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Thursday 8 September 2016

#ROUK: Real Life Story - "It literally feels like a black cloud, looming over you."

#ROUK? That day is today. You know, when seemingly everyone asks it, posts it, perhaps even makes light of it, even jokes about it...

This day has had some incredible traction since its inception in 1995.

Says the site on how the day started:

In 1995, much-loved Barry Larkin was far from ok. His suicide left family and friends in deep grief and with endless questions. In 2009, his son Gavin Larkin chose to champion just one question to honour his father and to try and protect other families from the pain his endured.
"Are you ok?"
While collaborating with Janina Nearn on a documentary to raise awareness, the team quickly realised the documentary alone wouldn't be enough.
To genuinely change behaviour Australia-wide, a national campaign was needed. And from this realisation, and with Gavin and Janina’s expertise and passion, R U OK? was born.
Gavin remained a passionate champion of the fact a conversation could change a life, even as cancer ended his in 2011.
His and Janina’s legacy is ensuring all Australians realise a little question can make a big difference to those people struggling with life.

Here is a clip to explain it all, too:

And now, my friend Adam's story.

I have known Adam for over a decade, and in that time I have always seen him as a positive, bright, happy, optimistic and really bloody funny guy. We can laugh ourselves silly at anything, anytime, over anything.

But, as I know all too well, sometimes the laughs mask some pretty full on low, low feelings, and yes, tears. Some hidden, some in full view of others when the going gets a little too tough.

He posted his thoughts on RUOK day this morning, and I was so moved and kinda blown away by his honesty. Adam and I both work in rather public roles, and yeah, it could be deemed uncool to express your feelings. Especially (though I don't subscribe to this idea) if you're a man.

And so, I asked Adam permission to post his Facebook post on RUOK day.

Here he is, and here are his words:

