image by Valerie Elash
I am just an ordinary 26 year old girl, living in a small seaside town, have an ordinary office job, a loving family so why does the black dog choose me?! Why did I have to be one that had my entire world turned upside down?!
The black dog takes no prisoners, it will come into your life, kick you when you are down and darken out any light that was in your life. It will make you feel alone, worthless, mentally and physically exhausted, and tearful, those are just a few to say the least. I think that it is a very different journey for people who have suffered or suffering and there is no one size fits all fix, some may take medication, some may not, some may attend therapy and others may not feel the need too, there is no right or wrong answer.
I want to spread the word and reach out to others who feel that they have to fight this alone, you really don’t and I know exactly how you feel, you don’t want to burden people, you don’t want others to judge you, you don’t want to know you aren’t coping and you don’t want the negative stigma that is attached to mental health. Suffering in silence is not the answer, I went through a period of time doing this and if anything it made the black dog have more control over me, I kept it this massive secret and tried my hardest to hide it from everyone around me.
I’m not going to lie, opening up to my family and friends about depression was one of the hardest things I have ever done but now it’s out there I don’t constantly have to pretend to be ok all the time. From personal experience I would never tell someone what to do or how to approach the subject with family/friends but I can offer some tips that may be helpful to you. Firstly however bad you think it is going to be is probably not reality, remember these people love and care for you so it is the black dog that wants you to think you have nobody around you so don’t give in.
Secondly, decide, would you rather tell people all together and get it done in one swoop, or talk individually to people, maybe go for a walk or grab a coffee so the pressure isn’t totally on you. Are you better talking face to face or would it be easier to write it down?! I am not so good talking to people face to face I am better at expressing feelings in written words so chose to do it that way, don’t see that as the easy way out, as long as you have put it out there you are strong.
"I still remember the night I felt I lost my mind, I had been trying for weeks and weeks to put on my bravest face to the outside world"
Asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness, the people and support network you have are so important during this time, they will be your light in the darkness and will keep your head above water. Personally I love to be out and about, I love long country walks and the fresh air so when I was feeling down and exhausted it was hard to be trapped in the house and contained within 4 walls. I guess that was a big warning sign as I was slipping into a darker depression, I stopped going out, I stopped reading books, I stopped watching movies and I stopped wanting to be alive. But the 4 walls I am trapped inside are safe, I can lay on the sofa or in bed and not have to move, I can cry, I can be sad, I don’t have to pretend to be happy and I don’t have to talk to anybody, I did weeks of this before I reached out.
I still remember the night I felt I lost my mind, I had been trying for weeks and weeks to put on my bravest face to the outside world, I cried myself to sleep and woke up around 4:30am, my mind was so dark and foggy, it almost felt like I wasn’t in control of myself and just wanted it all to go away. I raided the house for pills, anything that I could take to make it all stop, thankfully I couldn’t find too much, I sat on the sofa tears streaming down my face, my shaking hands start to type letters to my family telling them how sorry I was. My cat sat on my lap purring and head butting me for attention, and the sun started to shine through my curtains, the thoughts of ‘Who will give my little tiggs cuddles and take funny selfies with him’ and ‘Who will be there when my nieces and nephews want a fun day out',
it’s not that I wanted to die it’s that I wanted the dark thoughts to just stop and I wanted my life back.
There is such a difference between wanting your life to end and wanting the black dog to pack his bags and leave, suicide is a very difficult topic and I think others can see it as selfish but when you are in a dark place it’s scary and people need a helping hand not judgement.
I guess I should mention professional help, not everybody will want to seek this and I get that you will have your own way of coping. I was adamant to start with that anti-depressants were not for me, I didn’t want to take a pill to be happy but with some persuasion from family I decided to give them a go. I’m still in the early days with them, I think they have helped shift the darker thoughts and I would say I have less bad days than I was having so that’s a plus, are they going to fix everything?! Of course not, they are not a quick fix they are simply there to give your brain serotonin that it is lacking, if your body was lacking something else you would take a pill so it is nothing to be ashamed of.
'Patience is quite a big thing on this journey, it takes time for medication to work, therapy to make a difference, to trust people and be open with people.'
Talking therapy (counselling), if you know me you will think I may be slightly bias on this therapy because next year my goal is to train as a counsellor so obviously I am all for it! BUT I do understand that it won’t be for everyone, there is lots of therapies out there CBT, EMDR, art therapy, hypnotherapy, the list can go on but if you are interested do some online research and see what they all involve, again it’s not going to be a quick fix but it might give you a nudge in the right direction.
Patience is quite a big thing on this journey, it takes time for medication to work, therapy to make a difference, to trust people and be open with people. I am not the most patient person so when I am having a bad day I do feel why I am not moving forward?! I am trying my hardest and nothing is working?! You almost feel the world is against you, but you can’t rush recovery so don’t be hard on yourself and know that you will bounce back a stronger person.
The negative stigma around mental health frustrates me more than anything, how can people still be narrow minded around this subject?! I get that back in the day people didn’t talk about it so people just had to just ‘get on with it’ but nowadays it is a major issue that needs addressing. 1 in 4 people will experience mental health in their lifetime, that’s quite a high ratio so surely the more we are open about it and talk about it the less pressure people have to feel to hide it from others. I found when I started being more open that family/friends will be understanding and just want the best for you, not everybody will be empathetic towards you and that is their problem not yours.
So all I can say is keep fighting, stay strong, because you are capable of amazing things and can beat anything that is put in your way!!
In Sophie's words: "I don’t take life too seriously, always joking and making people laugh! Family and friends mean the world to me, and my little cat tiggs! Music is my life, I spend most of time with my headphones on listening to anything and everything, I believe ‘When words fail music speaks’! I am more creative than anything, I love writing and knowing that hopefully, writing my struggles can help other people is just the best feeling ever! I cannot wait for the future so I can train to be a counsellor and hopefully help someone the way my counsellor has helped me!"