Five things I know for sure on my 30th birthday.

I got up this morning at 03:30, if you’ll believe it. Perhaps my mind was racing a little because I was coming to terms with the fact that – when I went to bed – I said goodbye to my twenties and ushered in a new era in my life. I’m sure I’ll look back at laugh at myself for feeling this way, but then again, every hit sitcom in the two decades or so has made a fuss about at least one character turning the big 3 0, so in a way I’ve been amping myself up for the experience for years and years. I’m thinking in particular of the episode of Friends where Joey chants “Why God, why?” and where Monica gets blackout drunk before her surprise party. Happy to report I haven’t done either of those today!

The first thing I did this morning was grab my notebook – the one I’ve been scribbling in feverishly each day since my depression diagnosis – and what came out of this was a list of five things I know for sure, having lived through my twenties. I can’t take full credit for all of these, some of them have been passed down by my mom (we had a 20 minute conversation about life this morning) and others I’ve learned the hard way, through living life, being in love, going through tough times and generally navigating what is considered a tumultuous period for most people.

  1. Nothing is supposed to be any which way. As much as Rachel has a five year plan on the Friends episode where she turns 30, and as much as I’ve navigated the last fifteen years of my life with serious five year plans, I’ve learned that things are not supposed to happen in any order, in a straight line, or in the way that you hope they will happen. You don’t need to be married by a certain age. If you want to be a parent, it will happen when it does, and it may not be in the way you thought it will be. You don’t need to be earning a certain amount of money by a certain age. You don’t need to start a business just because your parents did (which is pretty much what I did two years ago). Learning this has helped me cut myself some slack, and given me more room to try to go easy on myself. It’s a work in progress.
  2. The rug can be pulled out from you at any time, and it will happen again and again. Life will be full of moments that toss your world upside down. The death of a friend or family member, losing a job, being scammed out of most of your money, the end of a friendship – these can all happen to you at any time, no matter whether you’re in a good or a bad place in your life. It’s all about how you navigate things when the rug does get pulled out from under you, and how you respond in that moment. I’ve gotten good at wallowing about it and feeling sorry for myself in recent years – another byproduct of depression. I find though that each time it happens, I respond a little bit differently (and better for that matter). You learn, adapt and go from there.
  3. Life’s pleasures come from the simple things. Maybe I’ve been watching too many Florence Welch interviews, but this is something I’m slowly starting to appreciate and understand. No amount of external influences will bring you long-term happiness, you need to turn your attention inwards. Sure, money makes life easier in many ways, but it will not solve your problems. For me, having a cappuccino at a coffee shop while listening to a new album from one of my faves, watching the sunrise on the beach, or even just a 5 minute conversation with a colleague over lunch, gives me a great deal of pleasure. It has taken me a long time to realise and appreciate this, perhaps I’m only coming to terms with it now that I’m writing it down. Usually we are so focused on the “big things” not going your way, that we forget about all the precious things that happen in your day, particularly when you’re not paying attention and operating on autopilot. My new goals include taking more time to observe and appreciate the things that are happening in my life. As my therapist said yesterday, “you have a lot going for you” and I’d like to start listening.
  4. Know yourself and stay true to that. I spent my twenties experimenting with pretty much everything, and making hundreds of mistakes along the way, I might add. I questioned my values, my hobbies and even my sexuality, in order to get a clear picture of who I was as a person. I have a much clearer picture now than I did when I was twenty. Depression tries to make you forget who you are, and it makes you act out in ways that you can’t even comprehend. I can’t tell you how many friendships I squandered because of drunkenly blocking someone without giving them a chance to respond to my anger. It was almost surgical in a way, cut it off, don’t deal with it. It’s not fair to anyone, regardless of what they did. Funny thing is, I’ve been told that compassion and empathy are at the core of my being, so whenever my depression tells me otherwise, I have to work on implementing new tools to remind me of this. This is an ongoing struggle and I get the feeling that most people struggle with something similar. I’m trying to write more letters to myself, trying to show more kindness to myself, using positive language and getting a few examples down of where I acted from my core.
  5. Nothing is certain, except for change. Change is certain. Things will evolve, regress, and generally happen in what I like to call a spiral. How resilient are you going to be? I will ask myself this all through my journey of recovery and as I go into this new decade from today. Embrace change and the growth will be monumental.

