Depression is a ruthless disease, which if allowed to, can have far-reaching and lasting consequences for any of us. From a personal ten year battle against the disease, I can attest to it being able to remove the ability to go to work, massively strain relationships with loved ones, and on two occasions make me believe that taking my own life was a better option than continuing to fight. The last decade has been a learning experience and an education on how to try and cope with depression, and lead to staying permanently healthy. Below are 5 points that have truly helped in this struggle, and can hopefully resonate with others in similar situations.
Talk. There is absolutely no shame in being unwell. Nobody with a broken arm would hide it away, so why should this continue to be the case simply because the illness affects your mind instead. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ is a cliché that persists because of the truth it holds. We can lessen the stigma still surrounding mental health by talking about it. Openness allows us to identify and recognise illness in ourselves and those around us, and to get help if ourselves or somebody else needs it.
Develop your personal support network. Mental illnesses such as Depression and Anxiety are not situations it is always possible to overcome by ourselves. By talking to friends and family about illness, including how to recognise oncoming episodes, what changes in behaviour warrant concern, and the ways in which to cope with and treat illness, we give them the opportunity to help. The Catch 22 of mental illness is that the times you need to be pro-active in addressing what’s wrong are the times that we can feel least able to do so by ourselves. So let those you love help. Try to ask for help when well, so you can accept that help when unwell.
Recognise your triggers. If certain life events or situations have led to or contributed to previous episodes of mental illness, it’s vital to be vigilant about health when these things happen again. For some this may be an increase in stress related to home or work life, excess alcohol or drug use, or simply down to the time of year and changes in seasons. Whatever your triggers for feeling unwell are, acknowledging them and getting help when they occur is vital. Talk to those around you about what can set off an episode too, so the are aware that you may need help at these points in life.
Prevention is better than cure. If you or somebody else recognises a change in your mental well-being, get the help you need, and get that help as soon as possible. There is a huge correlation between how early an episode of Depression or General Anxiety Order is treated, and how positive the outcome is. Whatever method of treatment you choose, it’s important to access that care early. It gives you the best possible chance of a positive outcome.
Love Yourself. The silver lining to mental health problems is that they can truly make you appreciate how fantastic life can be with positive mental health. The ability to experience the things you love with the people you love is too important to lose due to poor mental health. Try to make sure it’s a battle you win.