Tag Archives: mental illness

Wild Harbour – Mid-Week Flash Challenge

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Wild HarbourHe waxes and wanes like the moon – bursting with passion and brim-full with deep satisfaction, and then lost in absence and lonely apathy.

I ride the waves of his storm.

The minute his lips touch mine I sink into his depths, drowning in tides of desire and climbing to heights I’ve never known. He and his touch spark fireworks and constellations shimmer through my universe. My night sky lights up with the fullness of an October Hunter’s moon and I relish every moment he stays. He is my sun and my moon and every star in my cosmos.

My heart aches when he leaves, when he shifts from my orbit. He remains, connected with my physical world, but lost to me as the moon is absent to your touch within a puddle. I know it’s not his love that wanes, but his island inhabits a remoteness that even I cannot reach. I cannot sail its waters and I cannot rescue him from his solitary soul.

When he is only a reflection of himself I keep him safe wrapped within the cocoon of my heart. When his light fades I keep a burning coal in my belly. When he weeps and collapses, like a neutron star, I remain at his side to fuel his escape from the black hole, and keep him tethered to life.

Then, as I wait, his dark moon catches a spark, a shooting star, and its tail threads back through our course. And, in time, he returns, hungry and starved and eager. And I greet him with love and shelter, and allow him time to regain his glow.

Our eternal round will never fail, my harbour will encircle, and my heart will embrace, through the good and the bad, the high and the low, the waxing and waning. It will always go on, because that’s what you do when you love someone encased within bipolar extremes.

0000. Divider

Just loved this picture for Miranda’s Mid-Week Flash Challenge, though she couldn’t find anyone to attribute it to, but I had to write for it.

Write up to 750 words inspired by the prompt photograph.

Advertisements

Understanding Depression – The Truths and Myths

Depression does not discriminate. Depression is not a choice.
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are becoming
much better understood, but we still need to be clearer.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos

Depression can hit anyone – it does not discriminate. Depression ignores your gender, race, age, and any other excuse people can throw at it. It doesn’t matter your financial situation, or your degree of education, or your place in this world. It doesn’t care if you’re fulfilled, or happy, or desperate and suicidal. It does not discriminate.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Weeping Geranium

© Lisa Shambrook

Types of depression

There are several types of depression including – Clinical DepressionPost-natal DepressionBi-polar Disorder (Manic Depression)SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)GriefSituational Depression – and they range from mild, moderate, to severe.

The NHS website explains that ‘There’s no single cause of depression. It can occur for a variety of reasons and it has many different triggers.’ Depression can be caused by circumstance, events, or medical conditions, or family history, or through chemical imbalances.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Pensive Raven Cat

© Lisa Shambrook

Situational depression is perhaps the easiest (a misnomer if there ever was one, no depression is easy) to deal with as its root cause trauma, trigger, or event, can often be located and treated or understood, the same could be said for depression triggered by grief. A trauma or loss often brings on acute sadness and depression, which may need treating medically or psychologically, but is a condition that can be worked through and hopefully overcome with time.

Other types of depression are harder and maybe impossible to ‘cure’.

Yet, there are still people who claim you can change your life, become more positive, appreciate your blessings, and then you can beat your depression. Maybe, who knows, for some people with situational depression, maybe they can overcome and ride out the bad times, maybe they can ‘pull themselves together’ (I hate that term), maybe they can recognise and make changes in their life and beat depression. Maybe, but also, maybe not.

I’ll add a caveat here: depression (and mental illness as a whole) is not ‘one size fits all’. My experience will be different from yours, and where some people may find depression a blip in their lives, something to overcome, many don’t and will fight it their entire lives.

