As a teen I was poorly, I had a physical pain from my joints. But worse was the emotional pain of having a mental illness. Being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, glandular fever and depression at eighteen is a conversation stopper. Even now it is not a time I talk about openly, it still hurts to remember how I felt. Although I am lucky, I am more than lucky for those that knew me then, will know just how poorly I was, but the black dog has never come back. I healed. It took time but I got there. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight. When you have been clinically depressed for years it leaves its mark. Each time I was pregnant I was scared of post-natal depression. When I feel sad or pissed off I worry that this could be depression. It leaves its mark and changes a person. It changed me but I also learnt about myself. Depression made me a better person because I get it and I have more empathy as a result.
My depression was caused by joint pain, by POTS, things that were not really knew about or understood. I was forever at the doctors, my parents took me to specialists but there was no diagnosis – no understanding. Just a packet of pills to make me smile again. I couldn’t smile through the pain. Instead I slept, I could sleep the days away. Only I could sleep lying on the floor of a bus as it whizzed around hairpin corners in Russia. But ask those that were there and they will tell you – sleep I did!
There was a little girl over the road and I frequently babysat her. She was like a sister to me, our parents were friends, we holidayed together. That little girl is now a grown woman and she too has chased the black dog. Depression, anxiety and here, she tells it in her words:
Some of you may know me and some of you won’t but we all have something in common, we all have experience of mental illness in some way, shape or form. I have lived with it throughout my life in many different ways, seen it in myself, in family and in friends. We need to get people talking, to get them to understand and to end the stigma that surrounds mental health. That is why #itaffectsme was born, to do just that and hopefully it will continue to grow and grow and grow. It is in your hands social media, take it and let it fly!
Like me Laura is a fighter and she is fighting back. She wants us to tell our stories, to take the stigma away. Laura started the ‘#it affects me’ campaign. It is growing momentum, she was on the ITN news today and she wants everyone to get involved and to break the silence.
To show support get involved. You can take a selfie and upload it to social media. You can tell your story to break the silence. Together people are stronger. Visit www.itaffectsme.co.uk and Text SUPPORT to 70660 to donate £3 to Mind.