by Shardai Lynn
I recently overheard a Mother talking to her daughter about mental health and was surprised to hear her say that depression was a ‘weakness’ and suicide an ‘easy way out’. Hearing that started a flurry of thoughts in my mind, all these years of hiding my depression and I thought I was doing the right thing.
Time after time sitting at a dinner table with my family feeling like my heart was about to jump out of my chest because I had anxiety that I couldn’t explain, even if I tried. I was doing them a favour and myself wasn’t I?
I was embarrassed because if I was probed, what would I say? That I don’t know my own mind? That I don’t know why I have these thoughts? Not to mention, the physical manifestation within my chest, the relentless tiredness and complete lack of motivation! So I kept quiet. Choosing a few loyal friends carefully to share my anguish with I mainly endured the depths of depression alone… until the train of thoughts led to suicidal ones.
So that lady really did evoke emotion in me that day, yet, when she was explaining to her daughter what she thought she knew about depression, it didn’t leave me angry. It left me wondering why the hell I thought I was doing the world a favour by keeping quiet. Surely, we need to speak out to stop these narrow minded thoughts from circulating our society and brain washing the next generation into fear of expressing their emotions and feelings. The same society that says ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘stiff upper lip’.
As alone as I felt I was not the only one suffering. Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain according to the mental health foundation, with an estimated 1 in 4 people in the UK who will experience some kind of mental health problem once in their lives. Although they state that women are more likely to have been treated for mental health issues, it is said that men are more likely to die from suicide than women. Which showed me that, yes, I was not the only one going through this, but also I was not the only one being silent about it.
I spent years believing that if you were depressed you weren’t a positive person.
‘You are just negative and need to put a smile on your face, think of all the positives in life’.
Sure, this is great when you have a brain that is balanced, but asking someone with clinical depression to ‘just be happy’ is similar to expecting someone with a broken bone to think themselves into healing it! Impossible.
And to be fair, I am often described as a positive person and feel like I am one too, but I have been suicidal. So if depressed people just have a negative outlook on life, where did my situation come from? This is just as paradoxical as being vulnerable and strong at the same time. If vulnerability is weakness, which is how I feel society has shaped it, then how can you be strong too?
But here’s the thing, you need strength to be vulnerable and I have learned this the hard way. It would take a lot of courage for me to say to my family ‘hey I have no idea why but I need help I feel so low’ or ‘I have so many things going through my mind I feel anxious and I don’t feel like I can cope’ and thats why I didn’t do it for so long. I was scared of the judgments and being the depressed daughter or even worse, the miserable mate.
I became the greatest actress, no one would have had a clue. However, playing that game is dangerous and led to more thoughts of being worthless and lonely. I didn’t want to worry my parents, I thought, I didn’t want them to think I was crazy. And they would have thought that, of course, just like a lot of people facing someone with mental illness who doesn’t understand.
I found that going online and reading about what I was going through helped. Information on websites about the illness allowed me to understand what was happening. Charities like ‘Mind’ have blogs where people discuss their experiences and just knowing that there were others going through what I was going through really gave me some hope. Especially on the days that I thought I would never be ‘normal’ again. Reading about someone who had come through the other side of their mental illness showed me that it could happen for me. Taking part in yoga, mediation and reading books I could relate to were also my saviours.
However in those darkest days when suicidal thoughts ran through my mind, nothing could help, it felt like a lifetime and I forgot the person I used to be. I am so grateful now that I had a tiny glimmer of hope in my heart because that’s why I am here today writing this, and sadly there are many people who act on that pain in that moment and aren’t here now.
I don’t blame people for their naivety in this subject, I don’t even judge that Mother for thinking someone like me is weak and wants to take the easy way out by ending their life. Because, I know if she had any idea how deep and dark that place is she wouldn’t be saying it’s easy. I know if she had one minute in the mind of someone who feels like they would be doing the world a favour by killing themselves that she wouldn’t have a word to say, because there is no way to articulate that sort of pain and certainly no way to judge it. It is pretty unexplainable but I wish I had given the explaining part a go sooner. I wish that people who were lucky enough to never feel it would read about it or ask about it. I wish that people would take mental illness as seriously as physical illness. But above all, I wish for anyone out there who may be feeling low to speak out and allow themselves to be vulnerable, because it takes a strong person to show that side of themselves. It takes a strong person to cry and show their pain.
For me, I am happy, positive, I love life and I love having fun but I may feel disappear again, I might face the depths of depression and my anxiety attacks could come back but this time I will ask for help before it goes as far as it has done in the past. I am not ashamed anymore.
My mental health isn’t me, it does not define my personality or my life. It is a challenge just like any other life long illness that people suffer. I can now speak to my parents and family who understand if I am having a rough day, week or month, how I am feeling. They are aware they are more patient with me and have done some research themselves which has helped with my process.
I have turned the pain I have felt into learning about alternative medicines for healing, I run relaxation classes and I am learning as much as possible in order to help people in my situation. I made a vouch with myself to be truthful about my mental illness and I have already had many conversations with people who are grateful for me speaking with honesty. Now is the time to change our views before we lose more people to this illness, now is the time to open our minds and really see what people are facing. It is estimated that depression will be the second most debilitating condition by 2020 according to the world health organisation.
Do we have to wait until then before we make a change?
So, here is my attempt at making a change, it may be small but it feels pretty big to me…
I am Shardai Lynn and this is my (not so hidden anymore) TRUTH!!!!!