Very many thanks to Kirsty Ferguson for writing this wonderful blog:
Today marks the fourth anniversary of the loss of my cousin, Cameron, and it is also Mental Health and Wellbeing Week at my University. This got me thinking about what I could do today in remembrance of Cameron.
While I am normally a very private person, I have seen from my amazing Auntie and Uncle that being vulnerable and sharing your own story can be the most powerful way to reach people and make a difference. So I decided this year I would like to share my own mental health challenges, now in a better place and with the benefit of hindsight, in the hope this can help someone else.
Over the last few years, a number of difficult events have happened in mine and my family’s lives. Cameron’s passing devastated us and turned our worlds upside down. Compounded by the loss of both my childhood pets and struggling with moving to a new city, I fell into a rut. This period was the first time I felt real loss and suffering, and I didn’t know how to cope or act. I kept going, distracted by busy studies, but something didn’t feel right and I didn’t know what. In hindsight, life became heavy, I was more irritable, and hypersensitive, like a sponge to all the suffering I saw. I’d always been a happy person but I felt like I’d lost a spark, my emotions shifted down a notch. There were still happy times where the spark would get through, but often it was smothered out by this frustrating haze, periodically lifting but always settling back down. At the time I thought ‘everyone has tough times, things will just get better’.
Last year, I reached a tipping point and finally decided this couldn’t be right. I committed myself to go to a counsellor (I had tried counselling once previously but didn’t stick with it). Here I found out I had reactive depression – a type of depression that can happen in response to a difficult event or grieving, in my case an accumulation of them. To be honest I had no idea that this existed, and everything made so much sense in hindsight. At the time I thought – I could still get out of bed, carry on, and had happy times, so how could I have depression? I should have known better but it’s hard to see rationally at the time and I can now recognise behaviours that weren’t right.
Depression is a spectrum and you do not need to be suicidal or bed-bound to be in need of help. Help should be sought long before this could happen. Of course, there is no denying sharing feelings you haven’t spoken aloud before is a scary prospect. But it is completely worth that initial discomfort, and empowering to move forward and take some control back to your life and emotions.
I have learnt that every one of us goes through hard times, and everyone reacts differently to their experiences. Just because someone else is fine, it doesn’t mean you should be okay too. There is no shame in accepting that sometimes you just need a bit of help. The first step to recovering is acceptance – having had depression doesn’t define me and in fact I feel stronger now for everything I have learnt.
Thank you to my loved ones who stuck by me through the ups and downs of the past few years and with whom the happy times kept me going.
My message to anyone struggling or unsure and considering whether to speak to someone, is do it. Talk to someone, be it your family, a friend or a professional. Life is so fast-paced and sometimes everything needs to take a back seat so you can stop, take a breath, and look after yourself.
It has changed my life – my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
Our love and thanks Kirsty for these wonderful words, Evan & Carol Grant