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16 Mar 2015

Reflections For The Lost – An Outsider’s Perspective

It is important at this point to make one thing clear – I, myself, have never suffered from depression. I have had particularly low points in my life; however this is a situation familiar to us all. While I have never had to battle the illness, I do have personal experience of it. A good friend, with whom I have developed a close and unique bond only experienced by those in a similar situation, has been constantly struggling to overcome depression for years. I have been with her every step of the way, and I will be with her until the very end; either as a rock, a companion, a source of light relief, whatever is required. I feel the need to document my experiences throughout this period, perhaps to show someone, who under their mask hides a deep despair, that they are far from alone. There is help, support and love all around. It could show someone at their lowest point, enveloped by darkness, that there is a spark of hope, a possibility of recovery. The night is always darkest just before the dawn.

The day that my friend approached me will live long in my memory. It was a Sunday in February 2012. Out of the blue, I received a text. As the conversation progressed, my friend confided in me that she was really down. Upon further inquiry, she admitted that she no longer wanted to be here anymore. She was preparing to take her own life.

Put yourself in that situation. How would you react? Hopefully, you’ll never have to face this dilemma. It hit me hard. The next 24 hours were a blur. I couldn’t sleep, thinking that I may never see my friend again. I pleaded, I begged, I cried, I panicked, I almost broke down. That was nothing compared to what she was going through. Eventually, she agreed to attend counselling.

It would be both foolish and untrue to claim that everyone lived happily ever after. The counselling was a huge help, and it clearly made a significant difference to her. She seemed more content, and more willing to confront her issues and talk about them. Naturally, there have been relapses; points where she has hit rock bottom again. As with any healing process, this can occur. However, it is my firm belief that this has only made her stronger. The ability to battle through these periods requires phenomenal levels of strength and perseverance, as well as a virtually superhuman level of courage. So if you, dear reader, are experiencing a particularly tough period, remember – you are strong. You are brave. There is nothing that is insurmountable in life.

‘Cheer up’. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ ‘Try to be positive’. ‘Stop being so miserable’.

We’ve all heard these phrases at some point in our lives. While usually uttered with the best of intentions, it can be most unhelpful to someone in the midst of depression. They can become very self-conscious about their inability to escape their despondency, making them even more introverted and withdrawn.

Sometimes, it is often clear that people betray a staggeringly naive view of what it is like to be depressed. It can start slowly and continue to develop from there, or it can hit anyone at any time, with no prior warning. It can start with a niggling feeling of anxiety; building until it becomes utterly overwhelming, enveloping the person in perpetual darkness. There appears to no light at the end of the tunnel. It is impossible to imagine a feeling of such utter despair; to have completely abandoned hope.

Hope is the single most important sensation in the human psyche. Hope helps us to get through another day. If you are reading this and you have lost all hope for the future, please believe me when I say that there is always hope. Hope never dies. Our greatest strength often comes from the times when we feel the weakest. I have witnessed, first hand, the sheer power that hope has. Throughout everything, despite her intentions to end her life, my friend never gave up hope of a brighter tomorrow. And here she is, three years later, still alive and doing fantastically well. If she can overcome her problems, so can you. But you shouldn’t have to do it alone.

Support is absolutely crucial. It may be something of a cliché, but a ‘problem shared is a problem halved’. A particular problem faced by my friend, as she confessed to me many times, was that she felt that she was a burden on me by talking to me anytime she felt down. Of course, the idea of it being a burden could not have been more untrue, but I completely understand the compulsion to feel that way. It is not easy to admit that you have a problem, and that you need help. However, whether you approach a counsellor, a family member, a GP, or a friend, they will want to help. They will always want to do what is in your best interests and do whatever they possibly can. You should never feel like a burden. Please, I beg you, if you feel depressed or down, please talk to someone. Even if you’re sceptical regarding the results, it is easy to underestimate the phenomenally therapeutic effect that talking about your problems can have. With the support of others, there is nothing you cannot do. You can beat this. You will beat this. You are strong. You are adored. You are special. You are surrounded by those that love you. You are a fighter.

I am leaving this letter/essay/whatever you choose to call it, anonymous, with the express idea that it could have been written by anyone. It should encourage you to confide in someone, as they will feel and react the same way as I would. They will know what you’re going through, and they will know how to help.

I will always be there for my friend, and for anyone else who comes to me for help. I have seen her rise from the ashes, defying the odds to live a happy and content life. We often talk about that dark day in February 2012. She thanks me for being there for her in her hour of need. She fought depression, and she won. If she can do it, so can you. And if she faces that battle again, heaven forbid, I’ll be with her every step of the way; to carry her, to make her laugh, to cheer her up, to cry with her. And rest assured, we will win again. Together.

To those of you who suffer in secret; those silent warriors facing an apparently hopeless battle – I am here for you. We all are. We will do all that we can to help you. Together, we are unstoppable. We will fight with you. We will pick you up when you fall. We will carry you if we must.

But rest assured, we’ll be by your side through it all.

And together, we will win.

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