Breathe: why it's good to talk
Away from this, I run my own business. I may mention it occasionally, but that's not really what this site is about. "So why are you talking about it now then?" I hear you cry! Well, yesterday I was at a women's-only networking event that I go to on a monthly business as part of my business development. I've been a member of this particular group for over 3 years now and I've got to know those women pretty well.
So why is this news? Well, yesterday during the meeting I mentioned that I suffer from anxiety and depression. As it turns out, I was trying to thank another member for her help and support through what has been a rough few months, but I ended up getting a bit teary as I tried to explain.
It seems that the site of a grown woman desperately trying to hold her shit together really tugs on the heart strings, but what surprised me most is how many people approached me or emailed me after the meeting to tell me how brave I am to talk about the fact that I have anxiety and depression.
Because no one does. no one.
Now, this was particularly interesting to me because in the meeting we'd listened to a talk on hidden disabilities. Isobel, the lovely lady giving the talk, has problems with her vision that cause her to have face blindness. Something of a problem when you're networking! She explained how sometimes she doesn't recognise people even though she's met them before and she has to apologise and explain that it's because of her sight. And the great thing is, that when she does that everyone is incredibly understanding and supportive.
Now, here's the thing. When my depression is at it's worst, you could introduce yourself to me, be wearing a t-shirt with your name on and have a marching band carrying placards bearing your name following you around... but if it's the first time i meet you, I'm still not going to remember your name the next time I see you.
And I'm sorry. I'd love to remember your name. But when I'm depressed, my brain doesn't work - it just doesn't seem to store that information.
But that's fine, right? When Isobel tells people about her sight issues everyone is understanding and supportive, so when I explain about how depression affects my short term memory everyone will be supportive and understanding too, right?
Nope. on the three occasions I've apologised and politely explain why I can't remember their name I received the following responses:
1) Well, my name is XXXX. Do you think you'll be bothered to remember that next time?
2) Depression, eh? Yeah, I hear that can be rough. Have you tried just thinking happier thoughts?
3) Wow! How rude of you! *they walk off*.
As you can see, it went well. Now, answers 1 and 3 were harsh, but it's number 2 that always winds me up the most. Do you think anyone would ever turn round to Isobel and say "vision problems, eh? Have you tried just looking harder"?
I doubt it.
But here is the thing. The people who made the comments above know nothing about depression or anxiety and that's because those of us who suffer from it don't talk about it. How can they possibly understand if we don't try to explain?
And if we don't explain, living as an anxious type is never going to get any easier.
So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to talk about it, write about it, answer questions and share my experiences so that others can understand and hopefully respond with sensitivity and delicacy.
And that doesn't make me brave. It makes me selfish.