I had no idea you were unhappy

As promised the is the second part of this blog post - Deep Breath - Just tell someone.

Whilst it has been overwhelming to receive such positive feedback from so many people, it has been puzzling that the comment thread is that people had no idea that I was so sad.

It is really awful when you hear about suicide that often those closest to the person say that they had no idea. I have some thoughts on this, they are just my thoughts and my experience. They are not answers or solutions, but they are my experience.

For me, the hardest part of being being so depressed was that no one noticed and no one cared. That is how I saw it anyway.

A person suffering from depression may not show outward signs that you can easily pick up on. I did not seem to the outside world much different, I wasn’t crying all the time, I wasn’t abusing substances, I suppose I didn’t give off traditional cues to being miserable.

I took this to mean that the outside world thought me awful, an abrupt and cranky bitch that people steered clear of. Maybe this is true, maybe not - but this is how I saw things.

The thing I craved most was understanding and someone who would just listen to me. Who would let me unpack my thoughts so that I could potentially talk through some of my more crazier thoughts and gain some much needed perspective and a way out of the fog.

For many people suffering from depression a listening ear and the empathy that goes with it is gold.

I found this hard to come by.

Whilst initially I determined that this was the result of people thinking I was a cranky cow and steering clear of me and simply not caring or not noticing, on reflection, I can also see that this may have been due to the fact that I didn’t actually tell anyone.

For a very long time, I just kept it all in. My kids in particular bearing the brunt of my anger and sadness. I just could not bring myself to verbalise what was in my head. I found it hard when chatting to those closest to me to take advantage of any opening in the conversation to actually say how I was.

Conversations with family tended to involve me asking lots of questions about how they were, what was happening, asking them about issues I knew they were having and letting them tell me what was going on. This normally would then involve me waiting for the opportunity for them to then ask me how I was feeling, to ask me about my world.

This invariably did not happen. Of course this then pissed me off.

You know when people ask you how you are - and you answer Good, really busy and then proceed to turn the conversation back around to them…well that is what I did a lot of. I just got tired of being disappointed that no one persisted with asking me how I was. 

I also think for a long long time I was not ready to let those closest to me know, so I just didn’t say. The fact they didn’t ask made it easier for me to continue to keep it to myself, thus making my depression far worse than I think it needed to be.

It is hard to let people know that you are not coping with life. 

It is hard enough to admit it to yourself, let alone anyone else, but you must tell someone. You have to reach out of yourself and tell someone, but you might be surprised at who those someone’s are.

I have been.

So - who have been my surprised packets.

1. Professionals

By professionals I don’t mean counsellors just yet - I mean accountants, business coaches, bank managers, solicitors your boss.

I know you are thinking what - really?

But hear me out. I have been constantly surprised at genuine goodness in the most unlikely of places over the last 2 years ( hence why this is blog is called  #leannesaysitsallg and I regularly use the hashtag #findthegood)

For us naturally Glass half empty people, I think we don’t always notice the good that just exists all around us. Some of the professionals above have provided much in the way of non-judgmental sounding boards, acceptance of weaknesses, guidance for making tough decisions ( that go such a long way in helping to reduce stress ) and just listening to whatever honest conversations you might have. I am not suggesting a crying session at the accountants, but these people have heard it all before and they know people come out the other side, so often whilst financial, legal or strategic decisions may not be the heart of your depression, often being able to speak honestly to these kinds of people can provide some much needed clarity.

This can often form the catalyst for seeking other professional help and also be the trigger to break the ice with family and friends. 

2. Your doctor

You have to see a doctor.

I put this off for at least 6 months after I had accepted that I needed to see one. I think my husband knew I had to see one about 6 months before that. Pride, Vanity, Fear of speaking out loud what up until that point is only in your head, I really don’t know why I couldn’t bring myself to go, but I am so glad I did. 

Again - they have heard it all before and not from a ‘so they don’t care about you perspective’ but rather they know people come out the other side, and if you are at the doctor point you know you can’t do it on your own. Because you can’t.

You can’t do it on your own and you can’t do it without medication.

No amount of inspirational quotes, walking in the morning or glasses of vino in the evening is going to help you get back to your happy place. You will need medication and you need to listen to the doctor for what they recommend needs to happen for you.

It was only at this point after I calmly spoke with my doctor, with my husband with me, that he understand exactly what had been going on in my crazy head for so so long. He apologised to me for not understanding, but it was a real moment of awakening for him and he finally could see what I needed going forward in terms of listening and empathy.

My doctor was just wonderful - I think it helped that I didn’t know him very well, so I could just talk without thinking that his impression of me would change, as he didn’t have an impression of me - he was just a caring doctor dealing with a patient.

3. Your counsellor

I have long struggled with this concept. In fact even though I saw the doctor, received some medication, it took me another 3 months to book the appointment to see the counsellor.

If you come across as a confident person, seeing a counsellor because you feel so bad about life and your place in it, is a hard step to take. You feel worse because you think you should have been able to hold it all together yourself. I still find I have to psych myself up to book an appointment and then mentally prepare. I just find it hard to let it go.

But you just have to speak with someone, you cannot just let it stay inside you, this is why you doctor has recommended you talk to a counsellor. You may have more serious mental health issues that require their expertise or you may just need someone to help you talk through all those crazy thoughts in your head.

You may just need validation that you as a person are good, that whilst this time in your life is hard and dark, you are good and valued and you can find your way back to your happy place. You can find the good in your life again and they can help you with techniques and a sounding board for your fears how you do that.

Each of these people will chip away at the armour you have built up around yourself, to let this pent up sadness out. Each person that you tell more of your story to, in whatever way you can, helps you get stronger and better and allows people to not only understand you better, but to also understand people with depression better. It helps them to listen without judging or fixing. 

So what did I do.?

4. The hard ones

I cheated, I started to let out a little of the story to those furthest away. I just found the whole idea of being ‘not right’ embarrassing, to verbalise that I was in trouble was really hard, it made it real, it meant I had to do something about it. I also found that people who tended to be a little dark, were often the best listeners, because much to my surprise in many cases, they had been there before.

Not everyone you might be brave enough to open up to will give you what you need. In my case it was listening and acceptance of my feelings as real.

I didn’t want to be fixed, as I knew ultimately that I have to do that myself. I needed acceptance of my situation by others, validation that it was real and bleak and acknowledgement that they understood and would listen to me unload in the future.

Yes it was disappointing and bit hurtful that those I thought would be a help to me weren’t. You can’t let that stop you, they may not understand where you are, as they may not have been in that black place. They may just be such ‘up’ people that they can’t see that it is anything more than a blue patch. Whatever, you can’t blame them or you in that situation, you just need to find others.

It has been wonderful for me to discover new connections, very old friends who listened and reminded me why we were old friends, acquaintances just waiting in the wings with understanding.

Those people are out there for us all - we need to chip away at that armour so we can find the strength to seek them out. People are inherently good, there is good all around - we just need to have the courage to look.

This blog post is dedicated to the lovely Class of 84, who without realising it helped me so much in late 2013/2014…I think you know you you are… xx