessarily conversation about the topic at hand – literally just talking to someone about your day can lead to a realisation, a smile, or them knowing that they are not alone. I am so incredibly proud of him for seeking help and recognising that something wasn’t right, but also now using his experience to go on and help others.
When I first had the idea to construct this post, I held myself back for fear of judgment. I don’t want this to be seen as a sob story by any means, but I want to leave the conversation open. Starting a conversation may very well be the first step to recovery. While it may be incredibly hard, almost impossible, please know that it will benefit you in the long term.
Australia – we need to soften up. We need to realise that it is okay to have shit days where you can’t drag yourself out of bed. Where you don’t want to eat or talk to anyone. We need to realise that if you feel like this, you are not weird, or crazy, or weak. You are a human whose brain just may not be doing what it should be.
Sometimes, I feel sad, and I have come to realise that this is okay. Human emotion dictates that in my life there will be instances where I am upset, where I will cry, where I will be down.
Sometimes, however, I feel a little bit worse than this. You might, too. This is because I have an illness, and that is okay. I make sure I let someone I trust know that today isn’t a good day, and I push through and tell myself that tomorrow will be better. And if it isn’t, then there is always the next day.
We need to work together and talk more about mental health issues (not just depression – it is so much more than that). We need to ensure it is seen as the debilitating illness that it can be, and we need to start conversations – about anything, everything we can – to get everyone talking.
If you are feeling down, please know that there is always help. You are never alone.
Lifeline – 13 11 14
Beyondblue – 1300 22 4636
Kid’s Help Line – 1800 55 1800