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When I first realised I was depressed

When most people think of being depressed, they think of feeling upset, and when they describe something as depressing, what they usually mean is that it makes them feel sad. As I write this, I’m not sad. I’m not upset, I’m not unhappy, and I’m certainly not on the verge of tears. But I am suffering from clinical depression.

For me, the hardest part about this illness has been admitting that I am actually unwell, because a big part of depression is believing that everything is your own fault. When my partner said I needed to go to my GP, I said “I’m not ill. Seriously, what do I have to be unhappy about? I don’t get out of bed because I’m lazy. I’m struggling at work because I’m not good enough. I feel bad because I’m not disciplined enough to go out and get the things that I want...”

Even when I was finding it impossible to get out of bed, I struggled to believe that this was the result of an illness. Even when I stopped washing. Even when I had panic attacks, or felt empty inside. This feeling was exacerbated by the fact that I had days when I did cope; the day I made a key presentation at a conference, for example, or cooked three courses for a dinner party, or bought my dream wedding dress. The difference was that the effort it took to keep up this emotional ‘front’ left me feeling even more drained and empty than before. It took so long for me to go and look for help, and one thing I wish I could go back and say to myself is that it’s not your fault - you’re not a bad person, you’re just not well.

One of the things that changed my perception was taking the NHS Choices self assessment online. Getting an objective view of my experience helped me to accept that there was a problem that I needed to deal with. Likewise, when I went to my GP I felt anxious, but afterwards I felt an enormous sense of relief - this was real, and it wasn’t all in my head. Talking to other people helps too - becoming part of an online community has helped me to feel less isolated and made me realise it’s OK to need support.

At the moment, I’m still fighting my battle against depression. Some days are better than others, and there are still times when I feel helpless. However, one thing that has changed is how I’m dealing with those feelings. I have an illness. Accepting my diagnosis doesn’t make me weak. It means that I can ask for the help I need, whether that’s taking medication, talking therapies, or having a discussion with my boss about what I can cope with at work right now. Most of all, it’s about being kind to myself - I may be struggling today, but I’m finally reaching out for the tools that will help me win in the end.

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