Eh up, you gorgeous bunch.
So you may know already, but 14th – 20th May this year was Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. And, in true Lucy Telfer style – I’m late to post this. Buuuut since having a good chinwag about mental health is something I’m very much in favour of, I thought it would be nice to have a little ramble about it on here, as a late tribute to the week!
As I’m sure you’ve gathered, I’m someone who will always encourage people to talk about mental health issues. Which is ironic I guess, as I find it incredibly difficult to do myself sometimes. But I know personally, when you have to keep things like that to yourself, it can make day-to-day life very challenging. Whether it’s stress, anxiety, depression, an eating disorder – the term “mental health” covers such a broad range of issues. And I’m pretty sure that everyone you know, and everyone you see in the street, will be struggling with at least one of these everyday.
But there are so many reasons why people will keep all these things to themselves, and not be able to share what they’re going through. I know it took me so long to be able to open up about the mental health issues I struggle with. And maybe you find it hard too. Maybe you don’t want to be a burden to other people, or you don’t think you’re own problems are “real” enough to be taken seriously. Maybe you are the person other people come to all the time for help and support, so you feel like you have to push all your own worries to one side.
But maybe, for a change, you need to look after number one. (That’s you, by the way.) It’s not selfish to focus on yourself, or talk about the things you’re struggling with to other people. In fact, that’s the only way you’re going to help yourself. So, let’s open up 😊
My experience of depression
Obviously, a lot of my blog is focused around my journey with anorexia, and my experiences during recovery. But I’ve never really spoken on here about my depression, so I thought this would be a good chance to share my thoughts on it with you all. A little disclaimer – this is, in no way, just a way for me to talk about myself. That would be pretty useless for everyone! It’s simply a way of (hopefully) encouraging you to feel more comfortable to talk about any issues your experiencing, and also to stress how completely normal it is.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression around a year and a half ago, within the same week I was diagnosed with anorexia, and I am still taking anti-depressants. Obviously I tend to just speak to people I’m close to about it – but even the people I’m closest to are often so surprised when I tell them I suffer with depression. The reaction is generally along the lines of “Really? I had no idea! But you’re so happy and smiley all the time…how can you have depression?” Another classic line, very similar to “I see you eat all the time, I never would have known you have an eating disorder!”
This is yet another misconception surrounding mental health, that I think stops people from feeling they can talk about it. Because the version of you that all your friends and family see, isn’t always going to be giving away what’s really going on under your smile. But it’s not easy to explain that to people, so instead you just say you’re “fine”. Can you imagine if you told the truth every time someone asked you “How’re you doing?”. You can’t really just casually go – “Actually, not that great. I’ve spent four days crying for no apparent reason, I’ve no idea what I want to do with my career, and last night I accidentally ate a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s and had a panic attack about it.” Kind of easier to just say “I’m good thanks! How’re you?”
I mean, obviously you just wouldn’t get anywhere if you said that to everyone you met. But what I’m saying is, just because everyone you meet doesn’t know about the things you struggle with, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore them too. In fact, acknowledging the things that are causing you any kind of stress or anxiety is great, because it means you can work out what you need to do to change it. And, when you’re ready, you’ll be able to reach out for support from others too.
For me, my depression was very much linked to my eating disorder, and I’ve definitely realised that the further I progressed with my recovery, the better my mood became. But quite often, there is no explaining depression, and you just can’t find a reason for it. And I think that can be what makes it so difficult to talk about. I go through periods where it is literally all I can do to get out of bed, and I’m very aware that I could burst into tears at any moment. I’m so anxious all the time, I have no appetite, I feel exhausted, and I have that weird ache-y feeling you get when you have the flu. And I genuinely don’t know why. How do you explain that to someone? “I feel so utterly miserable, I can’t stop crying, I’m having a panic attack…but there’s no reason for it.” You feel completely ridiculous, I get it. So you keep it to yourself, shut yourself away, and make yourself deal with it on your own. Because you’re too scared to let anyone see you like that. But – as you may have noticed – that makes it a lot worse.
I went through a phase of about two months, where that was what I did every single day. I’d wake up automatically in the most negative mind-set, and I kind of gave up on the idea that it could get any better. People ask me sometimes if I can put my finger on what my turning point was, and I honestly can’t think of an exact moment. I think I just realised, slowly, that this was such a waste of life. I could remember how happy I’d been in the past, and I wanted to be like that again. I slowly began to open up to people. As in, I would let people I trusted see me cry for no reason. And they didn’t think I was ridiculous, like I expected. They talked to me, and supported me, and helped me understand why I was unhappy, and what I could do to change that. Being able to open to someone, even if it’s just one person, is such a huge step towards making a positive change. As someone who suffers with depression, if I could give one piece of advice, it would be; just trust that whoever it is you choose to open up to will not judge you. You’ll have gone to that person because you feel comfortable with them, and you know they will listen to you. I know it’s such a scary thing to do, but all they’ll want to do is help you. And honestly, that’s one of the hardest parts. It does start to get better, and easier to talk about.
Anti-depressants – Don’t be embarrassed or ashamed of them.
I’m not going to lie, I was terrified when my doctor told me she wanted to start me on a course of anti-depressants. I just felt like there was something so wrong with me, and I almost felt guilty that I’d got to this point. I think I kind of felt that I’d just made no effort to make myself better, and all the ways I had tried had failed. The only option I had left was taking pills. But – obviously – this is not the way to view it at all!
It’s so easy to listen to that voice that tells you that you should be embarrassed of the fact that you’ve chosen to take medication to help with depression, and it’s something you need to hide from everyone. But you have to remember, depression is an illness, just like any other. And it’s not trivial. If you had an infection, you wouldn’t feel ashamed to take the antibiotics that are going to make you better. They are there to help you. I’m not saying that they come under the same bracket, but the point is the same. They are simply a way to help you get back to living a life you want to be living, and being happy. And remember also – no one needs to know you’re taking them. It’s great to be able to talk to close friends and family, but if you don’t want most people to know, you have no need to tell them.
I was also very scared to take them because I’d been told that they do tend to make you feel “worse”, before you start to feel better. And seeing as feeling worse was the last thing I wanted, it definitely took serious persuasion for me to see past that! It’s true, they do take a little adjusting to – but it really wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.
Obviously I’m not a doctor, and I can’t explain the science behind why they work. And I’m aware that there are lots of different kinds, and the ones that worked for me might not work so well with someone else. But for me, they have made a huge difference, and I’m so much better than I was a year ago.
But one thing I think is really important to remember, is that they are not solely responsible for your happiness. They help you find a more positive mind set, but ultimately, you are the one who finds your own happiness again. The best way I can describe it is, when I started to feel a bit better after taking them, I just grabbed that feeling with both hands and ran with it. I started to go out with friends again, I started to work more, I had the energy to exercise again – all the things I just couldn’t find the motivation or energy to do before. And it’s these things that make you happy – not the anti-depressants. I don’t want you to think I’m telling you that once you come off them, you won’t be able to still find that happiness. Because you will. Just remember that it’s the other people in your life, and the things you love doing, is how you find your happiness. The anti-depressants just gave me the positive mind set to go after them again.
Thank you for sticking with me through this extremely long ramble! If even a sentence or two of it made sense, then that makes me happy. And as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, if you want any more long-winded words of advice!
Just keep smiling. It’s gonna be ok 😊
All the love,