We must be non-judgmental, compassionate, and understanding in our dealings with those who live with depression.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Within the Ocean Cave

© Bekah Shambrook

How Depression is treated

Depression is treated in many ways. Mild depression can be treated with a ‘wait and see’ approach, exercise helps ease depression – and I can bear witness to that – as can diet, psychotherapy, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and counselling. More serious depression needs a stronger approach. All of the above can help, talking and counselling can be a godsend, but medication can also be necessary. Antidepressants work by increasing neurotransmitter chemicals in your brain, if these chemicals are out of balance they can affect many aspects of your body and mind, including mood. There are several types of antidepressants, and the most popular of these SSRIs (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) increase the levels of the chemical messenger in the brain – serotonin. Serotonin is an amino acid that is found in food, and it helps run much of your body, and deficiency can cause depression.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Sertraline-antidepressant

© Lisa Shambrook

I have written about Antidepressants and my history, and about Coping with the Stigma of Antidepressants, but I still get people telling me that I ought to be more positive, or count my blessings, or that I’m lucky to have everything I do, or that others would be happy with a tiny bit of what I have in my life…

There are a multitude of posts and lists out there online that list the things no one should ever say – and what they should say – to someone living with depression – but people still say them! Get over it, they say, choose to be happy, count your blessings, there’s always someone worse off than you, don’t be selfish, it’s all in your mind (actually, yes, it is – but it’s physiological and psychological, not made-up), try to be happy… If it was as easy as that we wouldn’t be suffering with depression.

Depression is not a choice. Being sad can be a choice, making changes that help you get over problems in your life is a choice, being positive is a choice, but being depressed is not a choice.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Clifftop

© Lisa Shambrook

I am a happy person, I’m a positive person, but I also have clinical depression and have had it since I was fourteen-years-old. I was diagnosed at eighteen, and have lived with it ever since. I have taken courses of antidepressants, had counselling, had psychiatric help, seen a psychologist, seen a therapist, used exercise, and I still live with depression.

Thirteen months ago I stood on a bridge at 2am. Life seemed too much. I was overwhelmed. Depression drowned me. I got help and have had counselling and antidepressants since. None of that, or of my history of depression, panic, and anxiety, changes the fact that my life is fulfilling, I adore my husband and children, I love who I am. I have self-harmed since I was twelve-years-old (when I didn’t even know what self-harm was), but that doesn’t change that I know I’m blessed, that I’m happy with my talents, and I love my life.

I know that depression will haunt me throughout my life, but I will manage it. Antidepressants will ‘fix me’ short term, until the chemicals in my brain misalign once more. I will make use of the services available to me, which are getting better.

Understanding Depression - The Truths and Myths - The Last Krystallos - Steel Rainbow Sky

© Lisa Shambrook

But the point of this post is to help understanding and appreciation of what depression truly means.

Depression is not a choice, and it does not discriminate.
It is a condition that those who live with will manage to the best of their ability.
We deserve support and compassion, be the person who seeks to understand.  

Tomorrow, October 5th, is the National Depression Screening Day in the US,
and October 10th is World Mental Health Day… please show your support…

Stigma Fighters – Lisa Shambrook

My #InShadowSelfie for Invisible mental and physical illness Awareness © Lisa Shambrook

My #InShadowSelfie for Invisible mental and physical illness Awareness © Lisa Shambrook

It was a privilege to be invited to share my story about living with mental health issues with Stigma Fighters. It’s a fairly raw process with deep reflection, but also very cathartic…

It’s important to me to help fight the stigma of mental and emotional illness.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Which is why I regularly blog and write on sensitive subjects that have affected my life, and I am committed to bringing awareness to people to avoid and curtail stereotypes and misinformation.

Please read up on some important Emotional and Mental Health issues when you have some time.

And please follow Stigma Fighters on Facebook and Twitter.

