After interviewing Susie Jones last week and listening to her story, I thought it would be appropriate to share mine. I have been living with depression and anxiety for about four years now, although I wasn’t diagnosed until after I finished high school. I didn’t seek medical help on my own; my mum helped me to reach out and get the support I needed.
I’ve organised this post in a similar layout to the interview with Susie Jones, in the hopes that it makes it easier to follow…
What mental health condition were you diagnosed with and when were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with major depression in 2012. When I visited a psychiatrist for the first time, he said that I also had issues with anxiety.
What do you believe contributed to your condition?
Even though I wasn’t diagnosed until 2012, through year 11 and 12 at high school I would have regular panic attacks triggered by stress. At the same time I was also had a part-time job in a very stressful environment. After graduating high school I took a gap year and volunteered as an English teacher in India for four months. For the most part it was enjoyable, but the constant sexual harassment and poverty got to me eventually and I didn’t want to even get out of bed most mornings. When I returned to Australia I was unemployed, not studying and I felt that there was no point in life.
How long did it take you to seek professional assistance?
It took about three years of keeping it to myself before my mother came into my room one day and found me crying uncontrollably for seemingly no reason. This had happened a couple of times that week so she drove me to the medical clinic where I was diagnosed with depression, prescribed anti-depressants and was given the phone number of a psychiatrist.
Which form of treatment worked best for you?
I personally hated therapy, although I know that it works for many people. My high school counselor had her entire office full of dolphin collectables, whereas my psychiatrist opted for owls. I found this really off-putting and just kept taking my anti-depressants. I’m still taking them now, although I’ve doubled the dosage since I was first prescribed. The only problem is remembering to take them everyday.
Did your friends and family support you through your treatment? Who supported you the most?
My family have been quite supportive. My mum understands what it’s like to live with depression and keeps urging me to take my medication. My dad and my sister keep an eye on me to make sure that I’m okay (they think they’re being subtle!). Also, my boyfriend is very supportive despite his very busy life.
I used to have one very close friend who would support me through all of my breakdowns in the past, but unfortunately we don’t keep in contact anymore.
Did you ever feel like people didn’t completely understand your condition?
I had a number of friends who didn’t understand what I was going through. I never wanted to leave the house, so a couple of times I invited my close friends over. Whenever that happened I would become overwhelmed and start having panic attacks and lock myself in a separate room. My friends were naturally worried, but they had no idea how to help me.
Were you ever made to feel guilty or selfish in regards to your condition?
I was never personally made to feel this way, although I always stopped myself every time I considered making a Facebook post about my illness in case people called me ‘attention seeking’ or ‘selfish’.
How do you feel now? Has your condition improved or worsened?
Overall, my mental well-being has improved. I’m still introverted so I do like staying in; that much hasn’t changed. However, I do have a much better control over my anxiety and depression. I still need to take my medication daily, otherwise I feel worse in the long run.
Why do you believe this is the case?
Having a supportive network really helped me to concentrate on getting better. My anti-depressants are also very effective (when I remember to take them).
I believe one of the most important things for me was having a goal or something to keep me busy. Once I started university and had a permanent part-time position at work I found it much easier to live. Staying at home all the time just reminded me of my illness, which just intensified my depression.
Do you believe that there needs to be more mental illness awareness initiatives?
I am a strong advocate for more mental illness awareness initiatives (hence the blog). I believe that mental illness courses should be taught in schools as part of the health curriculum. There’s still a stigma associated with depression, for example. When I went to high school I was friends with a number of people who self-harmed or attempted to take their own lives. No-one knew how to cope with depression or ask for help.
What advice would you give to someone going through what you went through?
Don’t leave it too late to ask for help. If something feels wrong, talk to your doctor and find a treatment that works for you. Talk to someone you can trust or keep a diary. Don’t feel guilty, one in five Australians live with a mental illness – you are not alone.
Contact one of these organisations for more information on mental health: