At first, I was so embarrassed to admit that I had depression – that there was something wrong with me. Of course, I knew that I wasn’t feeling right but to have such a stigmatised label placed on me was terrifying. I never felt the need to tell anyone outside of my close circle what was going on with me, but as my anxiety spread into all aspects of my life I was forced to open up.
Telling people that I had a mental illness was not easy; I had no idea what the reaction would be to such a controversial disease. But the reactions were extremely positive, which diminished my worries completely, and therefore I now feel confident to admit it – since I know sharing my story will help others. If you are apprehensive of how people will react, take a look at the reactions I experienced and find comfort in them:
The first person I told was my friend from university; I had explained my absences were due to illness, since she was always sending me her notes when I didn’t make it in.
“What’s wrong?”, she asked. “Depression and anxiety”
She immediately hugged me and told me that she was so sorry to hear that. Her concern for me was so sincere that it made me emotional; it’s an indescribable feeling to know that someone cares about you – especially if you struggle to believe that.
I was very quiet in my last years at high school; I was not handling life very well but I was managing to get through it. The girls that called me weird made me paranoid – if I was weird for my symptoms of depression that implied depression was weird, so I should keep it secret?
My friend from high school had no idea that I had depression when I mentioned it. His surprise surprised me in turn. I had thought it was so glaringly obvious. And if he hadn’t noticed it, he must’ve heard someone else guess at it? I think my cynical feelings surrounding high school might be too harsh as he was oblivious. Upon learning this, he was immensely supportive and regretful, which is especially nice to see in a guy, as they are wrongly stereotyped to not tap into their emotions.
This sentence, sometimes it was paraphrased, is alarmingly common – 1 in 4 people suffer with a mental illness in their lifetime after all. I had never expected to hear so many people confide in me that they were going through the same thing. Although, finding out others were suffering was upsetting, the positive in this situation is that you can help each other out. Talking to someone who understands how you are feeling is invaluable – you could talk for hours and still have more to share with each other. In addition, this reaction made me feel a lot less alone and more normal as I grew to appreciate how common this was. I knew the statistics, but until you can see in real life how many people it affects you won’t truly grasp this.
To conclude, the sympathetic and understanding reactions that I received were a crucial part of the shedding of the stigma I felt. I’m unsure as to why I had previously believed that this information would be taken so negatively, so if you are thinking this, then challenge your anxious predictions. I’m immensely grateful of the people who supported me as they provided me with great help in a large variety of ways; this is why I recommend to open up if you are suffering. I hope that this post helps you to think more optimistically about being honest!