There are some days when I wish I had the type of depression you see in films and on tv. The kind of depression that makes you pale, interesting and oddly attractive. Of course, the upside of ‘film depression’ is that generally you can be cured by the love of your life making everything better again in the course of about an hour… I suppose that would be a much easier process. The reality of depression is perhaps a little more painful and a bit less beautiful.
Depression can also be a whole lot less exciting or dramatic. It can be functioning at a level where, on the outside, you seem pretty much fine. But on the inside, everything is coated in a bit of a sludgy fog. It’s an effort to keep up with appearances and quite exhausting at the same time. Depression can be a bit of an overused term, I remember the idea of people being ‘depressive’ being thrown about carelessly at school… almost as a bit of an insult. There was no understanding or caring of what might be making that person feel low and often it was used to describe a rubbish day rather than an ongoing feeling of hopelessness, loneliness and despair.
Like many mental health problems, there seems to be a stigma associated with depression that makes people think it’s something you can just fix and overcome. If only it were that simple. There’s often no specific reason for depression, it’s not like it can be quickly fixed with a dose of medication. The reality is a lot more complex and varies so much from person to person. The truth is, unless given the opportunity to talk about their feelings, people with depression can go largely unnoticed despite the debilitating nature of their struggles at times.
Depression at University can be such a challenge, especially with deadline stress and the ease of becoming a bit invisible within a crowded student population. Six weeks ago I was involved in a minor car accident; I was fine but my Corsa ended up a little battered. It was a stressful situation that was made worse by difficulties with my insurance company. On a daily basis I was having to battle with unknown people in offices with no personal connection to me, my claim or my car. Day after day I was left feeling more and more hopeless and at times I wanted to just give up. My depression tried to take advantage of my vulnerability and I felt more demotivated to continue to battle as the days went on. When I added the stress of writing assignments and my dissertation; it all felt a little too much. It was far to easy to slip into thought patterns of it all being my fault for just being a generally rubbish human. Of course, that wasn’t really the case but it took a lot of perseverance to push through and get out the other side (thankfully I am almost there with a shiny fixed car as a reward!!).
I hate the misconception that depression has a predictable and easily solved cause. This theme is a major component of The Blurt Foundation’s #WhatYouDontSee campaign which is part of this years depression awareness week. The campaign highlights the unseen aspects of depression, the parts that are hidden behind the mask that people with the condition put on each day. I put together my own collage of pictures for the campaign and as part of #DepressionAwarenessWeek. For me… you often don’t see the moment of complete self doubt, the tears and panics, the time spent fighting to find the motivation to get on with the day or that horrible feeling of loneliness every when you’re surrounded by wonderful people. You definitely don’t see the moment where there’s no parking space at Uni, which results in tears and panic; resulting in the decision that in fact going to a lecture is just an impossible task because of all the stress.
Depression isn’t something to be ashamed about, it’s something that should be talked about. Perhaps we could all take a moment to offer some support to a friend or family member who we know has struggles. Reminding them they’re loved and not broken or horrible can make such a huge difference!