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.

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.

Depression makes you believe nobody cares about you – which is total BS.

Having been formally diagnosed with depression, prescribed medications and following a full blown sob fest on the phone to mom, I walked back to my apartment and remembered I had promised my landlady a cup of tea and a chat. I opened my WhatsApp and she was busy typing already, she must have heard me come in, but I quickly interrupted and messaged “Ready for tea?” to which she sent her usual emoji’s. A few minutes later, after I had swallowed my first anti-depressant and didn’t know how I was going to feel in five minutes, she arrived with a tray containing Rooibos and a rather anxious look on her face.

“I need to tell you something,” I started, having poured us both a cup. She was avoiding my gaze somewhat and I realised I just had to come out and say it, like ripping off a band aid. “I’ve been prescribed anti-depressants” I started, not sure if “I have depression” would be the best way to go. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure I said it out loud until I was sitting talking to my sister a couple of days later. Her eyes lit up for a second, and there was a change in her demeanour. The air was immediately lighter, and I wasn’t sure why. She said she was sorry to hear that, and her eyes filled with tears.

“We thought you were moving out. I talked to [insert husband name here] while you were at the appointment and found myself crying about the thought of you leaving. It has just been such a pleasure having you living here.”

Not one day prior – just a few steps away from their house – I had been contemplating taking my own life before my 30th birthday, in their apartment of all places, because my depression had genuinely made me believe that I was unloved, unwanted and that nobody cared about me. What absolute bullshit. We talked for about 30 minutes, where she shared about how difficult it was for her to get mental health assistance after her brother passed away many years ago (“the only shrink in the town was known to be someone who ran her mouth”) and I realised that this is a cross-generational problem. Better than that, I realised that I was loved and my company cherished, even just by someone I would have the odd five minute conversation with as I got back from a day at work. Your depression will try fool you, and it will not get the better of you.

Conrad was here.