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Why Being Happy Doesn't Mean I Can't Still Be Depressed

Sometimes I wish I didn’t remember dates, but today marks one year since I first realized I was sick, and I am feeling quite proud. I remember the moment clearly. I had gone up to Horsham for my dads birthday and on that Sunday (today), my mum and I were in the kitchen and she said to me, “What do you want to do today?” and I said, “Not feel like shit,” and burst into tears. And that was the beginning of admitting I wasn’t OK and the end of pretending I was OK. Admitting to yourself that you’re not well is often the hardest step. It can be difficult for others to tell that you’re struggling with mental illness and it isn’t always accepted.

Today I woke up thinking, “Bloody hell, it’s Monday, I can’t be bothered going to work.” But this feeling, despite being common, is so different than the feelings I experienced a year ago. Where I couldn’t get through a day without crying. Where going to work seemed like the biggest and most difficult task. Where making tea just seemed like something way out of reach. Where being able to function was near impossible. And I kept pushing through and telling everyone, yes, I am sad, but I’m not depressed because I am still happy. I still loved my life. And I 100 percent did.

But being happy with your life doesn’t mean you can’t be depressed. I learned that the hard way. I finally allowed myself to fall in a heap. To lean on people. To cry (my boss has seen me cry more times than I care to admit). To increase my medication. To take time off work. Every single day was hard. Every day I woke up with the thought, “Am I better today?” I stayed with my dad and mum for three weeks and one day they mentioned me making pumpkin soup — they tried to gently push me to do things to get better, because depression wanted me to do nothing, but getting better requires you to do things. Well the mention of making soup just about caused me to have a massive panic attack — I was not ready for such a thing. But slowly, with lots of self-care, being kind to myself and plenty of support from my family, friends and work colleagues, I was able to slowly start seeing improvements.

I can actually look at getting sick last year as a blessing. I am now able to accept that having depression and anxiety is something I am going to have my whole life, but it doesn’t define who I am and it not something I struggle with every day, just something I have. I also fully learned how much of an “illness” mental illness really is — doubling my medication had a huge impact on my getting better. And if this wasn’t an illness, as many people might think, then that wouldn’t have worked. I also know, that for me, I need medication and therapy. For me, it isn’t one or the other. And I will probably need both forever. It also helps me appreciate life now. It helps me know that not wanting to go to work and not being able to go to work are two different things.

Depression and anxiety are still something I battle every day — mostly anxiety. And even the days I’m not having anxiety, I am still managing it. It is something I am constantly aware of. And most days, I am a “high-functioning” person living with mental illness. And other days, I struggle to function. But that is OK. This is a part of who I am, but is not who I am. And there is no shame in it. I absolutely refuse to be ashamed of it. I will talk about it to everyone and anyone. There are days when I think, “Bloody hell, why do I have to keep fighting this?” But most of the time I am proud of my fight. Because I keep fighting it. Because it has never, and will never, beat me.

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Thinkstock photo via itskatjas