Yesterday I appeared on television and spoke on the radio about my experiences with depression; two television pieces were broadcast, one on BBC One (Breakfast) and the other on Al Jazeera. Luckily the two for TV were recorded last week and on Monday. I say luckily because a spot which I reckon was about the size of Mars and just as red appeared out of nowhere on Monday night. By Tuesday morning had I gone out into traffic cars may have been confused on my high street and would have stopped at will - my own personal temporary traffic light right there on my forehead. Thank goodness a face for radio was all that was required. And today when I ventured out I made liberal use of the concealer options in my makeup bag. I wouldn't want to scare children. Halloween's over after all, and it's almost time to put up Christmas trees and all things sparkly. Not time to see massive zits on people who are really FAR TOO OLD to be getting them!
The pieces covered the Economist's Global Crisis of Depression Summit, which was held yesterday to discuss the £77 billion cost of depression to the work place. My contribution was one of a patient - someone who can speak to her own experiences and talk about the support measures I'm aware of. Many others gave expert opinions, from an economic, political, and medical / scientific standpoint. I truly believe this is such an important topic to discuss.
This issue is personally linked to me and I'm personal invested in it as a sufferer, but when I think of the difference between my first understanding of mental illness, developed in my early twenties when I first suffered with depression, and now, I'm glad for the progress that has been made, but very much not content with the extent of the progress made.
I'm not a scientist but know a few, and know that where the brain is concerned complexity takes on an entirely new meaning. Research to cure depression and develop drugs with better effects and fewer side effects will continue to take many years. I've been on five different kinds of anti-depressants, and am only able to survive and sleep properly helped by my fantastic GP and a cocktail of other drugs which counteract the crippling side effects.
Why has it taken us so long even to get to this point? And I think that we're at breaking point with these figures. A good friend from school I haven't spoken to for nearly two decades messaged me yesterday to say she had felt a similar feeling of dread waking up at four in the morning. She said, "writing the above made me cry on the train." I've been there. I've not wanted to go into work and have had to make up an excuse to delay my arrival while I try to stop the tears that are ruining my makeup and my perfectly applied facade of healthiness.
I now do feel supported at work, but that doesn't mean that I won't get ill, and doesn't mean that everyone at work will understand (or everyone outside of work, for that matter). I hope that doing a good job at work will supersede any depressive episodes which may or may not come in the future. But I am lucky. I've read too many messages and statements by others saying, "Don't tell your work that you have depression / mental illness. Ever." "I told my work about my condition and my boss understood, but my colleagues didn't and eventually I had to leave."
Today I'm really tired and a bit low. It comes and goes, and I have tried to rest to get through it. Not interesting, but true. Therefore this angry blog post is also going to be a shorter one than usual. I will defer to my televised and radio-recorded self to say what I feel about my own experiences. And when I go to sleep tonight, ahead of the American festival Thanksgiving,
I wish buying tolerance for depression was a special black Friday deal. I wish that were true. I will be thankful that 99% of people around me support me and what I am doing, and pray that we can all become a bit more forgiving and tolerant of this ubiquitous illness, so that next year we can be thankful for improvements for those people I know and those I don't who are living with mental illness in secret for fear that they will be stigmatised. I want to see that change so that people can speak out just to say that something is wrong - even if they can't articulate it as clearly as they would like. Secrecy and shame are poison, and have to stop.