Conrad was here.

 

Am I apprehensive about going back into therapy today?

Different things work for different people, but for me, talking about my problems has always given me the opportunity to confront, deal, heal and move forward with my life. I’m definitely someone that lives more inside his own head, and finds it difficult to articulate true feelings, always worried I’m going to offend someone or shake things up in a way.

In recent years I’ve become a lot more reserved, sharing less about my life on social media, and even to a large extent with friends and family. This is all a natural part of growing into adulthood and realising that the world doesn’t necessarily revolve around you and what you ate on that particular day, but it also comes with the territory when you are depressed. Where it has become particularly problematic, is that in a lot of ways people have started to make the assumption that I don’t want to share, or that I don’t want to open up to them. This became all the more evident to me when I friend called me from Germany last week and said “I wasn’t sure whether you wanted me to know your engagement had ended” when the topic came up. She had heard about it from someone else. The end of my relationship wasn’t exactly the kind of thing I was rattling off about on social media, but I still believe that if you hear a friend is going through something major, you take a few seconds to pick up the phone as a first step, and worry about the intricacies later. She had of course done this as soon as I spelled out my depression on a Facebook post, which I am thankful for, but it did make me wonder how many other people are also worried to talk to me about the big changes in my life because they fear I might be uncomfortable talking about it. If you’re reading this, I’m not uncomfortable, and talking really does help.

I used to be in therapy in my early twenties and it helped me not only in navigating the start of my career, but also in starting to find my own identity. I hit it off right away with a therapist I found through my university, which a lot of people are not always as lucky to have the first time they try find someone to talk to, and which I am very thankful for. I had a friend who went to a therapist who tried to impose their own religious beliefs onto him, right from the first session, which obviously is a bit of a red flag. That’s when you know that the person is not doing what they’re supposed to be doing and you should look at other options. First and foremost, therapy should be a non-judgmental, open, safe space for you to speak freely about whatever it is you believe in, are feeling, or what you’re busy going through. Luckily I’ve never had to worry about that in the sessions I’ve been in.

As my life moved between cities throughout my twenties, my therapist and I may have stopped having sessions, but she always kept the door open for me and likened the relationship to one you would have with a family member. It really is a deeply personal and intimate connection and I am thankful that all these years later, when the shit hit the fan and I realised that I was depressed and needed to go see a doctor, her name was on the list of people I should reach out to and she responded to my e-mail very quickly on the day.

So am I apprehensive going back into therapy? Not at all. When I started it in 2010, I had no idea what to expect, but I was prepared to talk. Today, I know what to expect, but I’m not so sure how prepared I am to talk.

It has been a while since I’ve had to turn the mirror around and start asking myself some difficult questions again but I’m glad I’m doing it on the eve of my 30th birthday. In a way, it may help me to start this new chapter of my life with a new sense of clarity and closure. I’d to take as much time as possible today to reflect on my twenties and to focus my energy towards acquiring some new tools that are going to help me navigate the trials and tribulations of the next decade with as much grace and humility as possible.

Conrad was here.

We set physical health goals, but what about mental health goals? These are mine.

All through my late teens and my early twenties I set a lot of physical fitness goals. Run a half marathon. Lose 10kg’s. Jog five times a week. Walk three times a week. These were all usually achieved, as I tend to be someone who gets almost militant about achieving personal goals. It’s a blessing and a curse, and part of the reason why I ended up being diagnosed with depression in the first place. I’m learning to be a bit less rigid and more adaptable, which is part of what I’m working on with a life coach at the moment.

I find it incredible that we’re always quick to set physical health goals, but that mental health doesn’t get the same treatment. I can’t recall once in my life – other than in the last two weeks – taking time to prioritise what is going to be important in terms of my mental health and wellbeing as someone who suffers from depression. I’ve always been happy to accept that you simply get over what you’re feeling or going through, the phrase “get on with it” usually rings in my head, and subsequently my depression has crept further and further into my life, causing chaos across all spheres.

There was a stage a few weeks ago, before I was diagnosed with depression, where I wasn’t able to see past my 30th birthday, essentially, past the end of this month. I was in a very dark, suicidal place, which I am glad I can talk about in the past tense.