#InShadowSelfie – Mental Health Awareness

Last week I discovered #InShadowSelfie thought up by Louise Gornall.
Go take a shadow selfie and help promote Mental Illness Awareness…

inshadowselfie-louise-gornall-mental-illness-awareness-the-last-krystallos-blog-post

It was about the same time the DWP updated their list of health issues that come without physical impairment intimating that sufferers of mental illness are quite able to work and should not be allowed benefits. Last week figures were also released from the government giving numbers of those who’d died within six weeks after being refused benefits. (These figures are subjective, but in my opinion still damning – you can see the reality here.) This is so serious though, that the UN (United Nations) are sending a team to investigate Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

This is important to me for many reasons as I know many people who suffer from mental health related illnesses. I have a history of severe anxiety, panic disorder, and clinical depression. In my early twenties I was signed off work due to these factors and the then little known ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis – better known as Post Viral Fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I left work and received Invalidity Benefit for a couple of years before John Major’s Tory government saw me fit to work. I suffered huge panic attacks amid years of debilitating depression, combined with self-harm and a variety of other symptoms, plus, I was raising my first child, but I was obviously fit to work as there were no physical symptoms. I vividly remember the government doctor telling me that I had no physical symptoms whilst my heart thumped and cramped so much I thought I was having a heart attack, and my legs became pure jelly. I could barely make it out of the examining room without collapsing. I was shattered, exhausted and lost, and spent the next few days at home a mess of tears, shivering loss and quite unable to think straight due to my antidepressants. Hubby worked part time and helped with my daughter as much as he could but I was a mess for those years.

That was back in the early nineties. Have things changed much for mental health awareness since then. Yes, and no. Public perception is marginally better, but government compassion? No.

© Emmie Mears

© Emmie Mears

So, when I saw my friend, Emmie, post on Instagram her #InShadowSelfie last week, I knew it was something I wanted to do too, particularly as I am right now in the middle of a bout of clinical depression.

I found Louise’s blog and checked out her posts about the hashtag, which you can find here and here.

© Louise Gornall

© Louise Gornall

Anyway, I wanted to let Louise explain her hashtag…and I want you to go and support it! Find your shadow, take a selfie and post it on your social media! You don’t have to suffer from mental health issues to take part and every picture posted will help to build awareness!      

Louise, what prompted your idea to raise awareness to invisible mental illness with the hashtag and what made it personal to you?

Hi Lisa. Thank you so much for helping me highlight this project. So, I read this article in Welfare Weekly. Beyond the money part, I was really upset by the list of mental health conditions the DWP say come without physical impairment… On what planet is this? At first I assumed they’d made a mistake because I’m a chick with a laundry list of mental health issues, four of which appear on this list, and most days I can’t get beyond my driveway without passing out. Alas, there’s no mistake. It would seem that because you can’t see bruising or bleeding, I’m not considered physically impaired by my petrified brain. I shudder to think how I’d survive without my family taking care of me. Some days, even the smallest task sends me into a spin.

© Louise Gornall

© Louise Gornall

What’s your biggest frustration with insensitive attitudes to mental health conditions?

I have two. Well, I have about fifty, but these are two I keep seeing a lot of lately. It irks me that people measure suffering. Or weigh suffering against suffering. Phrases like, “Get some perspective…” or “It could be worse…” I’m not a violent person, but this stuff sends me into a table-flipping rage. For starters, if it were that easy to get some perspective, I would have bought it by the bucket-load already. And secondly, I’m not about to tell anyone they don’t know real suffering while they’re shedding tears over a deceased family pet. I don’t assume to know that relationship, or how it worked, or what it meant. If the loss of a pet tears you in two, my only job, as a human being, is to be sympathetic. There are awful things going on in the world, but the strength of suffering will always be measured most by the person affected.

And one more, the idea that people use mental health as some sort of “get out of work free” card drives me up the effin wall. Sure, I can’t go out to work… but then, what about the rest of my life that’s also on hold? People are very ready and willing to shout about me using my disability to get out of a day’s graft, but they don’t mention that it’s also the thing stopping me from being a bridesmaid at my best friend’s wedding in Cyprus. Or that it’s the reason I had to give up my horse. They don’t mention that I haven’t seen a film at the cinema in almost two years, that I have no love life, can’t pop to the shop for a bar of chocolate, go out with my friends at the weekend, go and visit my granddad in the hospital before he died. I just wish people would look beyond the little they know about mental illness. I wish they’d worry as much about mental health as they do about money.

© Louise Gornall

© Louise Gornall

What do you hope the #InShadowSelfie will achieve as it grows?

