Mental health is often a taboo topic, something to ignore and be ashamed of, something that makes you ‘crazy’ and something that some people define as a myth. New medical reports are telling us the rise in depression amongst millennials is due, for the most part, to the impact that social media has on our daily life. Everyone is constantly trying to find a reason to explain why we feel sad, confused and depressed and why we struggle so much. But what no one ever talks about is just how difficult it is to suffer from a mental health disorder and how much it impacts not only our life, but the lives of the people around us.
I am 24 years old and I have been suffering from anxiety ever since I can remember. For me, there wasn’t much else to do but to learn how to manage it. Throughout my years of adapting, I never once considered what it feels like to suffer from something that is not anxiety and that, although considered just as bad, is not the same.
I met my partner almost four years ago and, for the first seven months of our relationship, I had no idea he was suffering from depression. I feel there often is a common misconception when it comes to the topic of depression and people try to simply describe it as not being happy or being able to leave the house. What I learnt, instead, is that depression manifests itself in many different ways and is not often easily recognisable.
For us, the worst part were the mood swings, and everything they caused. From fights to days filled with silence and tears, it was always impossible to predict what caused them and what would take for them to come back. For a long time I lived in fear of saying or doing something that would inevitably upset him, and that made me powerless in ways in which I had never experienced before.
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I saw my boyfriend deteriorating and slowly slipping away, his brain too busy shaping awful thoughts that would then linger for days. I witnessed his pain but couldn’t fully understand it and tried to comfort him in vain. I could see the guilt in his eyes for feeling sad and his anger as a result of it. Throughout all that, not once I felt useful. Depression is, in many ways, a combination of contrasting feelings, most of which are unexplained.
Whether I wanted it or not, his illness affected my life as well as his own and it scarred and shaped our relationship in ways I didn’t think possible. The exhausting feeling of constantly trying to make someone eat, sleep and get dressed is something that doesn’t go away, ever, even when everything seems to be okay. Before long, I had gone from being a partner to a carer where the only form of communication was, for the most part, through arguments. We grew apart so much that he was no longer the person I first met, but his sporadic positive moods often made me think things would go back to the way they once were.
Truth is, depression does not fade away and it only gets better before it gets bad again. We are all so accepting of parts of our bodies breaking or aching, but rarely care about our minds. No matter how much I tried to help my partner, if he hadn’t sought professional help, he would have never started to feel himself again and we would have never made it. Depression, like many other mental illnesses, can hide behind a smile or a good day, but we should all focus on paying more attention to our minds and checking on the people we love – no one truly knows what goes on behind closed doors.
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Useful s for mental-health support
NHS IMPROVING ACCESS TO PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPIES: Find your local IAPT practice at nhs.uk, under 'services near you’.
CBT: Speak to your GP to set up free sessions (most GP surgeries employ their own CBT therapists on site), head to mind.org.uk for practitioner links (both private and NHS), or call them on 0845 766 0163 for immediate advice.
OCD ACTION: Offers a range of support options, from instant conversations (0845 390 6232) to local groups, a chat forum and charity initiatives. ocdaction.org.uk
PRIVATE THERAPY: Dr Sarah Davies offers therapy to adults suffering from stress, anxiety and depression in London’s Harley Street, as well as on Skype. drsarahdavies.com