The early stages of a depressive episode might be likened to a heightened sensual experience of imminent danger, whereby I feel like I’m falling rapidly into a pit full of dirt. 

At this time I’m particularly sensitive to others’ words or opinions of me, but more so I feel lost in my internal world. For me, it’s as if everything else in life is moving and going forward, but I’m temporarily stuck in quicksand. It can be challenging in a number of ways because it’s easy to forget that “I am not alone, and am not the only person in the world going through something similar at this time”. 

Though depression can lead me to a very dark place at times, I always manage to come out the other side—no matter what. 

Being diagnosed at 18 years of age with major depression was unnerving for me. I had to learn to see depression NOT as a personal flaw I possessed, rather a medical condition similar to many others out there. No one chooses to have depression, therefore my motto in life is: “If I’ve got it, I may as well work with it instead of against it—otherwise I am allowing it to dictate my quality of life”. I tell myself that ”tomorrow is a new day,” and that the only way is ”up” regularly, in order to motivate my intent to never succumb to the disorder.

I’ve learned to simply give my depression the time it needs to be voiced and heard. One of the hardest messages to remind myself of at these times is that every episode has a BEGINNING and an END point. This truth, when realised, largely contributes to a sense of hope that even if it feels like there is no way out, it won’t last forever. Theoretically, life isn’t like that, and knowing this assures me that my pain or hardship, like all things, will pass. I’ve found that it takes practice to remind oneself of this, but this simple fact makes all the difference, making depression more manageable, bearable, and more kind to my soul. It helps to lessen my anxiety and helps me to look forward.  Anything that can assist in helping me look forward at these times is welcomed graciously. 

Some strategies that I use to cope in times of hardship often entail things such as having a warm shower, reaching out by texting a friend or reminding myself the importance of simply stopping and breathing.  Often the most useful strategies is to text someone who is familiar with parts of my story, because at these times I tend to feel particularly lonely and isolated from the outside world. The very act of texting someone can rapidly alleviate the immediate feelings of lonesomeness or segregation. A reply normally strengthens my confidence that people care and want to support me through the downfall, where possible.

Finally, I make sure I tell my support team what’s going on for me. My episodes of depression can last anywhere from a few days to weeks, or even months, at any given time. When I say support team I refer to my general practitioner and my counsellor, as well as a family member who I’m particularly close to. For me, trust is everything. I am careful with whom I share my information, as not everyone understands the ins and outs of mental illness. 

It’s important that we disclose our situation to those who we are certain will keep our information safe and confidential. I much prefer people who consider hearing my story a privilege and who honour being witness to parts of my journey. Yes, life is a journey and that’s an undisputed fact. To live a full life requires upheavals and challenge, which often requires us to grow and extend ourselves beyond our comfort levels. 

Although I find living with depression demanding at times, I wouldn’t change it because I have learnt to feel loads of compassion for others, as well as the ability to appreciate my strength to combat this illness wherever it takes me. In a nutshell—I am a better person for having this life experience. 

Sarah Brain