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“I mean, you don’t LOOK depressed?” – Grace Brown

October 2, 2019

‘I mean, you don’t LOOK depressed’

Throughout my life, I have generally dealt with any minor inconvenience/upset in my life by, quite frankly, not dealing with it at all. My absolute favourite thought process was ‘wow, this is terrible! better push it to the back of my mind where it BELONGS!’ Unsurprisingly, this entirely backfired on me when I actually had something happen to me that I couldn’t just push to the back of my mind. The year is 2015, I’m freshly graduated and living with my best friend in a city centre flat in Leeds. It SOUNDS great doesn’t it?! Well…I don’t know what I expected, but it was probably more along the lines of still going out 3 times a week, and less working for (BELOW!!) minimum wage for a large retail company in their customer service department on a 6am – 2pm shift. Now, if we adopt that splendid point of view commonly known as perspective, I’d say I was pretty darn miserable anyway…but sadly I can’t blame everything that has happened since on that awful job (as much as I’d love to. Honestly. It was terrible). One rather inconsequential day, walking home from said Hell Hole, I planned to meet an old work friend for pizza that night. I got the bus back into the city centre afterwards and walked home, a pretty boring start to the story – but the point is I had done this MANY times. Alone, with another female friend, with another male friend, with a group of friends…in every possible scenario. This time, I was ‘alone’. Sparing all of the details – unbeknown to me, I was being followed, right until the second I turned around to close the door of my building and an arm appeared to stop the door fully closing. I spent the next few hours in the police station. I left feeling as if it was MY fault I had been attacked…based on the ‘advice’ the police had given me (my favourite piece of advice? ‘Women should not walk anywhere alone at night’. Lol). I spared my parents the news until the morning and me and my flatmate spent the entire following day watching Ru Pauls Drag Race. I had a call from Victim Support at some point, and I remember crying listening to the incredibly softly spoken woman asking me if I needed any help – whilst also thinking to myself – why would I possibly need help? I will be fine in a few days!!! I always am!

I was wrong. It actually took around a month…but boy I was WRONG.

I spent a lot of time crying. In public places, in my mums arms (she was so worried at one point that she cradled me in her arms one morning like I was a baby), in bed, in my friends cars. Basically I more or less can point somewhere and say ‘ha! I have cried there!’. I also spent a lot of time watching The Simple Life, whilst feeling intensely guilty that I was missing work, which was a situation i never really thought I would find myself in. My doctor assured me that this was something that would get better over time, but in all honesty, I didn’t feel like I had time. All of a sudden, everything in the entire world was terrible. I couldn’t understand how or why, all I was certain of was that I felt HEAVY. I wanted to hide under my duvet for as long as it took for my life to have some light again, which felt impossible.

Memory is an interesting thing because I feel like I walked into my doctors surgery, cried, and was handed antidepressants. But on the other hand I also remember having to more or less beg for something to make me feel normal again. This something was, of course, antidepressants. I had absolutely no idea of side effects, how they worked, IF they worked; they just existed in my mind as something that would sort out my brain in the same way paracetamol does a headache.

Some Very Important Things I have learnt about antidepressants:

  • Taking them absolutely does not make you weak. No ~mental health journey~ is the same.
  • Similarly – do not feel guilty for taking them, it isn’t a ‘cop out’. Addressing how and why you have got to the point of needing medication isn’t something everyone is able or SHOULD have to do until they’re ready.
  • Some people simply will not understand and you are under no obligation to explain anything to them. Are they your doctor? Do they have a medical degree? No? Bye
  • You will not take the first tablet, wake up and feel like yourself again. (If I ruled the world, we would. But I don’t)
  • You will still feel shitty at times. Your anxiety will still appear at the most inappropriate moments. But you can FUNCTION.
  • If your medication says ‘no alcohol’…please do not do a Grace Brown and assume this is overly cautious and drink all the gin anyway. A hangover and extreme anxiety due to not remembering 99% of the night before? Not today Satan

Despite the debilitating nature of depression, I have always been desperate to prove to myself that it does not deserve to consume my life. Unavoidable at times, sure, but once you find out what works for you, you start to forget that foggy brain feeling and before you know it you’re crawling out of the hole again and the light is getting brighter. Antidepressants for me were a gift in a horribly dark time. They won’t be for everyone and unfortunately that just makes the journey all that more stressful. They also don’t work on their own.

What works for me may not work for you, or in fact anyone. For example…the most popular thing recommended to me has been exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I know it has literally been scientifically proven to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression, but I’m almost 27 years into this life and I’m yet to not step into a gym and instantly want to leave. I’ve tried meditation and ended up falling asleep, I’ve read self help books that I’ve laughed my way through as they felt so simplified and I’ve tried walking through nature to ‘appreciate the beauty of the world’…most of the time, I got bored and/or cold and ended up turning around and going back to bed. Have I made my point yet?

Some things that DO work for me, (a non exhaustive list) are: having amazing friends who for some reason do not stop inviting me for dinner despite the fact I will agree 7 times in a row and cancel each time, books, trash tv, spending time with my little brother (a 7 year old promising to look after you is TOO PURE), and most importantly…a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a night.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 4 years trying to get back to ‘me’; desperately wondering if I’ll ever be normal again. But the most important thing I have realised? This is my new normal – I’m Grace Brown and I am incredibly anxious 90% of the time and suffer depressive episodes but that is FINE and that is me. It takes a long ass time to live with and cope with, but when you learn how to do these things, the colour begins seeping back into the world again.

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