A useful recovery exercise for me has been to map out some short-term (6 month) mental health goals, which not only assist in keeping my recovery on track, but also helps me to see past just this month, this day, and this very moment. In a lot of ways, recovering from depression is a day-to-day process, and I wouldn’t advise on setting up a new five year plan when you’re in this state of mind, but some short-term checkpoints can really help to keep you motivated and also help you to have something positive about your journey to share with loved ones. Your recovery doesn’t have to be all “yes mom, I’m doing ok today”. Your goals provide context and others will be encouraged to support you along the way.

So what are my mental health goals for the next six months? I’ve tried to highlight them as simply and clearly as possible.

  • Quit drinking alcohol while you are on anti-depressants, to give your body the best possible chance to settle and readjust. This is something I haven’t spoken to any of my friends or family about, and am waiting to talk about once I’m a little further into my recovery. I haven’t even had the urge to drink anything since I started the meds and quite frankly I don’t need another reason for my body to feel worse. Ironically, people like showing up at my place for support, bottle of wine in hand.
  • Meditate three times a week. This one is tough, as I usually struggle to prioritise even just 15 minutes for myself at the end of the day. I’ve learned that it doesn’t need to be rigid and for a fixed amount of time, sometimes simply sitting in silence, practicing mindfulness for a few minutes, can make all the difference. In the long run, I’d love to make this a daily practice, but I’d like for it to draw me in. No more swimming upstream to make it a part of my schedule.
  • Take anti-depressants for at least six months. The doctor did warn that after a month, when I feel better, I’ll get the urge to go off the meds. I’ve committed to following through with the meds for at least six months, with the option to extend to a year if need be. Slow and steady wins the race. I’ve given over to the fact that I can’t control how this disease makes me feel by simply hoping I’ll feel better soon – the meds are an important tool in this regard.
  • Go to 15 therapy sessions. My medical aid has approved 15 free sessions based on my diagnosis (a ‘severe depressive episode’), which I need to use before the end of the year. This is major, as I would not otherwise be able to afford the sessions. I’m starting with therapy tomorrow and will continue weekly through until October.
  • Keep talking about your mental health to others. This includes what I consider a new calling to be a mental health ambassador of sorts. This blog, coupled with ‘real world’ conversations, has the power to reach people from all walks of life, and hopefully will encourage others to start a real conversation about how difficult depression can be to navigate. I’d like to explore becoming a mental health ambassador at work, and will be talking about it HR and my line manager about it once I’m further along in the process.
  • Write three blog posts a week. I’m aware that I’ve had the luxury of writing more over the past week or so, considering I’ve been off from work. Writing is therapy for me, nothing else. I am however aware that things will not always be as simple and that life will happen, and things will get busy again. I’d still like to make my writing a priority, as this blog is a big part of my recovery process. I’ve prioritised writing three posts a week for the rest of the year as one of my goals and am going to do my best to stick to this (so stick with me, won’t you?).

Perhaps you can draw some inspiration from my list. I also believe it’s important to make them fluid. Life happens, so navigate them to the best of your abilities. That’s not to say that the goals should be taken lightly, but also remember to go easy on yourself.

Recovering from depression is a marathon, not a sprint. Some days the list will seem impossible, others it will be the only thing getting you out of bed. It’s all about rolling with the punches. What are your mental health goals? I’m rooting for you!

Conrad was here.

Ten days after my depression diagnosis, and I’m out of the house this morning.

It’s been ten days since my depression diagnosis and this morning I find myself outside of the house, at a coffee shop around the corner from where I live. This is good news, no wait, great news, as yesterday I struggled to get up from bed, and I barely managed to get myself to a grocery store by 5pm. My landlord knocked on my door to remind me that it was important for me to get out of the house and I had to remind her that while I appreciate the sentiment, there are going to be good and bad days with this thing nasty thing called depression.