Adam Cee feeling honest.
5 hrs
⚠️ Heavy status alert 
A note on my experience with depression 
Today is #RUOK day. It's an event that gets a lot of attention for all the right reasons, a wonderful initiative that I'm sure will see hundreds of thousands post statuses and text friends the question, but I wanted to share my story about the importance of going beyond just asking if someone you know is ok on one day and why it's important to make it part of your regular narrative with people you care about.
My experience with depression is a funny one. I shared an insight once before, years ago, and was stunned at the response. I had complete strangers ringing and emailing me confiding in me their deepest thoughts. I wasn't qualified to take that on. It was both crushing for an empathetic person like me (because I took on their feelings too) and also liberating because I realised I was able to use my situation to hopefully help another feel ok about theirs. It also validated myself and helped me realise that I was not alone.
So. The D Word. How do I describe my dealings with depression? 
It literally feels like a black cloud, looming over you. Threatening you. And following you everywhere you go. You can see it but nobody else can. You're always looking up at it and even if you're not you know it's there because the shadow of its immense heaviness envelopes you. It bears down on you and feels like it could crush you if you let it. 
For another analogy, it feels like you're wearing a thick Winter jacket in the middle of Summer. Except that jacket is made from emotions and memories and bad feelings and it stifles you, makes you feel uncomfortable and makes you sweat but somehow, for some reason, you just can't take that jacket off even though you wish you could. You ask yourself why am I choosing to wear this heavy jacket when everyone else is in a shirt? But the truth is - that even if you wanted to you just can't take it off today.
I should mention that for me these are feelings that come in waves. Usually something or someone triggers it. I'm not in a constant state of depression. It's a cycle. Sometimes I'm soaring high and other times I'm crushingly low. 
Depression for me causes feelings of anxiety, makes me question people's motives, makes me read into their words, second guess my own thoughts. It's a voice telling me I'm not worth it, I'm not a winner. It's a real bugger and the problem is most of the time when you actually realise it's beginning to take you over, it's already too late. 
I had a friend recently tell me that they didn't experience emotions in the same way I did. That they had the ability not to think beyond the task at hand and to not cloud life with feeling and emotion. God I was so envious. I wish I had that ability to turn off that running tap in my mind, to not take everything to heart, to just be able to hit the mute button on my inner thoughts just for a minute. It seems impossible even thinking about it now.
But of course outwardly you probably wouldn't guess it if you met me in the street. I'd probably smile, crack a joke, make a joke at my own expense, comment on something inane or give you a compliment. Even inside if there was a black fire consuming my brain most people wouldn't have a clue except for my inner circle who are privy to uncensored me. To the rest it would just look as if I was having a bit of an off day. 
The amount of times I've heard 'You look tired' and I'd love to reply with 'Because I haven't slept in days' or 'You look flat' and you want to spill your guts and say it's because you spent the best part of your time in the shower this morning in tears, but then most people simply wouldn't know what to say. It's a damn shame. 
Why hide it? For fear of judgement. For fear of being labelled an attention seeker. For fear that maybe someone would view my depression as unattractive or weird or simply not for them. As too much. Too intense.
But that's not healthy is it? It's not right to suppress just to impress. 
For the best part of a decade my career in publicity taught me the fine art of how to make everything look amazing even if behind the scenes it was a veritable shitstorm. I was taught how to gloss over things, how to make things pop, how to not necessarily hide the truth but perhaps conveniently push it around the corner and out of sight.
The truth is I think we should embrace the truth. We should highlight the shit bits of life with the same fervent passion that we do the good bits. We all go through crap times so why shouldn't we feel safe enough to share that we aren't feeling the best?
Treat your depression like you would a post on social media. Post the bad shit up on Instagram in between the photos of donuts and cute dogs, whack a filter on it if you want to but don't hide it. Tell people how you're feeling today. Be honest. Hashtag that bitch up. Give it a spotlight. Encourage people to comment, to like, to engage, to be interested in the real bits of you too.... not just the bits you think people want to see. Embrace your inner weirdness, your thoughts and desires no matter how dark and if they don't like it then they can unfollow you both there and in real life but at least you know you're living by your truth. 
I've become allergic to bullshit in my "older" years - I know I'm only 32, cry me a river - but it's why I've become allergic to the sales pitch, to those who worship false idols, to those who profess they are something other than they are, to those who take advantage of others, to those who take credit for other people's greatness, to those who prey on the insecurities of others, to the sociopaths whose lot in life is to make others miserable because it makes them happy, to the people who simply can't accept their own truths. To the fakers.
And I've been pretty open with the people I care about (and probably sometimes to my detriment) but the way I see it at least I can go to bed knowing that I've shared my heart, my thoughts and my battle and it's up to them whether they decide to support me in the fight. And if they choose not to then that is their prerogative and as much as it might hurt I can't do anything to change that. I can't let it fuel my depression further. 
I'm sick of living in fear of people judging me for suffering depression. And I won't anymore.
What they don't understand is it doesn't define me, sure it is a part of me, much like any other appendage, and one that I'm guessing will always be part of me. But does it make me lesser a person? No. 
Does it make me incapable? Unprofessional? Unfriendable? No. 
Will I be ok? Sure. I'm one of the lucky ones that somehow always bounces back. Sure I fall and sometimes I fall hard and fall frequently. But I am still here. Still fighting. Still living. I'm just living with a roommate that I can't boot out so I'll just have to keep learning to co-exist with him even though he shits me to tears sometimes.
So to my original point, I guess what I'm saying here is I hope that many of you go beyond today when asking friends and family if they are okay. And if you're the one that's not ok know that it is always ok to always talk about that.
I hope you pick up the phone and just talk to a friend. Go out for a coffee. Message a friend overseas. Go for a walk and scream to loud music. Talk to your parents. Anyone. And not just today. But some other day or week or month. Because RUOK day will come and it will go but for those living with depression we can't contain our honest open feelings to just one date every year. If only it was that easy.
Thanks for listening ✌🏼

What a story, what honest writing, right? Share if this moved you, and you know someone can see themselves in Adam's story.

Follow RUOK on Facebook HERE.

And on Twitter HERE.

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