There’s no magic cure but it does get easier.
It’s OK to ask for help.
Of all the things I wish I had known sooner, this one probably tops the list. Like a lot of people suffering with depression, I knew what I had long before I ever sought help for it. I had diagnosed myself by the time I was 17, and yet I still waited a further four years before being forced by circumstance to get help. Why? Because I didn't know how to.
Back in 2007 campaigns by mental health charities had yet to reach the mountains of mid-Wales, my Twitter feed contained no blogs written by people who'd undergone therapy, and I knew of no one personally who had suffered with depression. I felt completely alone. That changed when circumstance forced me to get the help that I needed.
Getting help was among the hardest things I've ever done, but it has easily been the most rewarding.
Haejin Park / BuzzFeed
Not to beat myself up.
You feel bad, you self-harm, you feel like a failure for self-harming, and so then you feel bad again. It's a vicious cycle. I was 16 years old when I first started self-harming, and at the time I wasn't sure why I was doing it – I just knew that for a few fleeting moments it made me feel better in myself. Looking back I can see that it made me feel like I was doing the work of an imaginary judge, condemning myself to the physical pain that I felt on the inside, and on a less philosophical level it acted as a distraction – as a calming release from the monotony of my indifference.
And it's not just physically that I'd harm myself: On a subtler level I'd hurt myself mentally, too. The mental self-loathing is not necessarily something that ever really stops, but it is something you can learn to manage. It's easy to be over-critical of yourself, but standing up to negative voices takes effort.
Sometimes you've got to find your own little temporary fixes, whether that's hiding in bed watching It's Always Sunny or going for a long, solitary walk. Whatever works.
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Getting better takes time.
It took me a total of six months, three different medications, and countless doctor's appointments just to find the right antidepressants that worked for me. Even then I was still far from what you'd call « happy », but I was on the right path. After dozens of hours of what have to be among the most awkward counselling sessions ever, I was further along that path. Seriously, I once filled the awkward silence during one session by going on a rant about hang-gliders and, you guessed it, she hang-glided. Who the hell hang-glides?
All the downs, like the duloxetine side-effect of having the dilated pupils of a stoned barn owl, or the hours spent next to coughing old ladies in doctor's waiting rooms, are easily overshadowed by the ups. Four years after starting on the road to recovery, I don't even recognise the constantly depressed, hang-glide-hating person I was back then.
Becky Barnicoat / BuzzFeed
I'm naturally a quiet person – part by choice, part by anxiety. Just writing openly about depression feels like a betrayal to my personality. While counselling isn't for everyone, there's definitely something therapeutic about having someone to listen to your problems. Sometimes just hearing or reading my thoughts aloud helps put them into perspective.
I've found help in the unlikeliest of places, and among people I never would have thought to turn to. The first step of opening up was definitely the hardest, but by doing so a weight was immediately lifted from my shoulders. For the most part people care, and want to see you succeed.
Haejin Park / BuzzFeed