Having depression doesn’t have to become part of your identity

Depression should not determine how we live our lives

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Prejudices towards mental health issues have started to break down in recent years, but some of us question whether it is enough. There is no denying its existence. 4-10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime. One in fifteen will make a suicide attempt at some point in their life. 27% of students’ report having a mental health problem. So why should this matter to you?

My name is Sarah. I am nineteen. I am bisexual. I have manic depression. My favourite colour is blue. I have no dietary requirements, although I don’t like mushrooms… It all seems simple enough.

I have bounced from psychiatrist to psychiatrist, pills, to counselling, counselling back to pills yada yada yada. For years, I have let myself get entangled with searching for a cure-all treatment. Talking helped: the drugs did not. For many people, taking medication is the answer and can vastly improve their symptoms and quality of life. For me, not so much. Not to mention the unbearable side effects which may include nausea and stomach pain.

A huge number of celebrities have also battled with mental illness: Demi Lovato, Cara Delevingne, Amanda Seyfried, James Arthur, Emma Stone and Adam Levine. Some seek to destigmatize mental illness by sharing their own stories.

Should mental health define me?

At the end of the day, I am the person who has tried sertraline, diazepam, sleeping pills for insomnia and a variety of other drugs.

I am the product of everything that has happened in my life. I accept that life isn’t easy. I recognise that every dark day is a stepping stone to a brighter one. I am the suicidal thoughts and my unbridled joy. I am the ultimate contradiction of feeling too much and nothing at all.

Why should I be any different? Does the fact that some days I can’t get out of bed define me? Should it define me?

I am glad that I have endured struggles with mental illness otherwise I wouldn’t be who I am right now. Cliché intended.

Although my dark days are receding slightly, the big black dog still sits in the corner of the room. Sometimes he bites, and sometimes he sits quietly in my lap.

So this is me and my twin

Titles like “manic depression”, “bipolar”, “PTSD”, “personality disorder” – are all just words, they do not define you as a person. Everyone has a quirk: a peculiarity in their psyche. The bad days can be shit, but the good ones are brilliant.

What I have realised, is that I am not a depressed person. I am just a person who happens to be depressed. In casual conversation, I am a student, I study History and English, I am a lover of cheese and I’m not too keen on beer. But I know I am not depressed or low or “crazy”.

Being depressed is not a handicap. Depression is not a flaw. I will never be defined as broken. Because quite frankly I am not. But to pretend that I have never struggled with my mental health would be ignoring a huge part of my life and a huge part of what makes up who I am.

Mental health affects every single person. By sharing our stories we can gradually build awareness for mental health. We need to be there for our friends who are hurting and haven’t sought help, we need them to know they are not alone, and we all need to understand that perfect does not exist.

So here I am, warts and all. I survived.

NHS choices: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Suicide/Pages/Getting-help.aspx

SAMARITANS: http://www.samaritans.org/ or phone 116 123

CHILDLINE: https://www.childline.org.uk/ or phone 0800 1111