It affects nearly 300 million people worldwide. It is the major cause of disability and can lead to suicide. Janet describes her experience of depression.
“I have suffered from depression all my adult life. I can even mark when it came into my life, uninvited and certainly unwelcome. It was at a time when a tragedy hit my family. We all seemed to fall apart, each in our own way. I became increasingly anxious and lost any sense of safety in my life. Most of all, I lost trust in myself. My confidence was shot through by what seemed like a massive dose of self-doubt. It coloured everything. Over time, it developed into self-contempt and then self-hatred. I found myself impossible to bear.
“Day to day, depression drained my energy, my capability and my self-esteem. I seemed to be living life without any hope at all. And it’s not until you lose hope that you understand what a life force it is, the driver for engagement with everything, from relating to others, to getting out of bed and doing the chores. With hope, even the mundane has a spring in its step. Without hope, life is a dull, grey process of going through the motions, on auto-pilot with no particular destination in mind. Without hope, you feel as if you’re trudging through each day with a leaden weight chained to your feet. It is exhausting.
“Depression also drains all the resources you need to address it. I became inert and fatalistic with no sense of my own agency. I perceived myself as a shrivelled soul being battered around by events. And since I also experienced myself as a burden, I assumed I was a burden to others too and pushed everyone away. I didn’t want to drag them into the void.
“Having been pushed away so often, most of my friends and family took the hint and stayed away. But there were two who stuck around and wouldn’t take no for an answer. They didn’t press me or bully me. But they were gently persistent, dropping me a note or a text, always asking me how I was in a way that suggested they were ready to hear what it was really like for me. They refused to take me at my word when I said, ‘I’m fine’ because they looked me full in the face and could see that I wasn’t.
“They didn’t cheer me or tell me everything was fine. Instead, it was their calm, non- judgemental patience, their refusal to give up on me that challenged my conviction that I wasn’t worth knowing. They provided the antidote to depression. Depression isolates you by amplifying the voice in us all that feels anxious and not good enough. With the help of two determined friends and a course of counselling, I started to recognise that I was enough and I had a life worth living.”