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I've lived with depression - it’s time we tackled mental illness once and for all

[Trigger warning: this posts talk about suicidal thoughts]

This blogger has chosen to remain anonymous – he shares his story of mental illness, and why his support network has been so important.   

I was 18 or 19 when I first noticed a change in my mental health. I began experiencing periods of depression, ranging in duration, and during this time I would withdraw from my social circles – I didn’t feel like I was able to enjoy time with my friends and wanted to be alone.

I felt like there was no way out, my depression had a hold of me and prevented me from being creative. I’m lucky that my friends never gave up, they stood by my side and gradually encouraged me back into socialising.

Life went on like this for some time, but it was in 2016 that things took a real turn for the worse, and when I realised that I was struggling to cope.

It was a particularly bad year, I lost two close family members. I really struggled to see them suffer towards the end, and that memory still stays with me today. I was also struggling at work in my job as a teacher; the workload was tough and I was being put under a huge amount of pressure in such a target-driven culture.

It all came to a head last year - I was walking down the street when I suddenly became overwhelmed by anxiety and panic. I burst into tears and couldn’t stop crying. Horrible thoughts were racing through my head and at that point and afterwards I had thoughts where I wished myself dead.

The panic attacks continued and I was struggling to sleep. Luckily my family noticed and intervened. They have been incredibly supportive and allowed me to open up about my feeling in a way I hadn’t done before.

I decided to move back home to try and surround myself with people I love, and that care equally about me. I sought professional help but unfortunately that was an incredibly negative experience. The doctor I spoke to had little understanding about mental illness. I was told that I was just a ‘spoilt middle-class kid’ and that I didn’t deserve to be struggling with my mental health. He said that the best thing for me to do was just ‘man-up’. That was incredibly upsetting to hear, he made me feel like I didn’t deserve any help, it made things 10 times worse.

Despite not getting any medical support I have been trying to improve my own mental wellbeing. I’ve moved jobs to a much nicer environment, and they allow me to work part-time which has removed a lot of the work pressure I was previously subjected to.

I am now able to spend more time with my friends and family, and on creative pastimes and exercise. All of this has had a positive impact on me personally. Exercise has shown me that I can conquer physical challenges, and that gives me hope for overcoming my depression.

My support network has been invaluable. My experience has taught me to open up, and it’s showed me that I’m not alone. You never find out what others are going through unless you ask. I have since discovered that a close friend of mine has also battled with depression and we now support each other. It’s helpful to talk to someone that understands where I’m coming from.

I’ve not beaten my depression, but it no longer controls me. There are still hours, days and months where I feel quite low. But I remind myself that I have a good support network, and I lean on them when I need to.

My hopes for mental health in future is that there is more awareness about it – I don’t feel people are talking about it enough. You see adverts for cancer and other physical illness, but why not mental illness? I would like to see more education in schools and more public understanding about the range of mental illnesses that exist. We need to show that mental illness isn’t the end of the line, there’s a lot to be done to tackle stigma.

There is such negative portrayal of mental health in the media. People think you can flip out at any point, act ‘crazy’, it isn’t a helpful attitude to the issue or the individual. On the other side people can treat you like you’re broken china and tiptoe around you. That can make you feel even more isolated and alone.

I hope that research can improve our understanding of how mental illness develops. I’d like to see researchers involving people with direct experience in their work, going into schools to speak with young people there. I believe research should happen where we develop, where our formative years are spent.

More than anything it’s so important we take this crisis on – mental illness is fast becoming a major killer, it’s time we tackled it once and for all.

Last updated: 10 November 2017

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