Monday, 10 October 2011

World Mental Health Awareness Day

Be aware of my opinions and emotions in this post.

Today is World Mental Health Awareness Day.

I could bore you with statistics. I could bore you with the economics. You can find all of this on the WHO's website here. Statistics are important but they mean nothing to the individual.

So I want to talk about me with the hope it will help you.

Depression is not cancer.

Cancer is a bitch. Yes. So much. I hate it too. However, cancer is not a superior disease. No-one will ever want to wear a black ribbon to support those in need. Although I totally would and I think it is something that actually needs to happen! There is such a taboo, such a stigma. But why? Yes the brain is an unknown territory but we know enough to say most mental health problems have a significant biochemical component. How is this any different from someone suffering from diabetes? It is not just the general public who think this but many of the medical profession. Trust me when I say I know how depression is treated within the NHS.

Depression is not the new black.

It is not cool to be depressed. I hate the media portrayal that people use depression to gain attention. There is nothing good about admitting you have depression. Yet it seems that people use it as an excuse for disgraceful behaviour. Subsequently you feel as if you cannot admit to something because what you have experienced is so very different to what you read in print.

Depression does want to kill you. 

For the past few years I have survived but certainly not lived. I love my Bean but he has been my bubble of protection. This is a heavy burden for him to bear for we both know that without him I would not be alive right now. My suicide was planned down to the finest detail. I was so very close to taking my own life I had my own kit ready in a bag for that one night.* The only thing that stopped me was knowing I would hurt Bean so very much. I know that you may not think you have that person, whether they be a parent, a teacher, a friend or a lover but you do. Someone out there cares for you more than you will ever know.

If you smile you cannot be depressed.

If you've met me you I'm not sure you don't think I'm depressed.  I can laugh, I can smile, I can offer occasional witty repartee. Do you want to know the secret. I'm a very good liar. I think we probably all are. I can fake happiness incredibly well. I've tried to explain how depression feels for me before. The best I can come up with is it feels like you are in a thick fog and everything is concealed and mysterious. It feels like it has become part of you. Everything takes longer. Your brain is able to confuse itself and is consistently befuddled. The energy you once had has gone because you are trying to push against a fog which feels like it is thick enough to be cut. For me it was (and still is) the fact I cannot be a proper helpful member of society which saddens me the most. I don't want to be at home all day. I hate it. 

I hid my sadness well because I knew if someone saw me smile they would not believe I was truly broken. I wanted to hurt myself to have some physical sign that I was not faking. I don't want you to have to feel the same. I want you to seek help before you think you need physical scars to prove that you are unwell. The mental scars are enough.

Finally this is the important bit.

One of the best things about this blog is the fact I can talk about these issues. I started off slowly, in anonymity, revealing things. It was me admitting to myself that I was not well. I really do understand that so many of you can't. I didn't tell anyone close to me for a long time.



But, I am getting better. That is the important thing. For so long I thought this was impossible. For so long I thought I was just being lazy and useless. 

I want you to know you can talk to me. I don't have all the answers but I do have many ears.**

It needn't be on these pages but my email is always open annaandtheringlondon {at} gmail.com.

If you have no-one to talk to, please talk to me.

You are not alone.

It's a cliche to say the first few words are incredibly difficult but they are so very very difficult. No-one wants to admit that they are unwell but it is nothing of which you should be ashamed. Recently in my group therapy I spoke about things I never thought I would say to another human being and it was incredibly eye opening. In fact group therapy is one of the best things I have ever experienced. Depression and many other mental health issues are so isolating. You do feel like you are a freak and that you are a fraud because no-one ever talks about it. I promise you are not alone. Even if you think you are, you're not. I am there with you. I am trying to get better every day and I want you to know you can too.

It continues to break my heart to know that there are so many people suffering like I have suffered. Just please know you can be better. You cannot see it right now but things can get better.

It's not just me, some people genuinely do care. It's sort of what we do.*** 

I'm not just talking about health professionals. Not everyone in the NHS cares. I'm talking about the people who were put on this earth to make people better. I have always wanted to make people better. I want to help you get better.

Take the risk. I know it feels overwhelming but to make that connection, to make that leap into the unknown, to let someone in to help you is a risk. But I promise it is a risk worth taking. I promise.

*I have never told anyone that before.
**Not in a jar or anything.
***Little bit teary right now.

