In May 2012, after nearly 10 years of fighting it, I finally accepted that I have depression.
Depression affects a lot of people in a lot of different ways, but one of the resounding effects is the feeling that you are alone in the world, and that you have to deal with everything all by yourself.
As someone who has spent their whole life (all 26 years of it) feeling like I need to look after people and trying to help everyone, I have often felt like no-one understands. I couldn't understand myself, so how could I expect anyone else to?
One of the problems I have found since accepting depression is other people's reactions. Whilst I haven't told many people about the state of my mental health, I have found there are two main responses:
1. Denial - “depression is just a state of mind – you just need to cheer up” (duuuuuhh.....). Whilst I agree that, yes, I do need to cheer up, it's not all that easy. When you're stuck in a hole, climbing out of it is pretty much impossible. I don't particularly enjoy the fact that I feel like crap and am exhausted all the time, thank you very much. This is not an excuse, it's just how I feel.
2. False sympathy - “I'm sorry to hear that. Have you spoken to anyone about it?” (YES – I'm speaking to you about it!) I think this response may actually worse than the denial response. It's really hard for me to talk about how I feel (I've been seeing a counsellor for six months, and it's taken at least five of those months for me to be able to talk to him!), so if I do take the hard decision to tell someone, it's because I trust them. Suggesting I speak to someone else is like being kicked in the stomach.
Until recently, I really struggled to cope with these responses. It felt like I was doing something wrong; that it was my fault I have depression.
However, being in New York gave me the courage I needed to start properly dealing with my demons and looking forward to re-discovering the real me.
Part of the journey has led me to writing this post. It's been in the making for a while, but today I realised that it doesn't matter what other people think, about me, about depression, about anything. I'm the person in charge of me, and I need to remember to look after me as well!
Some days that journey is easy, but on others I can feel myself slipping backwards. I need something to remind me that I can do this. And so, after a lot of thought, I decided to get a permanent reminder that I do have the courage I need to get me through:
Yep, I got a tattoo (well, another one). I love tattoos – I love their individuality and the permanent reminder of a time in your life that you felt was so important you needed to be reminded of it on a daily basis. I love the stories behind tattoos. I got my first tattoo a few years ago, and have been hooked ever since. I've wanted another for a while, and have been playing around with some ideas, but could never find the right image or font that really expressed what I wanted to say.
And then a friend of mine suggested Braille. All of a sudden, my problems were solved. Braille will never go out of date, it can mean whatever I want it to mean, AND it's like a tiny game of connect the dots!
These 19 dots mean so much – they're not just a permanent reminder that I can do this life thing. They also mean I broke a promise. For the first time in my life (well, maybe not, but it feels like it sometimes) I have done something purely for me.
When I got my first tattoo, I promised my mum I wouldn't get any on a part of my body that's visible in a wedding dress.
I've thought about it. I have no plans to get married any time soon. But if I did, my boyfriend and I have discussed this. I have two options – a corsage (flowers, yuk!) or gloves (problematic for the whole ring thing). And if that doesn't work, it's small enough I can just put a watch over it. So that justifies breaking my promise (sorry mum!)
Do I feel guilty? Of course I do, I always feel guilty – that's what depression does to me. BUT I'm also really excited about dealing with this. Writing this post is one step towards that.
(NB. I don't want sympathy – the worst thing is people feeling sorry for me. I just want to tell my story. If only one person reads this and doesn't laugh, then that's great!)