The Dreaded D Word
Editor's note: Trigger warnings for mentions of depression. Thank you to Sophie for sharing your story and road to resilience.
I don’t think depression can be summed up in one image. I think, at times, it is a lot of images. I took this photo with my niece a few days after I had felt the lowest I have ever felt. I was curled up on the sofa in the middle of the night, alone and feeling totally worthless; I thought it would be better for everyone if I wasn’t around anymore. As I began writing letters to a couple of people with tears streaming down my face, the sun began to shine through my lounge window, and something in me clicked: do I really never want to see my family again? I contacted my sister, and within an hour, she had me booked to see my general practitioner (GP), and she came round and sat with me while I lay in bed.
The question that was spinning around my head is why me?! I have read stories about people who have suffered with depression but never ever thought it would be me. Am I not strong enough to fight the battles in my head?! I was involved in a quite a bad car accident in June 2016. I had restarted driving and had been driving a week when an elderly lady pulled out in front of me to go across a dual carriageway. I was driving nearly 70 mph, it was unavoidable and I rolled into some bushes. But I survived, so surely I should be happy? People have said to me I got a “second chance at life” and was “lucky to be alive”, but was I lucky to go through that and live with that playing in my head every day since?
Growing up, I have always been a worrier, so maybe I did have a bit of anxiety but nothing that majorly affected my life. Looking back, I don’t think I dealt with the trauma of the car accident. I saw a psychologist and got referred to CBT but neither worked for me at the time. I think not dealing with it triggered my depression. I attempted to drive after the crash but my anxiety was sky high, so I soon gave up and felt like I had failed; my confidence was at an all-time low. I kept pretending like everything was fine until I eventually crumbled into depression.
I took up running in 2017 to give me that headspace I needed. I completed a few 5 km runs which felt amazing, and I was working towards a 10 km run to raise money for charity when I got a knee injury. Stupidly, I still did the 10 km and made my knee worse. I felt like the world was against me every time I tried to do something positive. I tried to rush back into running too soon and it kept getting worse to the point where I couldn’t run at all, which was the final push to letting the black dog take over my life.
Admitting you have depression is such a massive step, and it took me far too long to admit to family and friends that I was struggling. I felt ashamed and weak that I was struggling. I thought I could fight it alone, but the truth is you need their support more than ever when you aren’t coping. My family was starting to notice that I was getting quieter and had lost my spark, yet I still pretended like everything was okay and tried my hardest to carry on as usual, which eventually broke me. Don’t get me wrong, I have supportive family and friends, but I just really struggle to talk to people about feelings. It makes you feel so alone and such a burden on people even though people want to be there for you. It’s wanting to be around the people who love you but also wanting to lock yourself in the house and cry alone. It’s having no energy to even get out of bed, but you have to get up and go to work, faking a smile to get through the day.
I was blind to the effects it can also have on the people that love and care about you. When you are in a dark place, you think people don’t care about you, which is 100% not the case. My family told me that they feel helpless and don’t know what to do to make me feel better, but small things like just spending time with me, going for a walk and chat or just giving me a hug is enough to make me feel more human. You need to let people take care of you when you are down; it will make both me and them feel better to just to have someone there to make you a cup of tea or something to eat. When I did tell my family I was depressed, it was a small relief to not have to fake how I was feeling in front of them, and I slowly started to see that I needed to accept help.
There is such a negative stigma attached to mental health, and that is what I was most afraid of: people judging me and not understanding what I am feeling. Some people see it as attention seeking or a sign of weakness, which is why so many people choose to hide it, and I feel frustrated that in this day and age, it is not talked about. I hope by writing this and being open about my own struggles, I can help at least one person find the strength to talk.
I have been in therapy for just over a year, and I have a great relationship with my counsellor. She has the patience of a saint and puts up with my stupid jokes all the time! She has seen me through the darkest time of my life and stuck with me every time I have wobbled and felt like giving up therapy. She has gone above and beyond to try and make me feel comfortable: we have walked along the beach, sat outside, and she even sits on the floor and listens to my favourite music to try and help me to talk! I feel like I am a more open with people now and slowly becoming better at talking. She has had such a positive impact in my life, and I hope one day I will become as good a counsellor as she is!!
For me, I think I needed the professional help more than ever in my darkest hour. I needed to be able to really say to someone how I was feeling and not be judged or criticized by what was going through my head. Depression can be a really dark and lonely place, but to have my counsellor to lean on through this time probably saved my life.
My leaves and branches may have fallen, but I have amazing people in my life that will help me to grow and keep me rooted, and I am thankful to them for being there when I needed them most. I am now in a better place, I have good days and bad days, but what I want to do most now is reach out to people who are struggling and let them know there is hope and to keep on fighting. Next year, my goal to go back to college and train to be a counsellor. I think this is a career I would be good at since I know what it feels like to be the other side of the room!
Why is it important for you to share your story and experiences with mental health and illness?
For me, I feel so strongly about breaking the stigma of mental health; the negative stigma that comes attached is so wrong. I felt weak and ashamed, so I didn't speak out. When I eventually reached my breaking point, I had to talk about it, and it felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. Just having a conversation helped me, and I really want to help other people feel like they don't have to be alone in this battle. There are people who have come out the other side, so don't give up as there is always hope.
More about Sophie:
I love music, football, reading, spending time with family, friends, and my cat, Tiggs. At the moment I work in an estate agents admin, but my goal in life is to train as a counsellor and help other people with their mental health struggles. I love running. Earlier this year, I completed my first 10 km in London and raised over £300 for Love Your Hospital Charity (but now out with a knee injury so working hard to get back into it)! I love travelling, seeing new places and making memories. I also love writing because I am not the best at talking about my feelings, and I want to reach out to people who feel similarly, to help them and let them know they are not alone even if they do feel it.
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If you in immediate danger of hurting yourself or someone else phone 911. For other support please call:
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