Claudia, a mental health advocate and theatre artist shares their story of the misconceptions of depression.
We’ve all heard the expression: ‘the black dog’ when talking about depression. The language we use to talk about mental health and our emotional wellbeing is full of anecdotes, idioms and puns.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pun, making things theatrical is what I do as a theatre artist…but not all people see the ‘black dog’ as a way of describing their depression.
I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and OCD at the age of 21, after being sectioned in a mental health hospital for six months three years earlier, where I got a diagnosis of a High Function Autism Spectrum Disorder, formerly known as Asperger Syndrome.
I was in my second year of university and coping well with this diagnosis of autism; feeling comfortable in knowing that my differences had a name and they weren’t just fictional entities I’d been conjuring up that made me a naughty child growing up. But I knew that the autism could only attribute to some of the feelings I was having. I knew there had to be something more. And, after a relapse and mental health tumble in this penultimate year of university, I was given the diagnosis I had been waiting for.
I had depression.
To me, depression isn’t the ‘black dog’ we have to lug around with us, or that feeling of drowning under the sea trying to come up for air. It’s something so much more than that.
Here’s my analogies:
It’s like being in a bubble and all you can think about is the thin layer of protection from the outside world that looks like a positive rainbow that when you try to communicate with that outside world, you risk popping that bubble and that positive rainbow disappears.
It’s the drilling in your head of constant negative thoughts that never really go away; but that you park at the back of your mind so you can try to move forward and thrive in everyday life.
For me depression doesn’t always manifest in ways you may expect. It’s the feeling of happiness that you know you have to control because it feels awkward to be positive all the time.
It’s the overwhelming nature of being still; where doing nothing means a time to lament and focus on negative thoughts.
I’ve learnt over time to challenge the misconceptions of depression that still, unfortunately exist within society. Here are just some of the things I try to challenge by bringing a mindful mantra to my world.
“You can’t be happy if you have depression.”
Wrong. You can have moments of positivity, depression doesn’t mean you are unable to feel happy or content, it means you cherish the happy moments when you have them and remover them when you feel down.
“There is no cure for depression apart from medication.”
Although I used to take medication, I don’t anymore. I believe a balance is needed between self-care such as participating in hobbies, healthy eating, exercise, and outside influences such as therapy, medication or even just communicating with friends, a community or loved ones.
“You are just attention seeking.”
If talking about my struggles is attention seeking, then I should have won awards for it by now. Honestly, this one makes me the most angry, as for me personally, depression isn’t something that I try to show others, it’s something I try too hard to hide, but I’m learning that it’s better to speak up than suffer in silence.
However, even though I have depression, anxiety, OCD and autism, I am still able to live a very functional life.
I graduated university and am training to become a theatre arts teacher while also hoping to pursue a Masters in Inclusive Art next year.
I try and be as vocal as I can about my difficulties, to help others. I can only speak from my experience and it is important to remember that everybody who has mental health struggles sees the world differently; as we all have a variety of factors in our lives that can affect and heal us.
Depression shouldn’t hold you back. In fact, for me it helps me to see how far I can push, stretch and challenge myself to combat these feelings, how far I can share my story, how many people I can impact positively.
Helping others, that is what eases my depression.
Unfortunately, the misconceptions continue to exist, but it is up to us to change them.
Stigmas? Stereotypes? Smash them by sharing your story.
Thanks to our guest blog writer, Claudia, for sharing their story with us. We hope it inspires you.
If you need to talk, we’re here to listen. Check out our Breathe page on Facebook to find out when our next sessions are running, or get in touch with us via our contact page.
Need to speak to someone urgently? Call the Samaritans on 116123.
If you are worried about your mental health, in particular depression, book an appointment with your GP.