It's something that people find hard to talk about, myself included, despite this blog and my media appearances over the last year. There are still large numbers of people to whom mental illness is something to be feared or looked down upon. I've met people who have avoided me after learning that I have depression; I've met people who appeared to think that suffering in this way affected my ability to do my job at all, and who saw it as a red flag, requiring decision making to be taken completely out of my hands. And I've met friends and acquaintances who have not understood and have kindly suggested that I 'pull myself together'. And so on.
When I suffer acute depression episodes one of the things that I find hardest is that I often suffer from feelings of acute defectiveness and failure:
"I'm depressed, there's something intrinsically wrong with me."
"I'm depressed, I will never get better, I have failed as a human being."
"Why can't I just feel better? I'm always lurching back into doom."
"I'm so anxious that I feel physically sick and can't focus on anything; I'm no good and I'll never be able to do anything properly."
In the summer of last year, when I was so ill that I agreed with my psychiatrist that the best course of action was to go into hospital to have more intensive treatment and rest from all the external forces worsening my depression, most particularly the bullying I was experiencing, I had to decide whether to talk about what was happening to me or not. I thought carefully about the people in my life who were my friends, and what would change if they knew that I was depressed. The negative thoughts that I've listed above are completely false in many ways, but I was so depressed and anxious that I needed help to get rid of them. They made me sick with fear that I would lose the friends I so cherish and love, and constantly tearful at the state that I was in,
On the other hand, I didn't want to keep my illness a secret because it was contributing to my illness. I didn't want to accept that it was something to be ashamed of, and something that I should be hiding from other people. Those very perceptions were only exacerbating my illness, because the effort to conceal my true state required something close to the superhuman. The smiles, the jokes, the well turned out woman with styled hair, made up face, with the pretty work dresses and the fabulous shoes (I will never not be wearing fabulous shoes. I'm addicted.) These were my friends and if I had a hope of being better part of that was to be more open about my own illness and how I was feeling. I was afraid of rejection. I was terrified of being seen as a failure and as someone who was damaged. But I wanted to be honest. So I 'came out' from my hiding place and told them.