20 years. 20 years ago. January 1999. That’s when I was given my first diagnosis. That was the month that I had a breakdown and depression entered my life. A depression that was so consuming it sought to end my life.
20 years. At the time, I was a student at a university. My main concerns should have been getting my essays in on time and if the good looking barman from the Student Union had noticed me. But those weren’t my main concerns. Instead, they were another girl’s worries. My life was different. With one trip to the doctor, my life had changed. I’d been given a diagnosis of depression.
20 years. That’s how long I’ve been working on myself. Changing who I am. Fighting to be different so that the depression doesn’t take hold. Because the depression I’ve lived through has changed me. It has altered me in a way I can never explain. Like the spider venom changing Peter Parker’s DNA. Twisting and turning everything. Inside out and upside down. So there have been many times when I’ve
20 years. I’ve been fighting the darkness. Trying to catch a glimpse of light. A rainbow after a storm. A lifeboat. But sometimes I’ve known that the only way towards the light is to venture deep into the darkness. Only when you have hit the bottom of the deepest darkest pit can you see that there is a way out. The tiniest glimmer of sunshine.
20 years. Of trying to move towards the sunshine. Changing. Adapting. Developing. I’m not the girl I was 20 years ago. I’m a woman of 40. A wife and a mother. But the person inside has altered too. I long to help other people. I want to share my story so that other’s know there is light. That there is hope. That the journey never ends. But they don’t have to face it alone.
20 years. That is how long I’ve been talking about my depression. It was a defence mechanism at first. Tell everyone your darkest secret straight away. Then if they leave, you won’t be hurt. If they can’t cope with the freak that you think you are then they can walk away. No ties. No emotions.
20 years. Of people leaving. Of them not realising that the face of depression is ugly. It is real. It is raw. I’m not just being silly. I can’t just pull myself together. I can’t “smile it might never happen”. This is my life. I can’t run and I can’t hide. This is me. This is who I am. Physical, mental and emotional scars included.
20 years. Knowing you are always right around the corner. That you stalk me. And you think you know me better than I know myself. Because you see all my insecurities and feed on them. And I’m aware that you’re never leaving. I might have the upper hand from time to time. Checkmate. But you demand a rematch. And next time you’re moves are more decisive. Straight for the kill. Checkmate. And the score is even.
20 years. And I’m still here. You’ve not won. You aren’t the enemy you think you are. Because I know myself better then you could ever know me. I’ve changed and adapted to be a warrior. A fighter. Someone who is stronger than you are. You’ve tried to destroy me. Time and time again. You’ve thrown your
20 years. It is just a passage of time. It means nothing. Because depression has made me a better person. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I see the good it has done in my life. My empathy and my caring nature they come from that dark place. My willingness to share my story. That comes from a longing that no one need go through mental ill health alone.
20 years. And they have mostly been filled with happiness. Smiles, Laughter. Degrees being awarded. Meeting the man who would become my husband. Finding the job of my dreams. Getting engaged. Marrying the kindest man in the world. Hearing my first baby cry. Scooping my newborn son to my chest. 20 years of happiness. 20 years of love. 20 years of joy.
20 years. Not so scary after all!