Wednesday 17 December 2014

Be aWare of the Black Dog

Depression is a nasty, energy-sucking thing.

We have increased awareness of it and other mental health illnesses and issues, but there's still a fair bit of stigma attached to it.

My mother was diagnosed with depression years ago, possibly before I was born, so my entire life has been based around her mindset as well as witnessing her taking antidepressants as well as other medicines prescribed by her psychiatrist or whoever.

I self-diagnosed when I was going through high school, just because I felt low moods a fair bit more than I noticed others did and would come home from school and sleep until dinner time and repeat the same pattern most nights.

With my mother being mentally ill, my father did the best he could even if to me it seemed that was nothing and it continually frustrated me because I didn't understand what it was like to be him.

I sought help through Kids Help Line, an Australian organisation which provides free counselling for people up to age 25. I started talking to them when I was about 12 or 13 and continued until just recently after I turned 25.

I'm sure everyone knows what it's like to hold your breath. Carrying a weight on your chest is a similar feeling. You want to let it out but don't know how to or who to ask for help. There's a common idea that once you reach adulthood you're meant to have everything figured out and no longer need help or you're just able to deal with life's pitfalls as they come because that's what grown ups do.

This doesn't take into account people's circumstances or upbringings.

An example that comes to mind is with the Michael Jackson molestation case and how some guy came forward and said that he too was a victim and he only realized that he was when his son was born and knew that the way he'd been treated wasn't okay.

When we're young we're told many many things, we tend to believe what we're told and the people who tell us because we don't know any better and the people who tell us insist they are correct, or they get mad when we question why they think/say they're right so we continue believing it.

I was talking to my dad yesterday about him starting his own blog since he seems to have a ridiculous amount of things to say, but his response was "no one listens to me anyway". I was also talking to him on the weekend about getting diagnosed and treated for depression to which he responded "because then I'd have to deal with it".

I can understand his second point. Having been co-raised by him I was always indirectly taught not to deal with stuff that's too hard to deal with, just avoid it and then avoid it some more. I did this until my late teens when I got to a point where that elephant in the room was just too big and heavy to ignore anymore. Seeking professional help has been the BEST thing I've ever done and most definitely something I needed to do. Yes it's been hard, tiring, emotional and all the above, but it has brought me to where I am now and I couldn't be more grateful or a bigger advocate for it!

We do have periods of awareness in Australia, such as R U OK? Day, Mental Health Month and a few others. I think the biggest thing to focus on is actually listening when someone responds with "no, I'm really not".

For the people who feel completely lost, you are not alone despite how you might feel it. I strongly urge people who do feel down to seek out help and start talking to someone, whether it be a trusted friend, a counselling service, or even a diary like I did at the very start.

Asking for help is NEVER a bad thing. Despite what 'they' say, you aren't expected to have it all figured out at any age.

One last anecdote. There's a story somewhere on the internet where a teacher who I believe is a psychologist holds up a glass of water to the class they're teaching and asks how heavy it is. A few people take random guesses at it's physical weight to which the teacher responds "it depends how long you carry it for". The point = the longer you carry or hold onto something, the heavier it gets.

As a final note. For people in Sydney, Australia, Aponia Magazine is having their launch party tonight from 5.30-9.30pm in Chippendale to raise funds for The Black Dog Institute. Tickets are $15 and available here.

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