From Sarah

Dear You,

I'm so glad that you are reading this letter. It means that you are looking for help and it means that I am able, in some small way, to tell you that you are not alone.

Depression is unbelievably cruel. It takes the light out of you life, makes you feel helpless and alone and makes the angry, hurtful voices in your head louder than you ever thought possible. And, to cap it all off, you can't see it. I know what it is like to have someone not understand; for someone to be angry that you can't just “snap out of it” or simply “cheer up”. What you are feeling right now IS REAL but it doesn't have to be permanent. You can recover.

As I write this, I have been back at work for one month after a seven-month depressive episode. Much of those seven months was spent asleep, wishing the time away. My world became incredibly small and I shrank to fit within it. Everything became more difficult: eating, getting washed and dressed, going outside. I was ashamed and felt like I had failed. You might recognise those feelings in your own life. I'm writing this letter to tell you that, although it might not feel like it now, there are ways of getting the help you need to piece yourself back together.

For me, the road to recovery began by speaking to the occupational health counsellor. They listened to and, most importantly, acknowledged my feelings. My weekly appointments forced me to get up and out of the house and I made a ritual of my trips into town: I'd treat myself to tea and a sandwich at a coffee shop after my appointment. It gave me a chance to go over the session and frame my thoughts for the way home. It gave me something to look forward to. I also sought help from my doctor and tried a couple of different medications until I found one that made a positive impact on me. My hope for you is that you will find a path that's right for you and people who are supportive enough to guide you back to it if you lose your way.

It took a long time for me to feel able to get back to work. I was so convinced that I couldn't do it, that I was worthless and meant to fail. That was the depression talking and, most importantly, it was wrong. You probably have that same gnawing voice. The one that feeds you lies masquerading as truths. The one that wakes you at night just to remind you of how awful you are. It isn't true. You aren't a terrible person. You are ill.

If you managed to get dressed today; if you managed to go outside, even for a little while; if you managed to talk to someone about anything at all, you are on the road to getting better. It will take time. Not every day will be better than the one before. But it can and does get better.

With warmest wishes,

Sarah