Monday 20 October 2014

Jeannette Birch: 'I have no shame about my illness and will speak about it when asked'

What people with depression really want is to be heard

Everyday battle: Jeanette has lived with clinical depression since she was 12

FOR almost a decade, I've suffered from the most silent of all illnesses. To the outer world I appear happy and healthy, just like a 21-year-old is expected to.

Inside, I feel as though my soul has gone. I cannot truly enjoy life as I should. I cannot follow a healthy eating or sleeping routine, and constantly isolate myself to try and spare others from my involuntary self-destruction.

To the medical community, I am clinically depressed, and have been since the age of 12. An age when I should have been at the height of full energy and vitality was spent failing school and self-harming.

I knew no other way to cope with my immense distress, and those around me failed to see how much I was hurting until they saw my scars.

Over the years, I have tried so many different mechanisms to take away my pain. From drink to self-harm to drugs, those were the quick fixes I so desperately needed to get through another day.

When I was first diagnosed, I was told to do things like go for a walk, take a bath, make myself my favourite dinner.

I remember being so angry at this because I wanted a quick fix. I wanted someone to wave a magic wand and take this away from me.

That's when I began self-harm and drug-taking, even though they brought more negatives than positives, they were almost like a quick fix for me.

I stopped all this six months ago and have found little things can really help. My favourite things to do now when I get really distressed are go for a run with my dog, take a cold shower or scribble on a page.

When I get low I have to force myself to get out of bed, and go get hot chocolate from my favourite cafe. I think when people are first diagnosed they tend to stay away from these things because they just want it all to go away, and the whole 'what's the point?' comes into play.

But it's about letting yourself be, do the little things you love to begin with, even though your mind is telling you not to.

Even taking five minutes to put on make-up, do your hair, enjoying a cup of tea can help take an edge off strong emotions.

Every individual is different, and what works for me may not work for many, but no matter what I do, no matter how hard I try, depression can always seem to trap me in its hands and pull me back into the well I've just crawled out of.

Of all the aspects of my illness, the one I have found hardest to come to terms with is the lack of knowledge and understanding from the general public.

This apparent laziness you speak of? Let me put it into perspective. "What's the point" is such a common thought to have when the illness takes hold.

What is the point of going to school, college or work when your mind is so numb you can barely make sense anymore? What is the point of even getting out of bed, when the simplest of task feels like climbing Mount Everest?

I want you to imagine the following scenario. I want you to pick your favourite thing to do, whether it be playing sports, partying, cooking etc. Even though you know how much you adore this activity, every time you attempt to do it your mind tells you you're not allowed take any pleasure from it.

Health & Living

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