Apprehension was wringing my stomach tight like a wet piece of laundry.
“It can’t be that bad” I assured myself unconvincingly, before I inhaled another deep breath and went in.
The place was abuzz with conversation. The young and the young at heart were talking about so many different things, among them dating, family life, coping mechanisms, health and medication.
I introduced myself and received a warm, overwhelming welcome from all.
“Welcome Alisha, I’m sure you’ll feel supported here and never judged” said one of the ladies who soon became a close friend and confidante.
And she was right.
Leaving isolation behind
I’d tried several times but couldn’t actually muster up the courage to attend a support group meeting. Well, in person at least. So instead, I visited the online forum which turned out to be a big surprise.
I thought I would have continued to feel isolated, just a faceless stranger with a weird online name like iloveparrots127, in a virtual room of strangers.
But I couldn’t have been more wrong.
We go on first name basis, and after a few weeks I started to know my new friends, the story of their lives, their struggles, their quirks. And they started to know me.
We’re a growing family that supports its own. And that’s so imperative for people who suffer from depression and anxiety. I’ve gone from a place of feeling complete isolation, to feeling supported and understood.
Friends who understand
Support and love at home, work and in the community is very important too, but oftentimes getting people to understand depression can be tricky and complicated, sometimes reinforcing the depth of isolation one feels.
Opening up about depression and anxiety isn’t easy.
On the one hand, we have the critics and those who stigmatise us.
On the other hand, however well meaning friends and family are, they often find it hard to understand or relate, unless of course they’ve experienced it themselves.
From my own experience I’ve encountered people who felt depression was something I could just “shake off” or pray away since “it’s not of God.” Others felt it was mind over matter, or simply me keeping myself in that dark pit.
I’m unsure of how to respond to some of these beliefs but I always feel the need to remind people that those who suffer from depression do not choose it.
Depression is suffering.
Who would choose suffering over happiness?
It is something that we endure. There is no pleasure in it (unless of course you’re masochistic.) It isn’t self inflicted, and you can’t simply shake it off. If anyone says they shook it off like dust off their shoulders, I humbly doubt whether they were really depressed in the first place. Maybe they were sad or blue, but not gravely depressed.
In another blog I will talk about why people get depressed, but for now I can’t over-emphasise enough the value of support from people who’ve walked in our shoes.
If you suffer from depression and anxiety, joining a relevant charity or support group is definitely worth it. Like me, you can find a safe place to share your innermost and darkest fears and thoughts, without having to worry about being judged.
Gentle hugs 🙂