Over the last few days, I’ve had two noticeable spells of my mood lifting somewhat – the first, while watching a movie two nights ago, where I found myself spontaneously laughing at one or two of the scenes. The second, was on a phone call with my best friend, who lives about a two hour flight away from me. I don’t even recall what we were laughing about, but we were both in fits for a few minutes, which was a good feeling. That’s one of the side-effects of the medication, not really being all too present (I can’t recall much of what I’ve been talking to people about over the last few days) and feeling like your mind is in a bit of a haze. I equate the feeling to the way Hogwarts looked at the start of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. You know, when Snape was headmaster. Misty, hazy, odd, but eerily calm in a way too.

So what was I expecting? These are anti-depressants after all. I didn’t have many expectations of what they would do to me, considering it’s my first time being on a medication like this, but I did expect to start feeling a little bit weird, which is exactly what has happened. Over the past few days, I’ve had to navigate between days where I’ve felt nauseous and unable to stomach much food, to days where my body seems to be more ravenous than usual. I’ve been meticulous about keeping a healthy diet, and not giving into the temptation to indulge in sugary, processed food, and subsequently sending me into a further spiral. I’m still adamant about giving my body the best possible chance to adapt to the meds and am also aware that a lot of rest is exactly what the doctor ordered.

As I’ve mentioned before, my doctor said it would take about two weeks for the medication to start doing its thing, so perhaps I simply am not feeling the effects yet. It’s really hard to tell if I’m feeling better because I’m getting my strength back and starting to tackle things, or if there is a physiological change. Both are probably closely interlinked. I’m told by friends who have gone through this, that one day I’ll just realise that I’m feeling better, it won’t arrive in a straight line, I won’t just wake up and be OK. So many people expect an anti-depressant to be a “fix” and it simply isn’t that. I watched a video on Youtube recently where someone referred to it as “one of the tools” you use to get your mental health back to a good place. I like the sound of that – it works in conjunction with other lifestyle changes. And I’m making a lot of those.

For now, as difficult as it is to sit in a crowded restaurant (the noise is still just as debilitating as when I went for breakfast with my friend last weekend), I’ve at least got my headphones in, I’m sipping on a delicious cup of cappuccino, I’ve showed up and gotten out of the house, out of my head, and crawled a few more baby steps in the right direction.

Conrad was here.

 

 

 

Sorry birthday plans, dealing with my depression is priority #1 now.

I’m turning 30 in a few days, and while I’ve been adamant about not making big plans this year, things have naturally cropped up as I have good people in my life.

That in itself is a revelation, as for the longest time my depression had been trying to convince me that nobody cared or would be interested in celebrating with me. Things must slowly be starting to tick over again, which feels like a big deal as I write this.

I initially had plans of throwing a big 80’s themed bash, which changed to a small birthday drinks, which changed to no plans at all, which changed to getting on a flight to go see my best friend, which changed to having my best friend fly here to come stay with me for the weekend, which changed to DROP EVERYTHING, YOU NEED TO DEAL WITH YOUR DEPRESSION.

My diagnosis effectively put everything on hold. Not because I don’t want to see anybody. Not because I don’t want to celebrate a milestone in my life (I threw two 21st birthday parties, in different cities), but simply because dealing with my depression is now priority #1. Work, clients, buying a new jersey, doing laundry, whatever… all of this is now secondary.

I had been toying with the idea of going back to work this week, simply because I know there are plans for them to bake me a cake, and honestly put, it would be so lovely to be surrounded by the positive energy on the day. I am however also well aware that getting that, would mean a trade off in terms of getting back into the swing of things at work, in a time when not only my body is still adjusting to the anti-depressants (see previous post) but where I simply am not operating at full mental capacity for work tasks and to show up for my employer in the way I would be comfortable knowing I can do my best work. As a result I will be taking more time off, until at least the 2nd of July.

The allure to be distracted, even in a week like this one, is huge, but I am proud that I am putting some checkpoints in place to make sure the recovery process continues and that I keep building on the momentum I’ve generated so far. I’m starting therapy this week, which will be a big win, I just know it. I had also initially gotten annual leave approved for two weeks (2 – 16 July) and those plans have been put on hold, as I know that going away or changing up my routine now, will definitely detract from what I need to do now. I also can’t go away when I’ve just started therapy, it simply does not make any sense. It’s all about just taking things a day at a time and putting your best foot forward. Here’s hoping I’ll look back at this post with a smile on my face one day.

Conrad was here.

The first social commitment after my depression diagnosis was unexpectedly difficult.