I want people to talk. I want people to feel like they’re not alone. I don’t want suicide to be a person’s only option. I want this thing to grow so big people see it, ask why, and what it’s all about. I don’t want people to feel afraid or isolated. I want mental health to be seen as suffering. I want accusing a self-harmer of attention seeking to become a thing of the past. I want people to stop saying anorexia is all about vanity. I want people to stop telling folks that are being crippled by depression to buck up. I want to join the fight to stamp out stigma.

Thank you for explaining your hashtag to us, Louise, I truly hope it grows and people take it to their hearts.

mental illness visibility quote, lisa shambrook,

© Lisa Shambrook

In my opinion, the government need to think twice before condemning so many people and before telling them they have no physical symptoms and are therefore fit to work.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

Does an illness always need to be physical before it’s debilitating? No.  Mental illnesses can be both visible and invisible, and both are debilitating.

Common physical symptoms of mental illness:  heart palpitations, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, flushing, hyperventilation, shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, sweating, tingling and numbness, choking, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, muscle aches, restlessness, tremors/shaking. These can be both minor and major, but should never be dismissed. As always some people can work with these conditions, some cannot and should not, remember the extreme case of the pilot who brought down the Germanwings flight? Each case should be looked at individually, but with understanding, knowledge and most of all compassion.

So, please share your #InShadowSelfie and show your support and help awareness of mental illness. Let’s spread our shadows across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and show that we are not invisible!

Understanding Self-Harm: the Truths and Myths and How to Help

Self-harm is a behaviour that is becoming much more common in our society.
When a specific behaviour becomes more common it’s essential
to
understand it and be able to offer non-judgemental compassion to those who suffer.

understanding self harm, truths about self harm, myths about self harm, the last krystallos,

I’ve written about depression and about running away because they are subjects I live and know. I have self-harmed since I was fourteen-years-old and I expect to be fighting the urge for the rest of my life. It’s not a mental illness, but a behaviour. Sometimes we can deal with our mental illness issues, but support for our learned behaviour is much harder to come by and more difficult to stop.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

What is self-harm or self-injury?

Self-harm is when a person intentionally physically damages or hurts their body.

Why do people self-harm?

It’s easier to deal with physical pain than emotional pain – many of those who self-harm find a manifestation of physical pain can both ease and replace emotional pain that’s just too unbearable or too overwhelming. Sometimes depression or other mental illnesses can leave you emotionless or in a virtual black-hole, physical pain can bring you back from that void.

It’s a physical manifestation of your emotional pain – sometimes you need to show your pain, it needs to be visible.

Control issues – you have control over the pain you’re feeling, especially if that emotional pain or situation is overwhelming.

© Lisa Shambrook

© Lisa Shambrook

The reasons behind self-harming can be diverse from suffering abuse, to bullying, to PTSD, and is also related to many other conditions. A high percentage of sufferers already suffer from depression and/or anxiety.

There are many myths* surrounding self-harm which are damaging to sufferers and to the level of compassion or criticism they receive.

People who self-harm don’t do it to seek attention, or to be cool, or manipulative. In fact many people hide the fact that they hurt themselves. Many will wear long sleeves or clothes to cover their scars or injuries. They often blame ‘the cat’ or other circumstances for their injuries.

In general those who self-harm are not suicidal. It’s often a cry for help, but often a very private one, as seen by the ability to hide the behaviour.

Please don’t believe that the only self-harmers out there are teenage girls, Goths and Emos. It’s an offensive stereotype. People who self-harm come from every part of society and every age range and gender. I, myself, am forty-three and my background is one of being a shy child, a people-pleaser and anxious. It’s also not a phase that sufferers will grow out of. Help can be found and behaviours can be changed, but it’s not a phase.

It’s not true that cutting, many lines or tracks up and down arms, is the only or most common form of self-harm. It’s the most publicised form therefore a form that many new self-harmers take on. My own cutting is kept to one or two places, and consists of reopening old scars. Therefore my arms are not a mess of scars, just one or two that consistently reappear. Many cutters cut shoulders, thighs, stomachs and other locations, not only arms.

