When I decided to write something about depression for this blog, I had lots of ideas. But slowly I realised that perhaps it was worth thinking about what I have learnt from having depression. Many of these things, I realised, were positives. Of course, it is mentally and physically exhausting and debilitating, and I know I can be difficult to be around sometimes.
But here goes
- I learnt that talking can help me and others. By saying 'I am depressed' in the open led to several people, many of whom I respect immensely professionally, saying they also struggle. Some said they would seek help. I hope they did. This also made me feel less alone in my struggle too, that if people I see as role models suffer, maybe it was ok that I did too.
- It sounds obvious, but being kind can lift someone's day. You never know what people are going through. Masks can be powerful things. If I had a pound for everyone who said that I 'didn't seem depressed' I wouldn't need to work.
- Perhaps the most important thing was learning that friends are there whatever. I find it much easier to say to people I barely know or have just met about my depression. It is so scary to tell friends of a decade or more that you have been pretending to be well for a long time. But the good ones will be there. Some you will not expect to be brilliant but are. I am immensely grateful to those people. Sometimes they will not know what to say, but will want you to know they are there. You will feel a burden to them, but they will tell you that you are an idiot and that they are there.
Armed with my ideas, like any good writer does, I asked Twitter what they thought. I hope they don't mind me sharing, but I found their ideas immensely useful.
- It’s made me the kind of mother who fights the seeds of that that I see in my girls and, in turn, that helps heal me. It helps me realise that I should fight just as fiercely to be kind to myself as I am fighting for them to be to themselves.
- That sharing my experience can help others feel less alone. That through sharing I can expand my support network and become part of someone else’s. And that I can make new friends with wonderful people I might otherwise not have met
- Animals make it easier (this was popular!)
- If you are able to share, you can make new friends and get positive feedback
- Good friends can help to stop destructive behaviour, and help you help yourself
In no way am I trying to say depression and anxiety (and other mental health issues) are a 'good' thing, but perhaps these 'lessons' are a good way to think in those really dark times. That we should be kinder to ourselves and others, that we can rely on friends whatever, and that we are not alone in feeling like this.
Many thanks to Blues for this. Seems especially apposite to post this on the day before many academic staff in the UK return to work after striking, a period that has been exceptionally stressful for many staff. It it good to see the positive side as well.