Stories, skills, and positivity- to anxiety sufferers from anxiety sufferers.
People ask me all the time what it’s like to have depression. In fact, people have lots of questions about it. What does it feel like? Why can’t I just push out the bad thoughts and think happy ones? Why don’t my happy pills always work? How long am I going to be like this for? When did I become depressed? When will I get better? The thing with depression is that it is full of unknowns. That’s part of what makes it so hard. I can’t answer a lot of those questions, but the best way I can describe depression is that it’s like a roller coaster.
A roller coaster that doesn’t end and isn’t very fun. Depression is full of ups and downs, some days you’re going up and you feel fine, but you have that constant fear that a down could come at any moment. Other days you’re going down so fast you don’t even realize what is happening. I think that’s the part that everyone forgets, myself included: there are always downs, even when I’m smiling and having a good time, there are still downs. Some days are harder than others, and some days I’m isolated and can’t leave my bed. I’m not myself – I’m foggy and can’t focus or do anything. The scariest part for me is when I’ve just begun to go down the roller coaster, and I don’t know how much worse it’s going to get or how long it is going to last. All I can do is hope for the best and wait it out. My sister once asked me what if felt like, and the closest I could come to describing it was saying that when I opened my eyes, the world was darker than it was with my eyes closed.
Recovery is tough, and is an ongoing process. After spending some time in a psych ward, I went
through intense therapy and was put on medication to help me out. There’s no perfect formula
for recovering, as I attempted to take my life three times despite being on medication and in
therapy. I had to learn to love myself again, and feel like I was worthy enough of love. It was a
tough thing to do, but it was definitely worth it. As a result of my struggles, I chose to spend a
lot of my energy on helping people avoid being in the same situation that I was in. I became
involved in a number of different mental health initiatives and am currently working for an
organization dedicated to stigma reduction and youth mental health. I wouldn’t be where I am
today without my diagnosis.
Depression is really scary, but it’s also made me who I am today. I’m stronger, more resilient,
more compassionate, and more driven to make my life the best it can possibly be. After going
through the worst of my depression – the part where I didn’t want to live anymore and had
absolutely no hope for the future – I knew that I had been given some sort of second chance at
a good life. I tell my story now not because I want attention or pity, but because I know so
many people can’t tell their story. I know that lonely feeling, and that fear of being judged or
abandoned because you have “issues”. But the thing is, we are all affected by mental health.
We all have good days and bad days – some of us just have it on a different level. And that’s OK.
It’s not my fault that I have this illness, but what I choose to do with my diagnosis is up to me. I
started a blog in early 2014 called “Surviving by Living”, and even though I don’t update it that
regularly, it’s still important that it exists to shed light on the realities of mental illness. There’s
no shame in having anxiety, or depression, or any other mental illness. There’s no shame in
being open and talking about it. Most importantly, there’s no shame in admitting we all
stumble and fall sometimes, but it’s okay to not be okay.
Katie McLean holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and bases her anxiety aid in personal experience, as well as techniques that have been passed on to her by counsellors, friends, and fellow anxiety sufferers.