46 comments:

  1. You continue to amaze me with your strength. x

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  2. Anna, how brave of you to share this. If just one person reading this finds the courage to open up and seek help, you have done an amazing thing.

    Much love.

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  3. Beautiful post Anna, and as always I salute your honesty xxx

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  4. I wasn't brave enough to talk about suicide in my blog post about my depression today. Maybe it's because I never actively wanted to die, rather I didn't have the energy to be alive any more. After so many years in a cycle of depression I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up because it would be easier.

    I am in a good place at the moment. I hope it lasts. I know in my heart it won't because, for me, it's a cycle and as sure as the seasons change my depression comes back and knocks me for six so I try to enjoy the good times while they are here.

    Likewise, Anna, if you ever need to talk... x

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  5. Such a hard, hard thing to write, yet such a lovely, heartbreaking thing to read. I am so sorry you battle this every day. Kudos and love.

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  6. I have so much I could say about this wonderful, brave, honest post, but mostly I just want to hug you. I'm a bit too far away for that, so face west and feel the love =)
    And I would totally wear that ribbon too, I wish more people recognized that depression is not a mood, it's an illness, and people die from it all the time.

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  7. A beautiful, brave and amazing post Anna. If everyone was as open as you then we would all realise how many people around us (yes, directly around us) are battling with mental health issues, and we would all then have a much better understanding of how to help them. Thank you for sharing, you should be incredibly proud x

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  8. I love you. For this, for your everyday bravery, and for your honesty. Thank you for sharing. I know this will help someone. Even though I haven't had to deal with long-term biochemical depression myself, I've watched other friends and loved ones and hope that discussions like this help other people understand this is an illness. Thank you for such a powerful post. Hugs.

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  9. Thank you Anna, I salute your honesty on an illness that is so often hidden behind closed doors. Let's wear black ribbons, I'd be proud to x

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  10. You beautiful brave lady. Your honesty is astounding. Love.XX

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  11. Such a brave lady Anna, it is so incredibly hard to admit to such things, nevermind be so open and honest about how depression can impact on your life and of those who love and care for you.
    Huge respect and love to you my friend. You should know I'm one of those people out there who really do care for you, but I'd hope you know that already.
    I do hope I get to see you soon, it would be lovely to meet in London {or up North?} maybe for a long lunch and chats :)
    Love as always,
    Annabel xXx

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  12. Well done for talking about this so openly and honestly.

    For the past 10 years I've watched my mum fight a very serious depression - at first it was such a fierce battle but now (and thanks to a very great and understanding GP) it's just a bump in the road. I'm very like my mum and there have been times when I've felt close to the edge myself but because I've had the awareness and the understanding through watching my mum and learning about her condition it's made me able to look after myself in a way she wasn't able to before. The silence that surrounds mental health is abominable and it's such a shame because knowledge, openness and support are so important.

    May you long continue to kick the stigmas and this horrible disease well and truly in the arse Anna!

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  13. You are quite simply a brilliant person to write this post Anna, the shame and stigma about depression really needs to end. There is a lot of depression in my family, and last year my uncle committed suicide. It was a shocking and heartbreaking time, and I actually couldn't believe some people's reactions when I told them what happened - they seemed to think we should have hushed it up. There is nothing to be ashamed of, he was ill, and unfortunately his illness killed him, which is horrible.

    Well done for speaking up, lady, and I hope you continue to feel well x

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  14. Anna you are such a wonderful wonderful lady and incredibly amazing for putting this on your blog today. I have a lot of respect for people like yourself! I salute you Anna xx

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  15. An amazing post Anna it really does take courage to put this kind of thing out there.
    I was in quite a dark place last year and would love to have gone to a group, but circumstances prevented me doing so (one of the reasons I was depressed in the first place)
    I found a cognitive behaviour therapy program on the computer that really helped me out - it makes you examine your destructive self beliefs and understand that you are no the only person who is feeling like this.
    Thank you for such an honest post.

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  16. I really admire your honesty & courage, Anna. Depression is an evil and silent beast, dealt with all to often with a quick prescription and no further thought. Your one strong & inspirational lady, don't forget that xx

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  17. Thank you so much for writing this and expressing word for word how it feels, it's a cliche but it really helps knowing that I'm not the only one out there who has been through this knowing that no matter how happy I feel right now knowing that the dark cloud can and will come back. I feel so lucky that my other half is so good to and for me and can see the black cloud and helps me fight without judging.

