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Living with depression

One of our Parent Champions writes about her individual experience of living with depression.

I can remember years ago when a friend told me that she was on anti-depressants. Did I have empathy with her? Did I try and ease her suffering? No. I judged her. 

I thought, at the time, that anti-depressants were for the weak. I pictured her rocking back and forth in the foetal position, tears streaming down her face and rain lashing against her window. I also thought about people on the news – people on medication that were unpredictable, volatile and even dangerous. 

How very wrong, misinformed, ignorant and foolish I was back then.

People from all walks of life suffer as a consequence of their environment, upbringing, maybe even their genes. Sometimes people can just feel numb. They can lack purpose and belief. 

So how did I change my mind about this? As well as growing up, I was prescribed anti-depressants myself...

All my life I had tried to put on a brave face. I was known as the bubbly one, always smiling and happy. It was a disguise. Despite things that had happened to me, I wanted to be perfect. I thought that this facade would make me happy inside as well as on the outside, but I have since learned that simply cannot be true. 

I lacked love as a child. I thought that, if I was diagnosed as depressed, then it would mean that I wasn’t capable of loving my own children when I had them. I would be judged as being a bad mother. At work, I would be regarded as the ‘sick’ one; unreliable, not of sound mind and unstable. I wish that I had been educated back then, the way I am educated now. 

Things finally came to a head when I spoke to my husband about how I felt. Everyone thought that I had such a perfect life. Amazing, beautiful, bright children, a wonderful husband who dotes on his family and a beautiful home. This didn’t stop me feeling like my life was pointless. I felt that humanity was vile and I felt the pain of all the suffering in the world. Sleep would be difficult and I would have days of complete numbness when I felt like everything was surreal. 

The turning point was when my husband said that, just like some people need insulin, blood, hormones or vitamins, I lacked cortisol in my brain and I needed more. Simple. So I went off to the doctor and explained how I felt. 

I was prescribed anti-depressants and I can honestly say that my life has changed for the better. Whilst I appreciate that this can only be one step in the road of recovery (counselling being another), but for me personally, I feel alive again. I realise what people meant by needing to love yourself. I appreciate the beautiful nature around me and I no longer question my existence on this planet. 

I spoke to another friend recently and told him that I was on anti-depressants. I hope he wasn’t as ignorant as I was all those years ago. Everyone has mental health and sometimes we need a little (or even a lot of) help. The first step is recognising that you have an issue and then wanting to do something about it.

For anyone worried about the impact on their work, any employer is not allowed to ask about your mental health until you have an actual job offer. Most employers these days are now, like me, educated about mental health. They understand it goes up and down each day in all of us, just like our physical health.

Living with depression is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, I’ll now be the first to stand up in a crowded room and tell them I have mental health problems. In the words of Emeli Sandé:

“You've got a heart as loud as lightning
So why let your voice be tamed?
Maybe we're a little different
There's no need to be ashamed
You've got the light to fight the shadows
So stop hiding it away
Come on, come on.”