Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Depression and anxiety

"If you're going through hell, keep going" Winston Churchill

Today the sun was beaming, I felt the warmth of the air touch my skin and the warm breeze blowing through my open hair. The sunny days makes everything feel so perfect; happiness blossoming throughout my body. I get the urge to wear my brightest red lipstick and go walking outside. The whole world is smiling - today depression doesn't exist. 

Depression and anxiety are very similar, they go hand in hand like they're close friends. Depression to me is a weight carried with us. Unable to shake it off, it's such a big part of people's lives, and such a secret at the same time. We always concentrate on the negative aspects of our lives and forget the positives like tunnel vision or a bright light in your eyes, blinding you from everything else. There are so many reasons and situations that people find themselves going through depression and anxiety, and not enough people want to speak out about it. It's something as a society that we seem to struggle with collectively, to open up that private side of ourselves, to expose an emotion that can be so vulnerable. Perhaps it's the fear of being judged or alienated. I wanted to write about my own personal experience of depression and anxiety, both as a therapeutic exercise for myself, but hopefully to persuade others that the things they are going through don't have to feel unique to them and that they don't have to struggle on their own. The internet has really changed the way that people can express themselves, both good and bad, to have a voice without showing your face. I just hope this will be a great medium to reach out to people who may otherwise feel isolated.

When I was really young, from the age of 5 or 6, I started to experience feelings of dejection. I was very quiet as a child, I never wanted to interact with other children much. My mum would give the other children that lived in the block of flats a couple of pounds to come and play with me, thinking I wouldn't know she had. She didn't like that I spent so much time alone, I never had a problem with being solitary. I played with my dolls in my own little world, a cocoon where I felt safe. My mum eventually took me to see the Doctor, who diagnosed me as anaemic. We went to visit my doctor because I would constantly tell my Mum I didn't feel right, I didn't feel good, not in a sick way but my general state. I wasn't happy and wasn't eating; I'd completely lost my appetite. I know now that what I was going through was depression. I suppose the Doctor couldn't diagnose a child of six as depressed, I mean it practically didn't exist then, let alone for a child! I didn't know what was wrong with me, and these emotions carried on throughout my childhood and into my adult life.

To cut a long story short, I grew up with my Mum, my Dad didn't live with us, he had a drinking problem, My Dad suffered with depression and spent any money he had on countless cans of beer (Breaker), and this broke our little family apart. This had a major impact on me. Obviously at that age I didn't know I was depressed. I just wanted my parents to live together and us all to love each other like the families that you see on the TV. I saw my Mum crying a lot and struggling with money, and I saw my Dad really drunk, being abusive and not himself. Don't get me wrong, when my Dad was sober he was the most loving and beautiful person, his smile would captivate the room, He was so clever, he could fix anything, but his addiction stole all of that from him and us. 

Depression has been a really big part of my life and I never tend to show it, or talk about it. After my Dad died a part of me did as well and took me to a point in my life where I was at my weakest. In recent years my depression is mostly centred around anxiety, the worry of my Mother (My Mum is going through dementia and that's a whole other problem in itself!). It does get easier and better though. Not everyday is the same and there are some days in the month where I will feel bad, and others where I feel great, and these are the days that I cherish the most. I have found many things that help me get through the bad days and make it easier on myself and I want to share some here to help you get through those bad days too…. I promise. Okay, so here we go!

The first rule of depression for me is never admitting that you're depressed when you're feeling down. By telling yourself you're depressed you are allowing the demon to win. So don't!

I always find that my busiest days are my best days - it's good to be busy. Walking has become a big part of my daily routine, and something I find therapeutic. I know on your down days the last thing you want to do is to get up and go out, but force yourself to do it..... go out and walk! All the fresh air and that fact that i'm just going about on my journey helps me escape my wondering thoughts, by wandering.

As much as you want to keep yourself to yourself, try and motivate yourself to go and visit friends. It might seem like such a difficult thing to do, but it really is good for you, and you'll feel refreshed after. This is probably the hardest thing for me to do, as I had isolated myself from a lot of my friends for so long, however it's really important to be able to talk; whether you want to talk about your feelings or just catch up and distract your mind. These small things are important, don't alienate yourself. and don't be afraid to talk! I know it's scary to speak about our feelings, and to think you might be judged, but you won't!

Writing: I have always written about my feelings, whether in a diary or in poetry. When I was at University I based my whole final project on my writing, it really helped me embrace my feelings, and be creative at the same time. I really enjoy writing: I can happily sit in a coffee shop with my notepad and pen and just write. It really helps our minds, sometimes it can really upset us, but I think that's a good thing, a cathartic outpouring. If you're anything like me and you like to keep hold of everything, finding your old diary a few years later and reading it back gives you real comfort. I really love it!

Most people will experience some level of depression in their lives and you have to remember that you are not alone. That there is help out there for you. Coping with depression and anxiety is one of the hardest things we face, many mornings when you wake up and feel deflated, unable to face the world. I always try and focus on one day at a time and forget those dark winter mornings, where darkness blankets the streets and the heavy scent of winter is creeping up on us. You have to look forward to each and every day, good or bad. We have to face them all and this is the beauty of being alive. Be strong.