    Thank you again, it is so brave of you to commit this to paper, I only hope that I am brave enough one day.

    Also, the black ribbon idea is a brilliant one.

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  18. Anna, I hope I one day have the courage to speak so openly, I found it hard enough to speak with friends and close family. My husband was my rock and I will eternally be grateful for his grace and endurance during such a terrible dark patch of my life. My own stigma kept me from seeking help for so long I hope things do start to change. Thank you for sharing and reminding me I'm not alone. Big hugs. xxx

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  19. A fantastic post. You are so brave. I admire you so much x

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  20. Dearest Anna , I struggled with all of this for so long & by all of it I mean ALL OF IT, & for me it has gotten better. I'm still sensitive, and I'm still anxious sometimes, but if I compare myself now to myself even just a year ago (let alone 10 years ago, or 5 years ago) - it can, and it does get better. Once you have figured out how to care for yourself when you're at your lowest - and once you have come out on the other side - well, I think that there is nothing more empowering than that, and I know that you can do it. x

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  21. So proud Anna. The very fact you've written this just shows your strength. May it keep on coming x

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  22. Fantastic post. I had depression, twice. The first time, I had no idea what was wrong with me. The second time though, I spotted the symptoms and was able to manage it. It's hard. It's what took me to where I am now though. I realised through my depression, what I needed to do and change to recover. So I did it, and I recovered. But that said, I had to deal with a lot of negativity from other people. But, it changed me. It took me here, to where I am now. It's taught me about what's important. If I felt that way again, and found my photography was making me depressed, I'd walk away from it. I'll keep making changes to keep life working. That's how I survived it. This post is great, really honest, really truthful. The more we talk, the more others can see, and the more others can see, the more they can identify problems they have or others have, and do something positive to rectify it before it gets out of control. There's countless pages of advice telling people how to spot unusual lumps, or moles, for example to identify potential cancer problems, but not enough people can yet identify the lumps in our minds as depression. The more we talk about it, the more chance we have of early treatment and hopefully, recovery. xx

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  23. Anna you are amazing, I am in shock at what I just read, I had no idea. Keep strong lovely, you are an absolute inspiration xx

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  24. Really love this post, strong, cool lovely lady xxx

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  25. I have read, and re-read your post, because I relate totally to it. I was diagnosed at 21 with clinical depression after years of struggling to live with how I felt and trying to make sense of the darkness around me. I cried for help so many times but no-one listened. 17 years later, I know I will never escape the clutches of depression, but every day I learn more about it, over the years I've listened long and hard to others' despair and tried to offer understanding, and I am no longer ashamed to wear my physical scars. I don't hate my depression, because its been such a huge part of my life and taught me such a lot, we seem to tolerate each other now. Wishing you all the best on your continuing journey. Diana x

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  26. Beautiful, strong and inspiring lovely Anna xxx

    Having suffered for 10 long years I know how hard this must have been to write. I have been well for 11 beautiful years, so I do know that recovery is possible and true.

    Keep on talking. Keep on going. Little bit by little bit the fog will lift.

    Big hugs xxx

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  27. Anna you are just wonderful :-) it is so hard to open up and talk about mental health, but once you do you feel free and the flood gates open. Anytime you want to talk to me please do. I so hope we get to meet one day very soon, I'd love a big hug ;-)) hehe lots of love xxxx

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  28. I know your honest, kind, and beautiful words have helped someone who needed it today. A toast to you, anna.

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  29. Everytime I read a blog post about someone's personal journey with depression I always bow and take my hat off to them - round of applause. There have been many occasions where I have wrote a post about myself and the chronic depression I have managed (hmm I wouldn't necessarily agree with managed but I couldn't think of the right word) for the last 10 years and then I bottle it and hit delete. Why?!? Because I'm embarrassed. I worry that people who don't know me in real life will now change their opinion of me because nobody else suffers with depression.
    Thank you Anna for this post. Thankyou to everyone else who has left a comment of support for Anna. I imagine it has meant more to you than any of us can ever realise.

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  30. Such a beautifully written and brave post.

    I couldn't agree more that brushing mental health issues under the carpet only perpetuates that awful feeling of isolation. I have no doubt that you will have helped many, many people with this open and honest post. Thank you, Anna.

