Mental illness: Most try to cope in silence

No one who suffers should fear the consequences of sharing their experiences.

Mental illness.

We either have it, know someone who does, or both.

Two weeks ago, as part of Bell Let’s Talk Day (Jan. 27), I shared a glimpse into my world with 10 complete strangers. These people also shared their stories, all very different but all very real burdens to live with. Everyone has a story. Here’s mine.

I suffer from depression. I was diagnosed 13 years ago, when I was 15 years old. I have had to take medication to manage it for nearly all of those 13 years.

Although there are similarities, suffering from depression as a teenager and suffering as an adult are different realities. On Feb. 1, I turned 28 years old. I’m supposed to “have my sh*t together.” Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

When I don’t, I really, really don’t. Even with medication and unconditional love and support from my parents, many of my days are full of struggle. I have days that end with my only accomplishment being that I survived the last 24 hours.

Thankfully though, I do have some good days. I have days where I’m productive, happy and think positively about my future. I yearn for the day that I’m able to have more good days than bad. One day I also hope to overcome the daily symptoms of my depression and hopefully help others do the same.

Depression affects many parts of one’s life. Although a mental illness, depression affects most sufferers emotionally and physically as well.

Physically we are often more susceptible to extreme fatigue. Often we don’t feel rested, feel weaker than we should, and sometimes even experience unexplainable body pains. Many of us who suffer are less able to control or conceal our emotions. It’s also a lot harder to deal with the effects our emotions have on our day-to-day lives.

Although not everyone with depression acts the same way, there are definitely some shared behaviours.

Myself and everyone else I know who suffers from mental illness has some form of a social issue, for example. Those who really know me probably know two polar opposite sides of me.

One is that I’m often a recluse. I stay home, avoid social gatherings, avoid just “going for coffee,” and even fail to respond to calls, texts and messages much more often than I would like to admit.

Of course, when I do have good days, or when I have to pull it together for work, I’m able to be a social butterfly. Lots of people look to me to plan parties, help make parties amazing, or even just be the life of the party. When there’s more on the line than just having a good time, I’m usually able to. When there isn’t, I’m usually nowhere to be found.

Most of the people I know who also suffer are the exact same way. Sadly, I think all of us have had these behaviours affect our friendships, relationships and sometimes even our work lives. I always do my best to be my best self in the presence of others, but I’m not perfect.

Of course, I could go on forever about the little details that many people don’t know about me, or don’t know about depression in general. If you’ve read this far, I’m already impressed. Not only did you commit to reading a long-winded letter, but you didn’t quit reading just because it’s all about an issue that a lot of the general population likes to ignore.

Depression and other mental illnesses aren’t going to go away. More people suffer in silence than any of us can even imagine. Most do so because of the stigma that comes with mental illness. I too am guilty of trying to conceal it for many years, except to family and close friends.

We shouldn’t have to hide or fear the consequences of sharing our stories. I deeply appreciate every one of you that do your best to accept, understand and embrace the people around you who suffer.

 

Samantha Aho

Surrey

 

 

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