Thursday, 6 February 2014

You don't need to see it, to believe it.

Today is 'Time to Talk' day via the Time to Change campaign on mental illness. Over the next few days I have my good friend Oli staying with me. I thought it would be a good chance for you guys to see what mental illness is like from a different perspective. Here's Oli's story...

Being told by one of your best friends that they have depression would be a big but also challenging moment in anyones life. But when Rebecca told me her news, I felt much more prepared and equipped not just to process this information and understand what was happening to her, but also to help and support her in the ways she felt she needed me to. For me this was only because it was the second occasion in my life that someone very close to me has had a mental illness (a family member of mine was diagnosed with depression about 10 years ago). Therefore I had the experience and knowledge of this illness. Unfortunately the general publics understanding of this illness is poor at best and in this day and age this is neither correct nor helpful to anyone.

Rebecca told me about how people around her were trying to be helpful in their own way, with little pep talks ('tomorrow will be a better day!') and motivational messages ('what doesn't kill you makes you stronger!') She told me how these kind of conversations, as well meaning as they were, were things you do not want to hear. She would reiterate to me that just understanding that today is a bad day and sympathising ('It must be horrible feeling this way') were actually much more helpful. This is exactly how myself and the rest of my family reacted 10 years ago. It took some adjusting to understand what depression was truly about and how it affects people. Sometimes trying to 'fix them' was doing more harm than good.

I think the reason for such misunderstanding and stigma from the public is this general idea of that the person is feeling low and should just 'perk up'. It also does not help that there is a general anxiety of having an open conversation with someone who is suffering from depression, in this case they ask the hard questions and have to hear the hard answers. I think Rebecca would agree with me in saying that asking these hard questions is significantly better than trying to sugar coat the situation! Only these hard questions will give you the information you need to sympathise with or help your friend or loved one.

Something I realised early on was that depression affects not just the individual but also the relationships around that person. As one of Rebecca's closest friends, I have always felt a level of trust with her that was unquestionable! Yet during some of her harder times, things were strained between us, in part because of a lack of open conversation that we usually maintained. I felt like she could not trust me with her personal problems and as two people who have shared pretty much every gory detail of our lives over the last decade, this was a dent in our friendship. However, through talking and understanding her illness we have got back to being as close and as trustworthy of each other as we have ever been.

When Rebecca told me about her diagnosis it was a shock, something she tells me some of her other friends have said. But I also understand that this is something that can affect anyone. There isn't one particular personality trait, age group, type of person or sex that this happens to exclusively. If more people understood this singular point, the answer to "How are things with you?" would be listened to much more carefully.

1 comment:

Ashley said...

This is a great post. I am guilty of saying those other things, because, in honesty, I didn't know what to say. That is coming from someone who doesn't understand what a person may be going through. Thank you for giving me a little more insight.

<3 Ash

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