Today is Time To Talk Day 2019, an awareness day run by the campaign Time To Change. This year’s campaign is about bringing together the right ingredients to have a conversation about mental health. This has inspired me to write a post about why I talk about my depression. And why it is so important that we continue to talk about mental health.
I was first diagnosed with depression in 1999, at the age of 20 years old. I was scared and I didn’t know anyone with depression. And I still had images of being put in a straitjacket and thrown in a padded cell. I couldn’t even begin to think about how I could tell people about my depression.
But a few of my friends from university had witnessed my nervous breakdown and I was worried about the uni rumour mill. I was also worried that I might have a depressive episode in front of a friend and they would freak out.
I decided to tell a few people
From that moment, I developed a new defence mechanism. I would tell people about my depression the moment I met them. I would often tell people as soon as the words “hello, I’m Lucy” came out of my mouth. Then if they couldn’t cope I didn’t care. It was too early for me to form any emotional ties.
Then over the years, my attitude toward talking about my depression changed. As I grew older it just became a natural part of my life. It was no longer something that I popped into the conversation as soon as I met someone. I couldn’t care less if people couldn’t cope that I suffer from a mental health problem. That is
But depression is part of my life. It is part of my history. There are huge swathes of my past that are filled with depressive episodes and bad mental health. University. The M.A. years. My 20’s. If I want to ever mention those periods of time then I HAVE to talk about my depression.
And depression is a part of me. It’s as much a part of me as my right arm. But it doesn’t define me. It doesn’t make me Lucy. Just as my right arm doesn’t define who I am.
Not talking about my depression would be to deny who I am as a person. To deny what makes me Lucy. Because I’m actually grateful to my depression because it has changed me as a person. It has made me a better person. I’m no longer the self-absorbed girl that I was in my early 20’s. And my depression has taught me many lessons along the way.
Yet there are more reasons why it’s important to talk about mental health and to be honest about living with mental health problems. Because of those small minded people that still shun you when you mention you suffer from depression. Because of the people who don’t know how to talk to you when you say you have anxiety. Because of the people that look at you in horror when you mention you have bipolar.
But more importantly we need to have honest discussions about mental health for those who suffer in silence. They need to know that they can come forward and ask for help. They need to know that they can talk to people. That there is someone/ anyone out there who is willing to listen. They need to know that they will not be put in a strait jacket and thrown in a padded cell.
And they MUST know that they are not alone. That there is a whole community of us struggling with our mental health. And we’re all out here talking about it. And we’re ready and willing to listen.