#ITSOKTOTALK So let’s talk…
Last week I posted a selfie on Facebook with the hashtag #ITSOKTOTALK. Now, normally, despite being a massive fan of hashtags (come on, you know they’re fun), I’m not a fan of “clicktivism”. You know what I mean, that “oh quick lets all look at this video and somehow that’ll stop an African warlord murdering children”. Or “OMG Jennifer Lawrence posted a picture of herself without make-up #feminism”. It’s the sort of self-righteous, middle class activism-come-apathy that sees a lot of really important shit get raised in the social media sphere with no real outcome or true social change.
This time, the hashtag hit close to home for me and so in an effort to not just hashtag, but to try and do something that vaguely resembles the mantra of the movement (come on, I’m busy too) I’ve written this short blog post. Why? Because when it comes to mental health, not only is it ok to talk, it’s absolutely essential.
So here goes…
About 18 months ago I was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder and I basically spent the next year struggling with accepting that and trying to recover from it. I don’t think the way depression affected me was something new when I was diagnosed. It was just something I had always experienced and had gotten used to. They were periods in my life that I thought were normal and assumed were something that was ubiquitously experienced by friends, family and colleagues.
It took me a little while to click that something wasn’t right. When I was down, I was fucking down. I would obsess about things, doubt every action and thought, second guess every decision and ultimately find a way to justify to myself that I was making a mess of it all, then invariably, do just that. I had points where it was impossible to get out of bed, cook, shower or do anything that remotely resembled the activities of a functional adult. I pushed away those I loved and cared about, and those that cared about and loved me. I acted like someone I never thought I would, should or even could become.
At the time a few people noticed and I was encouraged to seek help but I really struggled to figure out who that meant and what words to use to explain it. To me it felt like complaining. I was lucky. I’m healthy, have a good professional life and amazing friends and family. Yeah I had some pretty awful shit in my childhood but that was ages ago, I mean, I’m an adult now right? What justification do I have to complain? It just didn’t feel right to “need” help and it was tough to admit that something was actually wrong.
At the time it felt like being depressed defined a big component of who I was. I found it hard to draw the line between “normal Liam” and “fuck-I-can’t-stand-living-with-this-asshole Liam”. It was right there, up in my grill, 24/7. The self-doubt and deprecation was debilitating. I always thought that people who committed suicide were just too weak to deal with life. I can sincerely say there were numerous times where I thought ending it would be far more satisfying than facing those feelings forever.
Grim right? Yep, you’re not wrong there. That pit you feel in your chest, that’s what having depression feels like multiplied by some prodigiously large number. Thankfully though, it’s not all storm clouds and dementors.
Fortunately (although somehow not always obviously) there are things you can do to recover from depression. Some healthy, others not so much. I’ve tried medication, counselling, crying, running, whinging, ignoring, dating, dancing, singing, drinking, eating, travelling, meditating, buying and any other “-ing” you care to prefix with a verb used to try and get over something. What works? Well it’s going to be different for everyone. The most important thing is to not give up. Talk to people about what’s worked for them and take ownership of the things that work for you. Most importantly, STICK AT THEM. Depression sneaks in when you are complacent. It’s more insidious than tax-bracket creep and so you have to work hard to stay on top everyday, but it’s the best hard work you will ever do because you get your life back.
So what’s the point of all this bluster and swearing? I guess most importantly I want people to know that THERE IS ALWAYS HOPE. Despite what I thought at the time, people cared and wanted to help. There are endless individuals and support groups available to assist you in your recovery. Not only are they there, but they want to help YOU. Yep, that’s right, they are there for you dude. Whether it’s a long conversation, a coffee or the oh-so-coveted man-hug, they are flipping there for you.
Now I’m not saying it’s easy, nor am I saying you won’t make mistakes, struggle or relapse. Heck, I feel like everyday there’s this little mofo waiting there to get back on top of me. Yeah I stumble but importantly I don’t define how I am by those stumbles, it’s what happens next that counts. Moreover, everyday is a chance to get better at dealing with not just depression, but every other adversity life may throw at you. That’s not just awesome to realise but also some really empowering shizzle that makes the Liam of 18 months ago seem like a distant memory.
So what do I do when it comes up? I talk about that shit. I talk about how dark things were, but conversely bring up how much I appreciate life now. I talk about my past, what I do now to stay on top of my shit and how much hope I have for the future. If someone looks a bit down I ask, “dude, are you ok?”. Honestly, that’s all it takes to give that person the opening they need to have “that talk”. Shining a little bit of light on such a dark topic is the first step to kicking depression square in the balls. Don’t get me wrong, from there it’s a massive journey, but as a mate used to say to me, “How do you eat an elephant brus?”, to which I would respond with a confounded stare…
You know what the answer is?
“One mother-fucking bite at a time”.
So if you’re reading this, thanks (and I’m sorry for the swearing #sorrynotsorry). Whether you’ve jumped on the #ITSOKTOTALK wagon or not, let people know that it REALLY IS OK TO TALK. Not just that, but that it’s ok to talk about some real shit. It’s ok to cry, to laugh about it, get mad or just feel absolutely nothing.
I’m no expert but I really believe that talking is by far one of the hardest steps you can take in dealing with your mental health. More than anything I’m stoked that we are working, one hashtag a time, to make it ok.