    Take good care of yourself xx

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  31. Beautifully honest Anna, so brave, and I can tell such an important step for you so well done. I suffered during my late teens/ early 20's, I would never self diagnose as having had depression, but I spent many years feeling stuck in a big hole that got deeper and deeper and not matter how much I wanted to, couldn't seem to climb out. After leaving home for a few months to America I saw things for what the really where and seemed to be able to snap myself out of whatever it was. I have had a few blibs but since then have mostly managed to be true to myself and stay happy :) like I said, I would never claim to be anything I wasn't but if I have any advice from my experiences, it would be to take yourself out of your everyday life, stand above it and see everything for what it really is. For me it was 4 months abroad, on my own, discovering who I was. Xxx

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  32. Anna. So many hugs and love.

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  33. So very very brave of you to post this Anna. I'm so glad you are getting better. I hope you know that there are many people who, although they don't know you personally and only virtually, are 110% behind you. Me being one of those people. Sending you a big hug!
    X x

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  34. I so admire you for sharing this, it must have taken a lot.I suffered depression after I contracted meninigitis which basically caused a head injury, ie left me with epilepsy which comes and goes and mood swings and despression for a while.I got frustrated because I thought it was weakness in me "why couldnt my will power take control" and it made it worse when people said just pick yourself up and carry on. The best way i could describe it was if you could feel a colour, it was a deep dark black.Even now many of my friends and family don't know how bad it got.My husband and son are what made me get up the next day. My memory was affected by the head injury..I recognised strangers,I would put my hand in the gas flame of the cooker by mistake, that would lower my self esteem which then brought me down even more. Thank you so much for sharing your story and I am certain it will have helped many people today. Sending you a huge hug and thanks for letting me post. Sue x

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  35. You are so brave to post this! It really is an awful illness, and I think it's brilliant that you have put your story out there to help others, and help them to realise they are not alone. I suffered with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (or ME) for almost 8 years and depression, anxiety and panic attacks were all regular symptoms. The current society (and nhs) can be so dismissive, which just makes you feel ten times worse. Just to realise that there are people out there who understand and are sympathetic can go along way in helping someone.

    Thankfully, with a lot of help from some wonderful people, I recovered from CFS and am now happy and healthy, but I really feel for the people still suffering. Xxx

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  36. You're wonderful, Anna - thank you for sharing this. I can really understand what you've been/are going through, having gone through crippling depression while I was at university, and I completely agree that we need to get to a point where mental health issues are de-stigmatised and people can talk about them without feeling ashamed, and where non-sufferers understand the nature of the disease(s) a little better. Thank you for speaking up and for being so brave.

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  37. You can see now from all the responses that not only are you not alone when it comes to issues of depression but that you have a lot of people that care and are here for you....Bless You for Sharing and Caring you will reap what you sow and by posting this and disclosing your feelings you are helping yourself in the healing process aswell as others

    Ana xx

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  38. Thankyou, Anna.

    It has already made my day better.

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  39. I admire your strength. The power of your words gives hope to so many. Thank you for your honesty. xx

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  40. Thank you. I have typed and backspaced several times but I don't have the words except to say
    1. You are an amazing person
    2. You are helping you and others by talking about depression, and that's what counts.

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  41. How brave you are dear Anna. The biggest problem with mental health issues is attitudes to them. There seems to be a cloak of shame around admitting it if you suffer from panic attacks, depression and so on. This is definitely the first barrier that needs to be overcome because it's just an illness of the mind like of the body and deserves just as much sympathy and understanding. xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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  42. Oh yes, yes to all of it. And hugs to you. xx

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  43. Thank you for being brave enough to share with us. After many years, therapy, medication and self-treatment, I've come out on the other side. I still have bad days. I still have very bad, hopeless days. But the good ones out number them now. There is hope that it can get better.

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  44. Oh Anna xx (I think I said all I can say in the other comment but the smile thing really resonated with me. I hope the future can hold lots of real, wonderful Anna smiles without all the fog.)

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  45. TY soo much Anna made me cry reading this becuse u put into words what is in my head and i cant say ive been like this for 2 years now and struggle everyday to try and motifate some positive feelings but i cant yet deep down i want to be who i was and not who i am.I wish every morning for a little change for the better and i only hope that it will come soon. Thank you again Anna xxxxxxxxxxx

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So, I really love all the sweet and/or informative comments that you lovelies leave. Yet if you feel the need to be unnecessarily rude or offensive I will delete your comment and not feel bad about it. So just be constructive alright! Hugs to all you wondrous others.

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