Some people believe self-harm only consists of cutting. It is a large variety of behaviours including: hair pulling, scratching, biting, burning, drug-taking, eating disorders, alcoholism, and risk taking behaviour, to name but a few!

understanding self harm, ask without judgement and with compassion, the last krystallos, lisa shambrook,

© Lisa Shambrook

So, how do you stop self-harming?

I have had periods when I’ve stopped for years, but the urge returned and though currently manageable, it’s always there. Some of the following have helped:

Some people wear rubber bands and snap them when the urge to hurt hits. Sometimes the sudden pain from a band can suppress the urge.

Take time out…breathe. There are plenty of breathing exercises for coping with anxiety out there and some can work for this too. Ride it out. The urge to cut usually lasts for a specific time, if you know your pattern, then try to ride it out. Resist for as long as you can. Breathe, let your emotions settle and see if you can resist the urge. Be with someone, you’re less likely to cut if you’re with someone who cares.

Distract yourself. I have a stim (something to distract me, usually associated as a behaviour which helps you cope with a given situation) I carry an acorn cup with me, I have several, and when the urge to panic, or cut, or run appears my first action is to hold and stroke the acorn cup. It’s a soothing action which offers my mind a distraction and the space to allow myself to calm down. Along with distraction you should remove yourself from the situation causing the urge.

Another thing is to identify your triggers. Know what causes your urge and see if you can find ways to deal with them.

Lastly, find another way to express your emotions/pain: write, shout, sing, run, or scribble violently on paper. Find something which can replace the urge to self-harm.

Finally, I want to say to those who self-harm, do not feel guilty. This is a behaviour and with help it can be overcome. There is no shame, no guilt and you are a worthwhile person. And to those who know someone who harms, talk to them – let them know that you’re someone they can talk to, someone they can share with. Often we are so scared people will judge, criticise or scorn that we hide things we need to talk about. The best way to stop harming is to be with someone who cares.

I carry no shame or guilt with my scars, they are part of me and I love them. Sometimes they are red and angry, other times they fade away to white, gossamer threads, but they will always be there and I will love them – as they are me.  

If you need help, please see your GP, or at least check out some of the
great sites online that can help: NHS ChoicesThe SiteNSPCCHelp Guide

* There are always going to be some exceptions to these rules. I know someone who got professional help for a condition and was asked why they weren’t self-harming along with their other symptoms. They went away and began cutting in the traditional form, because they felt they were expected to.

2. Beneath_the_Old_Oak_front_cover_finalSelf-harm is part of my book ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ and an unedited NaNoWriMo snippet can be read here. To read more of Meg and her mother’s struggles ‘Beneath the Old Oak’ is available on Amazon and Etsy.

“Turn those dreams of escape into hope…”
Meg thinks her mother is broken. Is she broken too? Meg’s life spirals out of control and she’s terrified she’ll inherit her mother’s sins. Seeking refuge and escape she finds solace beneath a huge, old oak, but a devastating storm will change her life forever.

The Tragedy of Demonising Depression

‘The truth is that people with depression are all around us – they are our teachers and solicitors; our plumbers and health professionals. Having depression does not necessarily make you unfit to work, but, based upon the headlines in many of today’s papers you could be forgiven for thinking that it does.’
(‘Don’t blame depression for the Germanwings tragedy’ – Masuma Rahim –
The Guardian 27th March 2015)

the tragedy of demonising depression, germanwings crash, air crash, depression,

I’ve been terribly disappointed with not only the headlines surrounding the tragedy that was the Germanwings air crash, but also the vitriol that poured across social media. It is indeed a huge and devastating loss, and my heart goes out to the families of those who died, but it is likely no one will ever know what was going on in Andreas Lubitz’s (the co-pilot) mind. It brings lots of questions into play and many areas that will need to be looked at within the airline industry, but the reports circulating blaming depression can only do more harm than good.

Please see Mind’s response to the media’s reaction.

