real life

"There is a reason my name is not on this story".

“Get thee to therapy!”

There is a reason my name is not on this story and that is that I would lose a few friends should they read it.

Because here’s what I want to say, make that plead, out loud for what I wish could be the last time – “get thee to therapy!”

I’m not saying all my friends need to do this, only the ones who keep talking about it, in many cases for years, even decades.

I’m talking about the ones who keep acknowledging it is vital they seek help for debilitating depression and anxiety. The ones who keep sobbing that they can’t keep living in darkness. Yet they do.

And meanwhile the conversation stays the same.

I know it is an honour for friends to share and show their vulnerabilities and I don’t take the responsibility lightly. I understand that mental illness is complicated and respect that it takes time and strength to get help.

But that said it is also hard witnessing those I love struggling with issues that often escalate in to alcohol, drugs, violence, self harm and abuse yet do nothing about it. To see my friends in such pain admit they need help yet choose denial and refuse to reach for it.

Now, I’m not bullying the mentally ill here (save me the nasty tweets, please) – I am the mentally ill. I have suffered chronic depression and every second of it was a living hell I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Which is why I will always shout as loud and as often to fellow sufferers that there is help out there. I reached out for it and it was the best thing I ever did.

Ironically, I believe this is why my friends open up to me in the first place. They are aware of my battle with the black dog and they know I have done everything I possibly can to tame the beast and live a happy life. They see I am proof that therapy and meds can make a huge difference in turning their life around. What’s more, they see I have absolutely no shame in admitting to having sought help.

Regardless, I still find myself trying to convince those close to me that they can be helped too. Time and time again I will hear their pain and try to be their cheerleader for life.

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But what’s really exhausting is to feel like a broken record, giving the same advice time and time again only to have it ignored until the next meltdown and the same friend is back on my couch in a foetal ball, sobbing their heart out.

“Why did I wait so long to do this? What was I afraid of?”

The reason I am so keen for friends to seek medical hep – alert their GP at least – is that they are trained to listen and are not emotionally involved.  What’s more, they have tools and tricks  – think if them like shovels – to help dig you out of a hole.

I know only too well how hard that first step seems but having taken it myself I have to say it is not so hard at all in hindsight, now when compared to running in to the same brick wall and expecting it not to hurt.

After telling my GP my problems and being referred to a specialist what followed was, well, hallelujah-worthy. I took meds and I did therapy and I soul searched and I cried. But in doing so I also shed a whole lot of shit I didn’t want in my life.

It allowed me to be who I am now, not who I was, a sad and lonely kid who felt unworthy of love. And I can tell you the real me is a lot happier than that kid who was shaped by others and circumstance. I actually like me.

There was also a sense of, “why did I wait so long to do this? What was I afraid of?” which only helps the process. Because what is holding you back from looking after your mental is often a major part of the problem in the first place. So, in reality, the first step is a big one it terms of the road to recovery.

I’m not perfect today but who is? No one I want to know, that’s for sure. But at least I like myself today, unlike so many of my friends who remain in pain.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner or in Australia, contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

Do you have any experience with depression, or another mental health issue? Do you agree with the author’s argument for why you should seek therapy?