From Sian

Dear You,

I know the depression is telling you it’s your fault and you chose to be like this, probably because you are not worthy or don’t deserve happiness. It took me years to believe, and this is the truth, depression is not a choice. We might not know exactly how it works but I am sure it is not here of your own choosing and you are not weak because you have been unable to fight it away. Until I could forgive myself for having depression (and truly appreciate it was not my fault) I was not able to start the long process of recovery. Recovery might seem like an odd word because you are not physically ill but mental illness is just as terrible as physical illness and I want you to remember that. I used to wish I had a physical illness because then I would look ill and receive sympathy from others. My behaviour would be understood and life would be easier because of it. Please don’t feel your illness is a shameful secret. It was the taboo of mental illness that stopped me telling people how I felt. Being more open about my illness, a little at a time, has really helped other people to understand my behaviour and you would be surprised how sympathetic people can be.

Not everyone will understand, there is nothing you can do about this. I have learnt that a lack of sympathy or phrases such as ‘you’ve just got to learn to cope with life’ and ‘you’ll get over it’ show that this person has never had to cope with this terrible illness and instead of feeling anger towards them I now feel glad for them because they have not had to suffer like we have.

I am not going to claim I have all the answers because depression is different for everyone and I am a long way from being ‘cured’ (though, for many depression is a lifelong battle). I have started to fight back and stop the black hole from controlling my life. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do and I know you must be feeling overwhelmed but you can do it. Please don’t punish yourself if you cannot get out of the dark hole immediately or progress is slower than you would like. I have failed many times and this is ok. It is not your fault and you have not chosen to be like this. My first few failures pushed me further into the dark hole. I started to believe that because I had not stopped myself this time I would not be able to fight in the future and I couldn’t live my whole life like this. Please do not echo me. You need to learn how to fight your depression and this will mean you don’t always get it right because you don’t yet know what works for you. In time you will learn which techniques to use. It is a cliché but ‘practice makes perfect’ and this really is true.

I have very small goals, like being able to leave the house on a bad day or even just calling a friend when you start to feel low. When you achieve these goals, though they might seem small now they are major hurdles during depression and this is a big achievement. This happy feeling will help you to start believing you can fight and win the battle. I wish you well.

 

Your friend,

Sian