When I start getting to know new people, and we move from acquaintance to friend, I’m pretty open about my life. The chronic pain is hard to hide as it is, but I also mention that I have depression, and if they ask, I don’t hesitate to say it’s been around for a loooooooooong time.
As I’ve settled in a new city, with a new job and meeting new people, I’ve been told multiple times that I’m the ‘happiest depressed person’ they’ve ever met, which amuses me, greatly. I don’t really understand what ‘happiness’ feels like, yet I seem to project it. After some reflection, I think I’ve worked out why.
- When you’ve had an illness for 16 years and have received consistent treated for most of that time, you learn how to manage it. I can CBT myself like no one’s business. I never miss a dose of medication and every couple of years get reviewed by a psychiatrist. I regularly see my psychologist and check in with my GP monthly. I’ve taught myself how to get out of bed, even when I don’t have the energy. I’ve learnt how to smile when joy has faded. Listening to other people is a welcomed distraction, and I can listen to my body by making healthy choices, even when I don’t feel like it.
- Some days are better than others, but the practice of gratitude and acceptance helps me make the most of the good days which makes the bad days a little bit easier.
- I have built an incredible support network – a team made up of family, friends, work colleagues and professionals. When the depression overwhelms me with loneliness, I’m rarely actually isolated. When the depression has me hating on myself, people are quick to show me their love.
- I’ve found healing and acceptance in sharing my story, bringing awareness and supporting others in their mental illness. It gives a sense of purpose, a weapon to fight against overwhelming hopelessness and helplessness. Being open and honest also demonstrates that there is no shame in having a Mental Illness.
- I grew up in a family where depression was understood. I have never felt the stigma society holds around mental illness which makes acceptance and openness easier.
- I trust in a faithful Creator and have the perfect Counsellor living inside of me. I have hope in a new, perfect creation and faith in a God who is loving, holy and just. These truths bring me joy that stops an often futile ‘pursuit of happiness’ and enables me to rest in spiritual peace (sometimes my emotions are just a little slow to catch up with spiritual truths).
But please don’t be mistaken…
I still battle with depression. I still have days where I cry all morning. I still have mornings where it takes all my energy reserves just to get out of bed. I still experience overwhelming with sadness. I still need patience, empathy, love, support, to take medication and participate in psychotherapy.
Accepting that I have a chronic mental illness doesn’t mean I have a defeatest attitude. I eagerly await the day I no longer have to deal with depression, acknowledging it may not happen in this lifetime.
You can’t compare me to other people you know with depression as everyone is on their own journey. Let’s be real, most people haven’t spent (approximately) 64% of their life learning the skills needed to be a high functioning. Instead, encourage them to seek appropriate, professional treatment; help them find mutual support; show them love through compassionate empathy and remind them that hope and healing from depression is possible.