An open letter to anyone fighting depression or suicidal thoughts.

If you are reading this, the chances are that your life has been affected by depression and suicide and those are two things close to my heart. If you are fighting depression and suicidal thoughts, you probably feel alone right now. If you’re anything like me, you probably feel scared, everything probably seems confusing and it probably seems like there is no hope of recovery. Maybe you feel lost, as if you don’t know who you are or where you fit in the world. There’s probably a part of you that feels angry at the illness and maybe even at yourself. Those same thoughts run through my head every time the bastard illness attacks.

Nobody can really understand the series of events that has led to you feeling the way you do, but for whatever reason, right now you are struggling. The thought of living each day is too hard, the idea of waking up tomorrow and going through it all again seems unbearable. There have been times where there seemed to be no escape, where suicide seemed the only option left, but we’re both still here. We’re still alive, we’re still fighting, and we’re still trying to make things better. Many people haven’t had the strength that you have shown just to still be here, but you have. It feels too much sometimes, and sometimes it feels like we can’t keep going, but we have, despite the darkness invading our minds.

Listen to me: You’ve made it to today. You are allowed to feel proud of that.

Most fear is based on not knowing what is to come. There’s no sugar-coating what you may go through. It will be hard at times, damn hard. Sometimes you will feel like you just want to give up. On some days, you may feel unable to get out of bed. Maybe you’ll feel like it is all too much, and that you can’t cope with the illness. Here’s the truth: no-one knows how to get better. The illness affects everyone differently; it’s so personal that there are no real answers. For some people, depression occurs as a result of external factors: grief, stress, the end of a relationship, the loss of a job … those with this type of depression may only experience it once or twice. For others, it can be a case of managing the illness for the rest of their life. Medication can help with that, but whether you take it is a decision only you can make. The right medication can negate the illness. The wrong medication can be damaging and make things worse. Taking medication is a decision that requires considered thought, and you should seek the advice of medical professionals before making that decision. Always remember, it’s your choice.

When suicidal thoughts enter my head, they bring with them immense feelings of guilt and shame. You might look around at other people, other situations from across the world, and you might think “what have I got to feel bad about? All these other people have it so much worse than me, yet they can cope, they can be happy”. That’s what it was like for me, and that’s where the guilt and shame came from.

You have to stop comparing yourself with how you think other people are. It’s hard when everyone seems happy, but you never know what people feel like in private. Comparing yourself to others is the worst thing you can do. Your situation is unique to you. It is NOT your fault that you haven’t developed the ability to cope with particular situations. It is NOT your fault that you feel the way you feel. This whole situation is NOT your fault. You are poorly, that’s all, and with support you will get well again, I promise.

Be aware that even when you start to get better you will have bad days, and from time to time you will have dark thoughts, maybe even thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Having a thought is different to acting upon it. Acknowledge them for what they are — thoughts — and then let them go. Thinking about something doesn’t mean you have to do it. In time, these thoughts will fade and they will become easier to manage. All you have to do is get through the next minute. Once you do, just get through the next minute after that. Just focus on surviving that next minute.

Just keep breathing.

Depression left me feeling weak, both physically and mentally. It made me feel like a failure, but the truth is that nothing could be further from the truth. To have these thoughts, to be fighting against yourself and the urges depression makes you feel, to make it through the day whilst dealing with this illness, it’s the strongest thing anybody can do, and you should be damn proud that you are here. You have strength and bravery beyond what you realise, and you demonstrate that every day, just by getting through to tomorrow.

It is time to make it easier on yourself. Get help. Talk to someone. Whether you talk to a doctor, a family member, a friend or even an anonymous stranger on the internet, stop trying to do this alone. You have been strong enough for long enough. It is time to allow someone else to share the strain and help you through. The support is there, but you have to let people know that you need it. My life has shown me that there are people that do care, but you have to give them a chance to. You have to let them in. We may feel lonely, but we are never alone.

You can get better. You will get better.

If you had the flu, you’d go to the doctors. Please remember that depression is another illness, albeit a much scarier one. That may seem obvious, but to many people it isn’t. Depression isn’t a mood; you aren’t going to “snap out of it”. It could take a long time to get better. You will have bad days. You may start to get better, and then regress. But you can overcome this. You will overcome this. One day, you will look back on this time and realise just how amazing you are right now, for continuing to fight, for continuing to try, for continuing to breathe. Because that is all you have to do.

Just keep breathing.

If there’s one thing you need to know, it’s that you are not alone. You are never alone. You may think you are, but it’s the illness telling you that, and it is lying to you. The truth is there are millions of us, all suffering variants of the same illness. The nature of that illness makes it harder to talk about it, but when we do, we strike the first blow to the demon of depression. It’s understandable why you feel you can’t talk to people. There’s still a stigma around depression and suicide that makes you scared of being judged, of friends, family and work colleagues treating you differently, of people never seeing past the illness. It’s understandable, but that stigma is being broken down further every day.

​There are so many people who will talk to you, but you have to let them know what you are going through. You can’t try and deal with it alone, because sometimes it can be just too hard. You have to get help. Whether that’s from a doctor, from a therapist or from mental health support networks, that’s up to you, but get some support. Stop allowing the illness make you feel ashamed, or embarrassed. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You’re not a freak, or a drama queen, or a weirdo, or a lunatic, or a psychopath, or any of the other bullshit terms that ignorant people use. You’re just poorly, that’s all.

Please talk to someone. You deserve to get better. You deserve to be happy, and one day you will be. Take that first step towards happiness, and get support from somewhere. So many people are desperate to help you. Let them.

I believe you can get through this. I believe you will get through this. I believe in you.