It wasn’t because I was in bad company, that’s for sure.

A friend of mind had travelled over an hour to come see me. See, she had been away for a week, and in fact wanted to meet up at my place and bring some food. Proud as always, I decided to rather schedule a breakfast for us at a nearby coffee shop, not really thinking it would be too difficult to sit through a meal and a nice chat about everything that had gone down in the last week. I also wanted an excuse to get out of the house early in the morning, and to prove to myself I could do it with minimal fuss.

Little did I know my body wasn’t going to be playing along. Firstly, she was running a bit late, so I ordered a cappuccino while waiting. Without even thinking about it, I ordered a refill, which definitely meant the experience was made a little bit harder than it should have been. Caffeine, coupled with the meds, and a loud, crowded environment, was not a good combination and I felt instantly overwhelmed. I’ve felt this in the past, and now know that I need to be careful with caffeine, really just limiting myself to one cup whenever I am in a social setting. I’ve completely given up on instant coffee which is a good thing.

I was so happy to see her when she arrived, but honestly speaking, I couldn’t hear a word she was saying over the coffee grinder, something that wouldn’t usually be a problem, but I was not able to zone out of it and found myself particularly sensitive to all the noises around us. I’m told this is part of what the medication does and is something I’ll need to get used to. It got to a point where I couldn’t concentrate on what she was saying, so I asked if we could rather move to an outside table where it was seemingly more quiet.

Little did I know that it would be worse outside, with bustling shopping trolleys coming through the doors every few seconds (there is a big supermarket next to this coffee shop) and generally people were streaming in and out, considering it is the weekend and everyone is doing their weekly shopping. I struggled so much to concentrate and had to work very hard to stay with the conversation – a first for me. For someone who is usually a champion listener, this was a first and a very surreal experience. It was another reminder that there will be a readjustment period and that life is and will continue to be a lot different now that I’m taking medication for my depression and anxiety.

Speaking of anxiety, it was absolutely through the roof, and I’m sure the caffeine didn’t help. I could hardly sit still and my palms were continuously sweaty. I’m not sure what I was so worried about, but I had in fact taken some anti-anxiety medication before I left, and thought that it would help. I had no apprehension about meeting up with this friend – in fact, she is someone I’ve opened up to a lot in the last nine months – so it was more about the general environment and having to be back in a social setting, with a lot of unpredictable elements.

While the bad service from the restaurant didn’t help the situation, I was most surprised by the fact that by the time my breakfast arrived, I had completely lost my appetite, and ate only a slice of toast and a bit of scrambled eggs. I felt immediately nauseous and didn’t really know what to make of this, as I had only eaten a banana first thing in the morning and in normal circumstances would be quite ravenous at 11am. When the waiter asked if I wanted to take my leftovers home, I told him that I was feeling ill and not up to eating, possibly more to spare the feelings of the chef, I don’t know. The bottom line was I was going to be sick if I ate it, now or later.

All-in-all it was wonderful to catch up with my friend, but I realised that things are going to start being different now following my diagnosis. It’s not as straightforward for me to make plans with people, as I’ll always need to be managing what the medication may do to me on a given day, and also be mindful of my anxiety levels, which, at times, feel high just for the sake of it, with little or no explanation why. The doctor did warn me that this would happen in the first few weeks, so hopefully it’s not a long term side effect.

Today was a good lesson about new limitations and how I need to become more mindful of the fact that some things need to be approached with a bit more caution. I am however really glad I got out today. One day at a time, we will get there.

Conrad was here.

What it felt like to show up for the first depression support group meeting.

It’s a little bit like wearing a “hey, I’m depressed.” sign on your forehead, which is not the easiest thing to deal with just a few days after being diagnosed. But pull off the bandaid we must and we did.

Showing up is definitely the hard part. All week I’ve been focused on getting there, focused on just getting myself planted down onto a seat at this meeting, though I wasn’t prepared for the anxiety I would feel going into the session. Let me clarify that this isn’t related to a fear of needing to share with a group of strangers. In fact, the moderator told me that there is no obligation for me to even share on the day, which was reassuring.

It’s more related to the fact that showing up to one of these groups is a personal admission that I am depressed. There’s no going back now. It is saying to a group of strangers “Hey, I’m here, I’m depressed, I’d like to talk about it. I’d like to do something about it”.