I’ve heard people write on social media that anyone with depression should not be employed as a pilot, and that what he (the co-pilot) did was hateful.

rain on dark window, raindrops on black and white window, rain on window, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

These are points I’d like to confront:

Firstly, as the quote at the top of my post says, people with depression are all around us and employed in every kind of job there is. See this list of famous people who have suffered from Major Depressive Disorder, which includes such notables as Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, Charles Dickens, Buzz Aldrin and Isaac Newton, should these people who excelled in their work have been prevented the opportunity to work in these fields?

The world would be poorer if they had.

Mental illness is still not taken as seriously as it should, help is still far from being what it should, and I agree that people diagnosed with any mental illness should be monitored in sensitive employment, but no one* should be prevented from working in whatever field they choose.

* I will add a caveat, of course people with severe mental impairments may not be able to work, but it demonstrates that each person should be assessed on an individual basis. I don’t know the severity of whatever condition Andreas Lubitz had, or on any treatment, and therefore couldn’t comment on his suitability to his job, that would be the responsibility of the airline he worked for.

steps, escape, tunnel, shaft, escape shaft, steps in shaft, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

I would hate for my opportunities and abilities to be disregarded just because I suffer depression. I am a fully functioning member of society who suffers with depression, panic disorder and severe anxiety, but I am still fully able to be part of society without being side-lined.

Secondly, yes, what the co-pilot did was wrong, 100% wrong, but where do you begin applying blame and labelling ‘hateful’ especially if he was suffering from a mental illness?

I believe entirely that whatever he was suffering was more than depression, yet the headlines have begun to demonise depression yet again. Depression and all the conditions that go with it are different for each sufferer. People can relate to my symptoms but it may affect them differently. There is no textbook, overarching description that will apply to every case.

What happened that fateful day was dreadful, but for those who ache every day with depressive disorders it will be frighteningly relatable. Depression strips you of emotion; it plunges you into an abyss and leaves you there. At that point if help is not sought or given, you are at the mercy of the black dog. The condition moves from depression to something much more serious.

I have been stuck at the bottom of that pit, and my emotions blurred, my senses broken. I’ve been driving and found myself thinking about swerving into the lane of oncoming traffic. People seem to understand or accept that those in this condition may hurt themselves, but can’t imagine them taking anyone with them. Ever seen a news article on a parent who committed suicide and killed their children first? It happens. When your mind contemplates those extreme measures you are lost within the grip of psychosis, and all common sense is gone, all emotion is gone. I am incredibly lucky that I’ve won those battles, and that my arms and hands gripping the steering wheel did not give in and swerve.

owning our own story brene brown, brave, courageous, worth, self-worth, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

One day society will understand that those suffering mental illnesses such as depression, bi-polar, schizophrenia and more are effective members of our society. We may sometimes need medication and understanding, but we are valuable and able and regular people. You may even know some of us. After all, we are who we are, warts and all, and owning our own story. Sometimes we just need society’s help and not its discrimination.

Sometimes Stars Fall from the Sky – Depression

‘There, but for the grace of God, go I’

Rain_the_last_krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Several billion years after its life starts, a star will die. Some will fade into a black dwarf and others will explode in a supernova. I’m not a scientist, nor do I understand astrophysics, but stars die and fade across our infinite galaxies – all the time.

Orion_cut_of_Hubble_heic0206j

Orion – Hubble Telescope

Do we notice them go? We cannot even comprehend the size of our universe, let alone its number of stars, but imagine if Orion’s Rigel (Beta Orionis), one of the brightest stars in our night sky, forming the Hunter’s left knee, went out? Or Mintaka, one of stars forming his belt disappeared – it would be headline news.

For each star that fades, light is lost. On August 4th we remembered those who’d lost their lives in World War One. Many flames extinguished amid sacrifice. And yesterday we remembered a single star Robin Williams, who lost his battle with life itself.

The worst thing in life, alone... Robin WilliamsFor each star that falls, we mourn.

More often than not, we don’t control the way we go, but sometimes, our life is in our own hands and this is when death touches me more.

I do not fear death. I’m comfortable with my beliefs and fear not walking into that valley, and it’s a route I’ve considered, holding my precious life within my own hands.

