This isn't something I like to talk about. But yesterday I read that Ruby Wax has suggested that people shouldn't talk about their mental health at work for fear of discrimination, and I decided that it's something I should talk about. Pretending you're just having an off day, or calling in sick with the stomach flu when your stomach's not the problem, should be things of the past. And besides, I'm putting on a play about this, and to keep tweeting and Facebooking about raising awareness without talking about my own experiences is beginning to feel a bit disingenuous. So I've decided, I'm coming out as a person with depression.
I even hate typing it. For reasons I'm still not entirely sure of, I will go to any lengths (unless I'm fairly drunk) not to mention the 'D' word. It's perhaps something to do with not wanting to be defined by it, perhaps a fear of being treated differently once people know. I've just about got to the point now where I can tell my closest friends that I've been out of the loop because I'm feeling sad. As a chronically untidy person, my flat is often littered with packets of Citalopram – a couple of times friends have spotted them and said 'Citalopram? Me too.' Generally I tend to avoid prolonging those conversations. But there are loads of us. And, with a few exceptions, we just don't talk about it.
For one thing, I'm not quite sure where to start – hence the fact that I've spent two paragraphs waffling about not a lot. Should I tell you my story? I'm not sure I even have one, or at least not a concise or conclusive one. How about a list of memories? In no particular order, it goes like this:
I remember one summer holiday at the age of eight or nine, when my head felt full of fluff and I couldn't get out of my chair to do anything. I told my mum I had a 'funny feeling' and she took me to the doctor. He did a blood test and said I was fine.
I remember being a teenager, wondering what was wrong with me, but thinking that it couldn't possibly be depression, because people with depression couldn't get out of bed or out of the house, and I was still managing to drag myself to school.
I remember walking out of a class during my last year of school, because the prospect of staying and carrying on as normal felt unbearable even though it was a class I usually loved.
I remember crying at every one of my friends' eighteenth birthday parties, because I hadn't realised yet that alcohol was a depressant and that it would do worse things than get me drunk. I still often get a mental, rather than a physical, hangover.
I remember going into work with bruises on my arms and letting my colleagues think they were the result of a kinky sex life, because that was less mortifying than admitting they were self-inflicted.
I remember a mental health nurse telling me not to take too much St John's Wort because it might make me 'too happy'.
I remember being upset and angry in my room at uni, and then going into the kitchen to have my flatmate say she was scared of me and that she thought I might hurt her.
I remember sitting for hours in silence with a counsellor, because someone told me it might help to talk. I really, really hate talking.
I remember finding out that a friend had started taking anti depressants around the same time as me. We washed them down with pints of cider and bonded over it at Glastonbury Festival.
I remember not taking medication for a week, and writing my first short play. I started taking it again, and it hasn't stopped me writing half a dozen more.
I remember telling my boyfriend when I was drunk that I sometimes get depressed, and that it might stop him liking me. Three years later, he still seems to like me.
I remember waking up one day without any weight at the back of my mind, and feeling as if I'd discovered how it felt to be normal, for a whole day. It must be ten years ago, but it still sticks in my memory because I don't think I've had another day like it.
This is just a handful of my experiences as I remember them today, but of course everyone's relationship with depression is different, so if any of my friends – or any not yet friends for that matter – would like to share their own experiences and memories on this blog, I'd love for you to carry on the conversation. Just send me a message on Facebook or through the form on this website, or email firstname.lastname@example.org – and let me know if you'd rather remain anonymous. Thanks for reading.