I had just been lying there, gazing off wondering what it was in life that made happy people happy.
What it was that gave them such energy to look forward to tomorrow, and the umph to keep on going.
I’d not too long woken up from a long state of unconsciousness. I wondered why I’d woken up at all.
I was sick.
That was more than a year ago, when I lay in hospital recuperating from a severe bout of depression.
Yes I said depression. It’s an actual illness, just like fibromyalgia which I write about here. It’s just as real and just as impacting.
Funny thing is I remembered having the same conversation with myself some years earlier.
Depression isn’t like when you feel upset or get the blues because you broke up with your favourite guy or your best friend went away.
It lingers much longer like an unwanted thorn in the flesh, causing hurt and physical symptoms.
This is even more personal to me than talking about fibromyalgia. You see, I don’t talk to people about depression because I know the stigma that’s attached to it.
In my home country when I was diagnosed at 16, I was so afraid of telling anyone. They’d call me “mad” and make bad jokes. So I kept it to myself and sort of, well, suffered in silence.
And then when I was hospitalised I hid it from my employer when I had to explain my absence from work.
As with other illnesses, stigma makes it far worse for those who suffer from depression. It makes sufferers reluctant to get much needed help.
People need to know that a person isn’t at fault for having depression. It just happens, for various reasons. It can be triggered by anything like traumatic life events. Among other things, experts say you’re more vulnerable to getting it if someone else in your family had it, if you have a long standing illness, or you’ve certain personality traits like low self esteem.
The more people understand this, the more they hopefully realise there’s no shame in being depressed.
And when there’s no shame, people won’t feel like they have to hide or suffer alone.
They can get help to get better.
Depression Awareness Week starts tomorrow and runs through 28th April. Learn more about it or do something to help raise awareness and end stigma.
Sufferers are being encouraged to open up and talk about their battles. But remember that you play a part in making it safe for people to open up about their struggles.
If depression is like being trapped in a dark, empty room all alone, then stigma is what keeps the sufferer locked in, just a doorknob away from the sunshine and from help and happiness.
Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.
Peace and love 🙂