Yesterday felt personal to me, and a quote, from an amazing blog post I read, resonated: ‘…here’s the thing about his death that is hurting so many people right now: when someone who publicly advocates for a disease that you’re intimately familiar with decides the pain is too much to bear – even with every resource available to him – what hope is there for the rest of us who battle this disease on a daily basis?’

Where is hope? According to official statistics, there were 5,981 suicides in the UK in 2012.

Eyes Bekah Shambrook

© Bekah Shambrook

Depression affects a fifth of all adults in the UK. Look around you, that’s 1 in 5 and we hide it well.

We have the highest rate of self-harm in Europe.

Mixed anxiety and depression is the most common mental health disorder in Britain, and 1 in 4 people will suffer some kind of mental health problem within a year.

Several times yesterday, I saw the word choice being used. Yes, for most of us there is a choice, but the black dog and society sometimes remove choice and the black hole of depression offers no alternative. 

When I hit my true lows, when I’m sitting at the bottom of the pit with my head in my hands and my eyes closed – I cannot see those around me, I cannot lift an arm or ask to be pulled up. I cannot see further than the gloom and fog that surround me and sometimes the nothing removes my choice. Depression can be a killer.

Isaiah 41.10

Isaiah 41:10

I am lucky, whether it be my faith, or my family, or my friends – someone is there to embrace me and lift me out even when I refuse to move.

So, why, when mental health issues are so prevalent, are we still so unwilling to talk about them? Why are treatments so difficult to find? And why are so many suffering in silence?

She was drowning but nobody saw her struggleI’ve self-harmed since I was 14. Had 6 months of anti-depressants at 18 and was offered pointless group therapy. I had a nervous breakdown at 32, 6 more months of anti-depressants and 9 months of private counselling which successfully resolved one major issue. I rejoiced, believing my depression overcome. I soon discovered that depression is not something you get over, it’s something you get through, until the next time.

During the next decade, depression and anxiety raised their ugly head time and time again. Anti-depressants are the first thing offered by doctors already struggling for resources. My experiences with anti-depressants are not fun. My family prefer me present though anxious and depressed, than an empty, emotionless zombie. I choose not to take anti-depressants for a variety of reasons: I don’t want to sleep my life away, I need my creativity, and I want to be me! Anti-depressants and meds have their place, and they have worked, short-term, for me.

Trying to keep your head above the waves...Tyler Knott GregsonLast year I was offered ‘Stress Management’ to help conquer my crippling anxiety. I took the 6 week course, hoping to talk about and share experiences and find answers. While I won’t criticise the course, which was presented very well, it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t find personal answers or help during a weekly 2 hour slide show of things I already knew.  If I want to talk or get personal help on the NHS several years will pass before help is offered. Most depressives won’t put themselves on that list, because they believe there are people more worthy, more desperate and in more need than they, which will be true until they become one of the statistics. Help isn’t offered until you do something desperate.

Anxiety_the_last_krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook/Bekah Shambrook

So my family continue to live with a woman who is flawed, cannot answer the telephone, suffers huge bouts of insecurity and paranoia (even after almost twenty-three years of wonderful marriage to my sweetheart, I still ask “Are you sure you’re happy you married me? Wouldn’t you be better off without me?”). A mother who disappears or runs away when things get too much, who has scars that reappear, who panics, and who slips into interminable black holes.

But you know what made me cry and gives me hope? My youngest listened to a friend who suffers all these things too, and said to her “It’s okay, if you ever need someone I’m here, because someone I love is like you and I know how to deal with it.”  I’m crying because Robin Williams had people like that and still couldn’t win.

Society needs to understand that depression is a hidden illness, and that it’s generally not something you get over.

It’s a lifelong condition.

Someone once said to me “…but you’re okay now, you’ve got over that depression thing…”

You never get over this depression thing – when people understand that, it will be easier for us all to get through, not over, it.

The best way out is through - Robert Frost
Offer support and understanding…and don’t let the stars in your life fall.