“For f***’s sake, Mandy! You’re depressed!”… It wasn’t until I was shouting that exact sentence out loud at myself that I realised I had a problem.
Yes, I’d been showing the signs of having depression for as long as I can remember, but this particularly low-mood occurrence was the worst yet. I don’t know how long I’d been living in a complete mental darkness for; weeks, months, years, who knows? But I vividly remember it had been bubbling up inside me for what felt like eternity and it finally made me explode.
EVERYTHING had become a major effort. Everything was in my way. Everything resorted to me letting out a big sigh. Everything, everything, everything. I just didn’t give a flying feckety about anything or anyone. Meh!
The day of my epiphany was a random Saturday. I couldn't think of anything that had triggered me in to feeling so low. Earlier that day I'd been to the hairdressers and now I was sitting at my parent’s house trying to take part in conversations.
The pressure I was feeling from trying to respond positively left me feeling so overwhelmed from negative emotion that I suddenly decided I had to leave. I couldn’t face crying in front of my parents again (I was on a constant mission trying to be "ok" so they didn't have to worry about me).
I didn't even have the brain power to make up an excuse as to why I was leaving. Even though I was possibly meant to be staying the night, I think I just said “right, I’m going to head back” and they didn’t try to change my mind (probably because they could sense that on this occasion a compromise was not on offer).
My mind was made up, I had decided that to fix my mood I only had one option; head back to Leeds immediately so that I didn't burst into a blubbering 30-year-old wreck.
Even whilst reversing off my parent’s drive I remember I had tears falling on to my lap, but to try and hide things I of course was faux-smiling and waving goodbye to my parents who were stood waving me off from the window.
I turned out of their road and started on my journey. I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few people in cars sitting next to me at traffic lights who happened to see me with tears running down my face and thought “weirdo”!
So it seems that this potent mass that had constantly been weighing me down (no, not my arse) had seemingly reached its peak. I was so pissed off with my mood and really annoyed that I couldn’t shake it off no matter where I was or who I was with.
I’d just pulled on to the M57 when I had that moment of clarity and shouted at myself. I think I even spoke back to myself and said: “Yep, you’re depressed. Sort it out you big divvy.”
A few seconds after my one-on-one chat, I felt a wave of calmness flood over me; I’d admitted it. I’d realised what the problem was and I realised I needed to fix it. I felt strange; I felt in control.
Post-epiphany, I didn’t suddenly turn up the volume to Absolute 80s and start head bopping (I saved that for the M62), but I did feel relieved and realised that I was the only one who was ever going to stop me from feeling what was now becoming insufferable sadness.
Sounds stupid doesn’t it? How can I not have known I had depression? How could I have been so slow to realise that I needed to talk through things? How come I didn’t want to admit that my secret depressed behaviour wasn’t healthy? Quite simple though really, I was in denial.
Despite my denial, my perception of what depressed people behaved like was also tainted, primarily due to the ridiculous stigma that still surrounds mental health and I refused to accept/admit that I was part of "that" statistic; “1 in 4 people have mental health problems”.
Before I admitted I had depression I would be thinking of reasons about why I surely didn’t have it, and “if” I did start to think I might be depressed then I’d talk myself out of admitting to having it because of my distorted opinion:
I haven’t ever planned or thought of where/how to kill myself (because OBVS that’s what all depressed people think about innit, so because I haven't then I'm obviously not depressed)
I didn’t want to have that “dark mark” against my name, so there’s no point in talking to anyone about things
History seems to have made people think someone with a mental health problem might mean they were weak or a lost cause, perhaps even unemployable!
I wasn’t experiencing insomnia, in fact I couldn’t get enough sleep!
People would think I was exaggerating my emotions
No one would understand me
My exhaustion (despite copious amounts of sleep) was because I’d over slept
I was embarrassed to talk about my thoughts (because of course everyone would just say my thoughts were just me being stupid)
I certainly didn’t have a loss of appetite according to my Domino’s take away online account activity!
I could usually get myself to work (admittedly there’d be a lot of behind the scenes activity going on to force myself out the door, but that's not the point)
I thought I was simply just being lazy and a cynical cow
I thought I was just feeling sorry for myself and I just needed to get a grip
I thought I was being vain and just needed to forget how I felt about appearance
I was adamant that people did think I was too fat/ugly/pale/short/weird and I should just accept it
I assumed I was just overthinking my behaviour and with time and age I would be fine.
I could not see depression being something that I, Mandy, could possibly have. People always said I was vivacious and funny; that surely meant I couldn’t be depressed? (Surely?!)
I still couldn't see that it wasn't "normal" to feel like everything was too much hard work or that I had zero interest in doing anything, I couldn’t even be bothered making conversation. I was oblivious that I was in a constant downwards spiral and starting to remove myself from my family and friends, I was choosing the easiest way to pass the day and opted to sleep rather than face anything or anyone.
It was a horrible experience, but thankfully for me (and my friends and family) I did eventually realise and acknowledge I was depressed, and I am continuing to take the steps I need to to get to a better place.
You have to learn to walk before you can run, and it truly is about one step at a time. You can’t rush it. Since admitting things this hasn’t meant that life has suddenly become a relaxing down-hill journey for me, if anything it became quite bumpy!
Those bumps have been worth it though, admittedly I’ve got a few bruises from it but I’m so much more content now than I was back then. Since admitting my depression I’ve even made new friends along the way, but sadly I’ve lost some too for a number of reasons (I’ll explain that on another day). But that's fine, life's not easy and we shouldn't pretend it is.
If you recognise any of the behaviours I’ve mentioned in either yourself or someone else just remember that it can get easier.
I’m still on my journey and I don’t know if it’ll ever end but I know I have a strong network around me who will do whatever they can to keep me on the right path.
So, my next step on my mental health path (via the fridge to get a glass of wine) = starting to accept myself for who I am. Wish me good luck because I think this is going to be my biggest hurdle and I need to keep going.