Although it has only been a few months since my depression was officially diagnosed, it is so liberating to finally acknowledge it. This post is a bit more about that part of my story.
I have been suffering from depression for over ten years, starting in my adolescence. I didn’t seek professional help until after my failed suicide attempt at the age of 25. At first I was in denial about my depression, telling myself that everything would be better when I left school, or got my first job, or came out as gay. Then I immersed myself in various projects, causes and hobbies, in a bid to distract myself or fill the void that depression had gradually dug within me.
I did not believe that a psychologist would be able to say something that would suddenly make me feel better, so I tried to fix it myself. I thought depression was something I should just “snap out of”. That it was an excuse neurotic housewives made up to talk about their “problems”. I used to feel guilty about it, that I was weak or self-centred or a bad Christian for having depression. I used to feel so alone, that nobody else would understand, because no one else gave any hint that they might feel it too.
My depression was finally diagnosed in London while I was in hospital there, recovering from my suicide attempt. I have since moved back to Cape Town and have been seeing a psychiatrist for regularly therapy. Now I know that depression is a treatable illness and that there are effective coping methods for it.
In the first two weeks after my suicide attempt became public knowledge, I received five different emails from people in my network saying that they had been in therapy for years to treat their depression. Some of these people I counted among my closest friends and yet we had never opened up to each other about this side of our lives. We need to stop making depression a taboo subject, something to be ashamed of. When we speak about depression, we should stop using terms like “confessing” or “admitting” to depression. We must educate adolescents about depression and prepare our youth to recognise the symptoms and have the confidence to seek treatment. They need to know that they are not alone and where they can go to for help.
Depression is an illness, not an identity; something you have, not something you are.