Funnily enough, showing up to meet with a handful people in person and talking about the illness felt harder than posting about it to hundreds of people on social media. I had more expectations of how my circle of friends and acquaintances would react (hell, they know me of course) but frankly there is a lot of self doubt in your mind if you’ve been raised in a culture where you simply have to get on with it. Funny thing is – and I only realised this now while writing about it – the other people at this meeting are there for the same reasons, but your depression will make sure you question the process regardless. They are also there to share, open up and find a safe space to heal.

While all contents of the meeting are confidential, I can say that it was both wonderful and very overwhelming to hear about the struggles that other people are facing. My anxiety levels were through the roof afterwards, which I’m not sure is a good thing, but mostly this is because I naturally take on the feelings of others (a major blessing and a major curse). The meeting reiterated to me that depression and anxiety related disorders can be majorly debilitating in multiple spheres of your life, and in fact, it can only get worse if you don’t face it and seek out treatment and support. I gained a lot of perspective from going, but better yet, I got to show up, and admit to myself that there is this thing that I have to start navigating in order to get back to a good place in my life.

Conrad was here.

Five ridiculous things my depression made me do that made me realise I needed to get help.

We’re not talking major life events or anything here, I’ll save those stories for another day. These are a few small things that made me more aware of the fact that I needed to get professional help and that from a mental health standpoint things were starting to move in the wrong direction.

  1. I bought and ate a sandwich at work, and without even thinking put the plastic wrapper it came in inside my water bottle. I don’t know why and I have no memory of this, perhaps I wanted to throw it away when I refilled my bottle. Problem is I didn’t do it right away, and ended up refilling the bottle, only to find the plastic wrapper inside the bottle at the end of the day when I refilled again. Pretty strange and fairly gross that I drank from the bottle all day.
  2. One night I was doing dishes at home and walked over to the cupboard to grab something, only to literally find myself staring inside the cupboard for 10 minutes, trying to figure out what I was looking for. I still don’t know what I was trying to get and it was incredibly frustrating and demoralising.
  3. Sitting at a restaurant, and picking up salt to put on my scrambled egg, only to be distracted by my phone vibrating, and putting it down. When I realised I hadn’t used the salt (just a few seconds later), I grabbed the pepper instead, and threw that on, only to realise the salt was still right in front of me. I know, I know, at least it was pepper, but it could just as well have been sugar, or one of the other condiments on the table.
  4. Thinking back now, I also recall throwing boiling water into my cereal rather than in my coffee cup one morning last year. I could at least laugh at this one a little and even joked about it to my colleagues at some point, but still, it had to have been a way for my mind to start telling me that I was starting to run on empty.
  5. A friend at work asked if she could drive behind me to a pub we were all going to after work on a Friday. I left the office with full intentions to wait for her outside so she could get into her car and follow me, but as I drove past I just carried on driving, even waving goodbye to her in my rear view mirror, completely oblivious that we had just made plans for her to drive behind me. That one I will however attribute to a bit of Friday brain, but still rather alarming if you consider that most of my friends refer to me as someone they can always depend on. I didn’t know what to say to her when we got to the pub, hell, I only recalled that I had made the promise once she had brought it up!

On the surface these five things don’t seem to be too serious, but in essence the forgetfulness and general strange behaviour was a strong indicator that something was not quite right, especially for a highly driven, type A personality such as myself. Luckily, I can reflect on these experience now from a point of recovery, keeping in mind that I’ll be able to spot this kind of behaviour in future, which will hopefully give me a little bit more power and time to make changes when I exhibit similar symptoms during the ebbs and flows of life in general.

Have you experienced something similar? If so, please consider speaking to someone about it and reach out to a medical professional if you’re at a point where it is becoming debilitating, regardless of which which sphere of your life it is happening in.

Conrad was here.

Why I sent my ex-fiance a letter about my depression yesterday.

The idea of reaching out had been playing on my mind for a few days, not only because I’ve come to the realisation that my depression has been going on for longer than the six months since we split, but because I genuinely believe we both suffered from the disease for the greater part of our relationship, and especially so from a couple of months after we got engaged.

I had spent so much of the last year of the relationship pushing my fiance to get help, following a retrenchment and an immediate depressive spell which emerged right at the start of 2017. Of course I found it easy to dish out the advice, while not necessary turning the mirror around and looking at all the ways my depression had grown silently stronger over time, and how it was slowly starting to take over my life. I simply didn’t have the time or capacity; I had just left a stable corporate job and started my own business, plus we had just moved into a new home together and were on the verge of getting a puppy. Yet I continued, and in a way, focused all my energy outward, without taking a minute to breathe, without pausing and reflecting properly on what I was busy doing to myself.

So why did I reach out to someone I haven’t seen since December? To someone who made a decision to block me on all social media? Because someone has to. I reached out because I’m not sure anyone else will start the conversation.

So I sent along some details about my experience with depression this year. I discussed how I realised I had been depressed all through our relationship (and even in the years before that), and offered guidance as to how to navigate the treatment process, should there be a willingness pursue it. I talked about my suicidal thoughts and about learning more about extended family members who also suffered from mental illnesses.

Will I get a response? I doubt it. Does that matter? No. But perhaps there will come a time when it will make sense, perhaps later it will switch a lightbulb on, when the time is right. It doesn’t have to be today, tomorrow or even next year. Until then, the conversation continues, and I’d like to believe that doing the right thing – even when it’s not necessarily an easy thing to do – is the way to go. Sometimes showing up for someone – regardless of your history or any baggage – can make all the difference.

Conrad was here.

How I shared my depression diagnosis with 600 people.

In my early twenties, I went through the same social media mania all millennials went through when it first became a thing. As the years went on and my depression started to take a firm hold on my life, I slowly moved away from sharing updates, to the point where people would ask me “where are you?” when they bump into me in real life, as if my social media silence implied I wasn’t standing right in front of them right now. I had to hold back the urge to say “I’m standing right in front of you, dumbass!” a couple of times.

Yesterday I felt a compelling pull to open up to my Facebook circle about my depression diagnosis, especially as it was one of the better days and I had the strength to interact with others. This blog is in itself a platform for me to share my journey, but opening up and breaking down the stigma is something that starts at home. While I’ve had conversations with my family and core friends, I felt compelled to reach out and find out if there are others who have been suffering in silence, and the response was rather overwhelming. I’m still processing the reaction and taking in as much as I can from people sharing their stories of their own struggles, or the struggles of someone close to them. One friend messaged me to say “While I don’t know what it’s like myself, I can sympathise as a family member has suffered with depression for years, and I’ve seen what it can do to a person”. This kind of self-awareness and compassion is what anybody suffering with something major wants to hear and I felt a lot of love hearing that.

So here’s how I did it. If you’re reading this from somewhere around the world and it strikes a nerve with you, you can reach out to me directly via this page on the blog.

At the start of this week I was diagnosed with depression, something I knew was a long time coming, and something I’m now aware will be an obstacle I’ll have to deal with on a day-to-day basis moving forward. I’ve taken a couple of proactive steps in the right direction this week, including taking a break from work, seeking treatment with a GP, getting in touch with a therapist and joining a local depression support group in my area.

 

Over the past two weeks, I’ve had multiple conversations with people who are in a similar boat and are simply not coping with the pressures of modern life. In fact, just from a few small conversations, I have a list of nearly 20 people in my direct circle who suffer from anxiety and depression related problems, and pretty silently and secretly so. I’m sure there are many more. My message today is simple and clear. PLEASE REACH OUT. If you’re suffering, talk to someone about it. It took me a paralysing 40 hour stint in bed to realise that I needed to put my pride aside, have some honest conversations with colleagues, clients, friends and family, and to do something to get help before it’s too late.

 

As part of my recovery and as a therapeutic practice, I’ve created a blog which will detail my journey of living with, opening up about and breaking down the stigma attached to depression. If you’d like to read it and find out more about my story, pop me a private message and I’ll send you a link. If you’d just like to talk to someone about the disease or ask questions about the help I’m getting and how I went about it, then DM me too. I’m not an expert, but I’m learning and am happy to be an ear to anyone willing to reach out. Depression is a serious disease, and suicide is never an option. Let’s start having some real conversations about it.

Conrad was here.