For years I battled depression and anxiety, quietly and on my own. I looked at others who were struggling and always thought that they had it worse than me. That I wasn’t actually sick, I was just lazy and stupid. I didn’t admit to myself that I had an illness and put my hand up and ask for help. The result was that I suffered for a lot longer and possibly a lot deeper than I really needed to. Of course this is awfully easy to see in hindsight. Over the years I have wondered if I had a second chance, what would I change?
Stephen Fry says in his documentary “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive”, that he wouldn’t take away his illness if he had the option. He believes that it makes him who he is, contributes to his creativity and his passion. I admire Stephen and often think about what would it be like living without bipolar. Living without the deep lows and the exhilarating highs. I’m not sure that I know the answer yet.
What I know now, is that if I found myself suffering from intense psychological pain, feeling like I was worthless, stupid and ugly. Doing odd little behaviours like washing my hands all of the time. I’d like to think that the second time around, I would do one thing completely differently. I would put my hand up and ask for help. I would talk about how I felt and reach out to anyone who would listen. Most importantly, I’d Be brave and tell them how I was feeling, the good and bad as well as the highs and lows. Lastly, I would choose to stretch past my shame of being broken and I say, ‘enough is enough.’ I would seek help.
Seeking help, scary as it is, requires more than making a decision to. It requires you to admit that you have a problem, that what you are feeling and experiencing is unproductive or unhelpful. This is not an easy thing to do. Depression in particular likes to tell you that you are a waste of space, that you are hopeless and ugly. It also tells you that you are not worth saving, not worth helping, not really sick, just stupid and pointless.
The question remains, how do we know what is real and what is just an illusion brought on by our illness?
If you feel that you are hopeless or that life is not worth living, that you cannot experience joy or am unable to have fun. Maybe you find it difficult to get up in the morning or struggle to sleep at night. Perhaps your social circle has become really small and you feeling more and more isolated. If this is the case, it might be time for you to do a mental health check up.
The K10 is a simple questionnaire designed to provide you with a quick way of assessing your current state of mind. I don’t see it as a diagnostic tool, more a way to check in on your mental health state particularly around anxiety and depression.
Whilst the K10 won’t give you all the answers, It will give you are place to start. If you feel that depression is a possibility, there is something you can do. So, Reach out, do a K10, get your answer, and then be brave. Put up your hand and ask for help, it’s possibly the most important thing you will ever do.
You can take the K10 at Beyond Blue – Anxiety and depression checklist (K10)