The person diagnosed with depression is not the only one living with depression. It is an illness that has an effect on everyone living and working with the individual who has been diagnosed.
When someone has a physical illness people rally round to help, send flowers and get well soon cards. In contrast, living with depression doesn’t quite get the same level of support; ‘what if it’s catching?’ or ‘they’re not right in the head so it’s best to stay away.’
Being diagnosed with depression and anxiety is a lonely experience. One of the first thoughts and beliefs is that you are the only person going through it – well this is how I felt fifteen years ago when no one talked about depression.
“Once the GP had told me that I wasn’t alone, and one in four people were living with depression and had experience of a mental illness, this gave me an ‘accepting sense of being ill’ and hope that I could get better.”
The next task after accepting my diagnosis from my GP was to tell my family. I’d been living with a friend for six months and had been very withdrawn, although no one would have really noticed. I’d become quite paranoid and thought my friends didn’t like me, where in truth I’d pushed them away.
It’s still not easy to talk about family now, because depression really does cast out the cloud of darkness, and maybe I wasn’t the only one who was living with depression in my family – I was just the only one who was diagnosed.
I was and I still am very lucky to have a very understanding and supporting older sister. We’ve been through life together and experienced a lot of lows and celebrated the highs. Each of us living with our own health challenges too, yet my sister just took the depression on board without judgment and I knew she just wanted me to get better. She helped me, just like a friend, get out and socialise, get some fresh air, ask me if I wanted to pop to the garden centre or to a local cafe, and get be back connected with life.
After six months she had got me getting ready to go out on a Friday night. It might sound like nothing, however there was a long journey to get me to see myself again in the mirror and talking, to going out in the pub, so this was a big deal.
At the time I was a marketing executive at one of the largest media and publishing companies in the UK. I openly told my manager and agreed to share with the rest of the team, (of who I’m still in contact with today.) These guys were (are) amazing and whether through their own resilience or deep kindness, they supported me during the time I needed it and I know so many others who are not so lucky.
My manager sent me off for an Indian Head Massage and my colleagues came over to my house a few times to help me socialise and get me out of my withdrawn state. You see I had no strength to say yes or to say no. I was ill. I just wanted to feel better. These guys perhaps have no idea just how much I remember during those initial 2-3 weeks, but it was ultimately their kindness and support that got me talking again and reconnected with life, just as my sister had too.
Why are they living with depression?
Guilt, fear, sadness, anger and hurt all arouse within us when we hear of someone close to us being ill.
“Was it something I did or said?”
“Could I have noticed sooner and got help sooner?”
“I just don’t understand why this is happening to us.”
“They are just so ungrateful they just need to pull themselves together and get on like the rest of us.”
When someone is diagnosed with a physical illness, would you ask or think any of the questions above? Perhaps the second and third one?
It takes courage, strength and a resilience like never known to say; “I’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and stress,” and then in the next breath to ask for help.
Living with depression effects everyone, and everyone can choose how they support and offer help. Some people will not want to offer direct help because maybe it’s too painful for them. The best thing to do is to look for advice on how you can all move through depression to recovery.
Taking everyday as it came, step by step, life became more of what it used to be, except there was a new question; “Will it happen again?”
If you have any concerns for yourself or someone you know please arrange an appointment with your GP, talk to a friend, a family member or colleague.
For more help and advice contact these UK charities:
Emma Lannigan is the founder and author of belifehappy: give. play. love. learn and works with individuals to reconnect, recharge and empower their inner happiness.