“Just cheer up!” “Try not to think about it!” “Stop being so depressed!”
If I earned a pound for every time someone told me that, I’d be able to pay my rent a lot easier, to say the least.
At the beginning of my second year at university, everything went downhill. A four year relationship had just finished and I had just moved four hours away from my hometown. Add the never-ending lack of money and not knowing what to do with myself at 20-years old, I had hit rock bottom. A few weeks went by, and I could feel myself falling into a state of mind I had never felt before. I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t want to eat and I hated myself every time I looked in the mirror.
It all started when I decided to go and see my GP to try and blag some strong sleeping pills. I was spending every day running on 3-4 hours of sleep, and knew it was affecting my work. After having a conversation (and a good cry) to my GP, she told me that I was showing mild symptoms of depression.
Hearing the word ‘depression’ made me want to laugh – yeah, I was feeling down. I was sad; I was tired, but depressed? Definitely not. I denied it. I kept telling the doctor and myself that I was fine, that I had no reason to be depressed. She told me to take antidepressants and to maybe, “get some help." The thought made me shudder.
Now I knew they wouldn’t be a miracle cure – I know people that take them and have done for months and years – but I was apprehensive. I then wrote to my university, where they offer free counselling.. While I was happy to finally do something about my state, I was afraid to admit I was weak.
A few weeks had passed – no effect from the tablets but finally heard from my counsellor. I was to see him in 2 days. I didn’t think much about it until 10 minutes before my meeting. I was shaking; scared to tell someone I didn’t even know my issues that seemed so minor.
Sitting down in his office, he welcomed me softly. There was a glass of water and a box of tissues on the table, as well as leaflets for every issue going. He made me fill out an evaluation form, where the results after displayed on a graph. Thinking I wouldn’t be too bad, I filled the form out. When I saw the graph, I gasped.
My counsellor looked at me worried. The results showed that I was well under the average, and that I was so unhappy that there was concern about my mental health. I laughed it off, pretending that it didn’t hurt me, when in reality, I was shocked. Then, he sat me down, and told me to talk.
I laughed as I described how I felt, and my counsellor reciprocated nervously. However, the laughter soon turned to tears. All of a sudden, I felt tears running down my face. I couldn’t stop, and he just listened. 5 minutes later…I felt better. And yet, he continued to listen.
As the weeks went on, I visited him a few more times. I spent a lot of time crying, but I felt happier every time I returned. He taught me breathing exercises and told me how to calm down in stressful times. He listened to me rant about minor things that had pissed me off that day, and shouted with me when I screamed every expletive under the sun. I had also realised that I hadn’t taken my anti-depressants for over a month…I was getting there.
It took me a long time, and I still don’t feel like I’m 100%. However, I’m feeling much better. My depression doesn’t seem as bad every day as it used to, and after 5 months of counselling, I was able to tell my counsellor that I was ready to officially leave counselling and use everything he taught me to help me with stressful times.
It isn’t feeling down. It’s a place where I would never want anyone to visit. My experience does not necessarily reflect others’, and one person suffers differently than the next. However, telling someone to just “cheer up” or “stop being depressed” does not help. Telling someone with depression to lighten up does not make them feel better – it makes them feel worse for expressing their emotions. The best support? Just listen. Listen and provide support. It is hard, but just let them rant.
And for anyone suffering with depression, talk to someone. Anyone. If you can get counselling, take it. Talking to someone that doesn’t know you means there is no judgement about any decisions you have made, and there is strict doctor-patient confidentiality. But don’t suffer in silence.