Nearly a year ago I was diagnosed with depression and despite partially knowing this was the case, the diagnosis shocked me. To hear the words come out of the doctor’s mouth was clarification that I was suffering and I wasn’t just being dramatic. It validated my suffering but at the same time, it terrified me – I had just been diagnosed with an illness and how was I going to get rid of it. The severity of the situation made me sink lower in my chair as treatment options were discussed.
I hadn’t realised what the symptoms of depression actually were and if I had known them, I wouldn’t have felt like I was exaggerating. I fit almost all of the diagnostic criteria for depression; change in appetite and weight; loss of interest; lack of pleasure; feelings of worthlessness. I was diagnosed with severe depression and the doctor seemed quite alarmed. However, upon reflecting I realised I had been suffering with mild and moderate depression before then. And if I had received help when my condition was a little better, it would have made my life much easier. You shouldn’t have to hit rock bottom to seek help; no matter if your condition is mild or moderate, you deserve help. If it was a physical illness, like diabetes or cancer, you wouldn’t wait until it became life-threatening – you would march to the doctors straight away, therefore you should do the same for mental illness.
When I walked out of the doctor’s office, I felt like I had been stuck with a label – I had a psychological condition. Now, whenever someone made a joke about people who are “mental” I would think that they are referring to “people like me”. Whenever I saw stigma surrounding mental illness, it would be an issue that would affect me. I have never felt any embarrassment associated with having asthma or patches of un-pigmented skin on my body, but with this diagnosis came a sense of shame.
At the time of my diagnosis, I didn’t know anybody who suffered from depression which made me feel very isolated. But as I began to open up about my illness, there was a staggering amount of people who confided in me about their own struggles. Consequently, I did know lots of people that suffered from mental illness, but I just didn’t know it. Mental illness can be easy to hide; no one may ever know if you struggle. Knowing that other people out there felt the same things as me gave me an abundance of reassurance and I am so grateful that so many people opened up to me.
When I got diagnosed with depression, it was a bit of a relief. It meant that the way I was living was not normal and that things could get brighter for me. It meant I wasn’t lazy, irritable or shy – it meant that these things were a consequence of my illness – these things weren’t who I actually am. Life was not restricted to feeling numb or sad, and with depression there are several treatments so it was likely that I could recover. The diagnosis brought me hope for a happier future.
After revealing my diagnosis to close friends, the sympathy and support I received made me realise that it was understandable that I wasn’t doing well and that I deserved help. Talking to others about how I’m feeling always helps, as it makes me connect the dots between my subconscious feelings and I understand what I am specifically worrying about. But I was always surprised to see how shocked people were at some of the things I had been battling; I had previously thought depressive feelings were normal. My friends reassurance and their amazement at my “bravery” made me feel like, instead of being weak since I suffer from low mood, I am extremely strong. I can battle my mind all day and still show up smiling.
To conclude, being diagnosed with severe depression is scary. You may sit and wonder how you ever found yourself at this point in life; you may wonder when it all went wrong. But, it has some positives. You need to be diagnosed to start treatment so you can begin to get better. After diagnosis, you can begin your journey to recovery and while that battle is hard, remember nothing is harder than actually suffering from severe depression. You need to be diagnosed to start treatment so you can begin to get better. Life is a journey and for some people, this is a bump in the road but you can beat this and when you did you will come out the other end as a whole different person (a much better one). Never stop looking for the positives in life!
WE ALL HAVE AN UNSUSPECTED RESERVE OF STRENGTH INSIDE THAT EMERGES WHEN LIFE PUTS US TO THE TEST