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Wednesday 4 June 2014

This is what depression and anxiety looks like. By Karen Denaro.

Here's the thing about depression and anxiety. It's not always packaged as you might expect. And it does not always present the way you think it should.

This applies to both the person with depression, and the person who has no idea you have depression.

One day, yes… you are smiling and happy and feel strong enough to take on the world; and yes, there might be a happy snap of you on social media hanging with a friend, going shopping, indulging in some amazing sushi. Life is good.

And then, the next day… life hits rock bottom. All over again. You fall hard.

I can relate to this experience. When you're a carer of someone with dementia and are raising a special needs child, the black dog kinda nips at your heels constantly. Some days, you need a big 'stick' to fight it off. Others, you just tell it where to go, politely.

So many suffer in silence. Who shall I tell? What can they possibly do? It's my problem anyway, they have their own problems. Or, 'worse' still: they have a pretty cruisy life - why would they want to hear about my shit. All. Over. Again.

Yes, yes, and yes.

Sometimes, people want to tell you about their very, very low points. A problem shared is a problem halved, it has been said. Well, when a person is in a low, low state and you know it: listen, and listen good. They are reaching out. They need you. Just be there. Really be there.

Also, it's kinda grating if people who can't relate - or perhaps, don't really want to - tell you airy, fairy things like: "It'll get better… Or: "Oh, there are people worse off than you. Be grateful for what you have." While this might be true, when you're in the throes of deep depression, any theoretical conjecture on perspective can seriously go jump.

Karen Denaro is a longtime friend. She has written for this blog under a pseudonym and expressed some pretty raw emotions and has written some very important words. This time… she wants to show herself, her face, her name - and express what's in her heart.

This is what depression looks like. Looks pretty happy, huh? Because she is happy. But often - lately, very often - she is depressed and anxious:

Karen Denaro. Photo courtesy of Karen.

She hopes that in her sharing her very real, current, raw story you will get something, learn something, start the healing in some way.

Here are Karen's words:

"I wish I had been brave enough to post this many years ago… So here goes, as I take off the mask I wear for society and I watch the people who cannot accept the harsh reality fall away.

I am an eternal advocate for destigmatising anxiety and depression, not only because I have lost some of my dearest friends to suicide, but also because I fight my own demons.

This happens quite often in silence… until I have hit crisis point, simply because I hate the overwhelming guilt of feeling like a burden and I cannot stand the idea of a pity party!

I am not ashamed of my vulnerabilities and I am not defined by my wounds because I am not my wounds. It is not my mood and most definitely not my personality, it is not who I am.

However when it hits it feels like a dark cloud that envelopes you in totality; there is no light at the end of the tunnel in that moment, however frightening it is when you are experiencing it. It lifts - but only with lots of daily positive self work, healthy lifestyle habits and most importantly, with the love, kindness and support of the people you care for.

A word, if I may, to those who do not understand or are maybe frustrated by friends/family/loved ones experiencing this kind of suffering: the absolute worst thing you can say to someone in crisis is "snap out if it", "get over it" or "you need to change your thinking".

I can assure you in my deepest, darkest, lowest moments there is nothing I have wanted more! In that defining moment of a person's suffering, when they are totally unable to connect to their own sense of self worth, two things happen.

You realise who really loves you; meaning, who you are truly valuable to and how the people that you are truly important to reach out and give you the reassurance you need to get through to the next day.

This is not because the person suffering is "needy", but because in that moment we can't see, access or feel it for ourselves and the people we love and trust give us hope that we are not completely worthless.

It is what gives us something to keep fighting for. Tough love is purposeful when someone is operating from a healthy mode, in a 'healthy' zone, but is still in the midst of their 'shit'; we all need tough love at times, in order to snap out of that moment.

But it is the absolute worst possible thing you can do to someone in need of positive reassurance when they are in crisis.

Be mindful of your words and actions when dealing with someone in crisis, because I can assure you, and I speak from experience on this, those words can make or break their spirit."

If you would like to speak to someone at ANY time about your depression and anxiety and what you are going through, call them on 1300 22 4636 for immediate support.

Or click here for more info on Beyond Blue

They also do web chats between 3pm and 12am. Click here for more.

You can also email them for support and get a response within 24 hours. Click here for more info.

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