Coming out of the depression closet

public speaking

“You should be writing about your experiences in the Guardian or something. You know, show people it’s nothing to be ashamed of…” a friend said to me recently.

I nodded. “Yeah. Maybe in a few months. Think I’ll just do the anonymous blogging thing for now though.”

Putting your name to an illness like depression is brave, courageous and generally bloody awesome. It shouldn’t have to be, but thanks to prevailing bad attitudes and stigma towards mental health, it is. Considering the Victorians thought depression in women was down to the ‘wandering womb‘, we’ve certainly come a long way in terms of how society views the depressed and anxious. If only curing my affliction was as simple as shrieking ‘Wench! Back in your box!’ at my nomadic uterus.

Campaigns like Time to Change and the wealth of celebrities speaking out about their experience of mental illness are doing brilliant things to oil the wheels of change when it comes to stigma. But there’s still a lot of work to do.

It’s definitely important not to hide your illness in the shadows. Talking about it helps and self shame and stigma only serve to reinforce society’s misunderstanding of depression. I do believe that those who have experienced a walk with the black dog are the ones who can truly debunk and stamp out unhelpful depression myths.

But often while we’re fighting the good fight we forget about the people behind the illnesses. And that reluctance to go public with your problems isn’t always indicative of shame. Depression and anxiety are physiological conditions in the same way heart disease and broken bones are. But they’re more personal. 

People have very different ways of dealing with their emotions – some will reveal their problems to all friends, colleagues, bus drivers and woodlice within a ten mile radius, whereas others (me) are more private and need a bit of time and space to crawl out of the hole and heal first. Explaining what it’s like to go through depression to those that know you can be cathartic, and of course helps dispel mental health misconceptions, but it’s also exhausting.

Which is why the people that matter to me know what I’m going through, but everyone else is none the wiser. It’s why I’ll be writing about my experiences here, but I won’t be revealing my full name.

As long as I’m still in poor health and vulnerable, I plan on burying my head in the sand just a little bit longer. And I think that’s alright. Just as it’s OK to tell the world you have a mental illness, if you’re not ready it’s also OK not to.

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9 thoughts on “Coming out of the depression closet

  1. Depression and Anxiety are so hard to fight alone. 🙂 You are not alone, you will find that blogging, it may help a little. Sharing experiences is often good, knowing it is not just you… but there is a catch, you usually only see one side, people that pull out and kick the black dog, don’t often tell their stories as much, so you get a jaded look at things. Sometimes this can drag you a bit deeper.

    remember your words though, there is no shame.

    *hugs*
    Amber

    • Thanks Amber. I’m feeling pretty positive about conquering this in the long run, so hopefully this blog will become one of the more happy tales. Fingers crossed!

      • Always fingers crossed. 🙂 If you think you can do it, then you can. That is the first step, Depression lies, when you realize that, then you can beat it.

        When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself that you are pretty special. When depression and anxiety wake up… tell them to go away. Oh I know that sounds corny, tis a good way to start the day though.

  2. I also find it difficult to talk about my issues to certain people, but I have friends I can talk to about EVERYTHING. And sometimes I don’t even care about what strangers say, e.g. I’m talking to a friend on the train about what my therapist said or that I have to see my psychiatrist. I usually don’t care if people hear, because I don’t know them and they don’t know me. I personally am not ashamed of my issues, but I find it irritating if I know someone has a negative view of mental illness.

    • Damn right. No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent, after all… (to steal an Eleanor Roosevelt quote)

  3. What a fantastic post! When I began my blog I remained anonymous (for the most part), enabling me to speak freely about my own experience with mental health problems in a way I couldn’t with people in person. Nor did my posts warrant a personal reply, in the same way that emails would. Anyway, I think what you’re doing is great.

  4. I also started an anonymous blog a while back but I didn’t really show it to anyone and it was more of a account of my life and thoughts. Now, I have made a new blog recently on wordpress which is more ordered and I have taken the risk of showing it some other people and have gotten some interesting responses. I do feel you on the shame of having a mental illness in modern society and I feel ashamed and don’t want to tell others about it but it’s almost become a part of my identity now and I don’t know whether to come out of the closet fully or not.

  5. Good for you – and you should always just do whatever feels right for you at the time, nothing less. Thanks for reading.

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