Friday, December 27, 2013

"Is Depression Contagious?"

I have asked several people this question in my life, each time not only was I answered with a resounding ‘YES!’ from every party involved, but I myself had already answered my own question.

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You see, depression and anxiety can (kind of) be considered a communicable disease simply because our attitudes, interactions and exchanges with people can SO easily determine how we live our lives and feel about ourselves, as well as lead others down certain paths because of the viewpoints, attitudes and feelings we have passed on.

As I entered the crazy share-housing period of my life I made some extremely bad (and some bloody GOOD) decisions. I made friends with people I neither liked, trusted nor felt truly comfortable around – because of this I changed as a person, began to resent myself and pushed that resentment onto others. I became negative, withdrawn and did some REALLY silly things I thoroughly regret (and not because I was caught out, honestly I am still very ashamed of some of the things I have said/done in my past). I had support, yes, I had my mother, my sister and a close friend who I have come to consider a sister and soul mate – I wish I could give her an award for how much she helped me during this time, even if it was something as simple as coming round to pick me up for kebabs at the lake, it helped SO much (if you’re reading this you’ll know exactly who you are you beautiful girl!) and it taught me a big lesson:

If you’re feeling trapped, depressed and you hate the situation you’re in: GET. OUT.
moving to Ballarat to study in Melbourne was a great idea, I'm surrounded by culture, art, beautiful people & everything I'm interested in. Image credit: Jocelyn Wardle.

I did. I left my share house (and I want to stress, what happened in this situation was completely, completely my fault. Up until this period of my life, I just ignored people I couldn’t get along with, I didn’t turn around and sink to their level) went to my parents, had a few family problems that iced the big fat cake of rejection and self-loathing I had been scoffing bites of all year, and left again.

Now, I’m in a situation where I am safe. And I must stress that feeling ‘safe’ and being able to look in your heart and find a place that is your safe-zone is incredibly important, especially at such a volatile time in your life as the first time living out of home. I managed to reconnect with who I was, gain a small amount of spark and confidence (at least enough that I now only have rare panic episodes, and can actually talk to my friends again without triggering one) and meet some incredible, in.cred.i.ble, new people.
post first bush doof, awkward smile :)

There is a theory that we become the six people we interact with the most, so we really must choose wisely. Not only that, but I feel that as a person on this planet (and feel free to reject this, I write for me remember J ) we are born with an inherent responsibility to guard and protect our planet and those who reside in it, from animals to plants to people and everything in-between. I don’t ever want to be the person who contributed to another’s feeling of ‘unsafety’ again. I myself have been a victim of bullying many times in my life, and I’ve seen it happen to others, even partaken in the activity (it’s no excuse that I thought ‘well I overhear everyone’s crap about me, so why can’t I say some mean things too?’ It’s really not) it has been this lifelong struggle of wanting to be accepted by family, accquaintances, etc, and never feeling good enough because of the comments thrown back, that contributed to such severe anxiety and depression that I once came close to having a panic attack after a friend offered to teach me to cook, because in the past I’ve had comments made about my eating habits, my ‘weird vegetarian food’ (I mean people making fun of other’s diets is just not on. I never forced my choices onto others, I really didn’t. I went about MY business, cooking MY food).
my new attitude to anyone who ever thinks they can make me feel bad or sad again.

Nowadays however, the six people I spend the most time with (in my share-house, and luckily enough now at my family’s homes too) are the most beautiful people I have ever met and I feel incredibly blessed to have found them. I think sometimes we know who’s going to stay in our lives for a long time and who’s not, and it’s because there’s an underlying want – or even, in some cases, need – for these people to be near us. They are our families, our safety blankets, our soul-mates and friends, and in turn we are fully prepared to be theirs.
Special sister visits & garden hangs!

The changes I have gone through have only served to make me a better person, and of course to remember that in the end all homes are made of flesh and bone. If we want to build a house of love and happiness we must concentrate ourselves on creating this via our actions. We cannot say ‘I am a loving and accepting person’ and expect that’s it. It’s too easy to lie to ourselves, after all we’re human and we became human by creating little stories to help us deal with the big, bad, scary universe (at least I think Terry Pratchett would agree). So, what do we do?

We let our actions speak, we hug each other, we smile and make time for one another. We address issues respectfully and calmly. I think this is a much better model for life, than stewing in unsaid issues because neither party has enough trust nor respect to address the fact that they feel unsafe in the place that is meant to be their new home.
sometimes getting out & appreciating the simple things is the best thing you can do to clear your head.

So again, if you are truly deeply unhappy in a situation, if you have drastically changed and are beginning to resent yourself,  get out. Get out and find a way to make yourself happy again. Your mental health is far too important, don’t push yourself to finish the semester at uni, don’t push yourself to love people you don’t. Get out and realise there is always a way, there will ALWAYS be someone who can help you, you just need to find them. I have a vivid memory, aged 18 and having only been at uni for five weeks, of crying my eyes out in a primary school teachers office because I didn’t want to be doing an education degree, but I’d pushed myself into it because I had never had enough confidence to gamble my whole education (all that debt :/) on writing.

Luckily enough, I scratched that stupid idea. I told the principal of a Canberran primary school ‘I know exactly what I want to do and it’s not this,’ she handed me a box of tissues and that afternoon I applied for the University of Canberra Bachelor of Writing. I got in, a year and a half later I realised that while I loved my degree, loved the few true friends I had made up there, I needed out. It wasn’t the right place for me, I couldn’t handle it, so I went to my sisters and parents homes for summer, applied to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and in mid-December I received my equivalent of a Hogwarts acceptance letter.
Another point of appreciation: Figs comes & cuddles whenever you really need it.

This year has been a bit of a rollercoaster-y whirlwind; I moved to Victoria in February, realised that even though my confidence was so low I could barely even speak to my friends, they were still my friends and I would be okay here. This month my father and I reconnected, luckily enough, and I found that my depression and anxiety has allieviated tenfold. I still get panic attacks, I still cry at the drop of a hat (and I used to be tough! I swear! I was so tough, hahaha) but I’m managing. I have the tools to do so, and if you work on it, if you’re going through similar feelings, you can develop these too.
starting to feel happy again!

Anxiety and depression really suck to deal with on your own, I urge anyone experiencing something they think (even the slightest inkling!) they may be suffering from these illness or something similar, to talk to someone: A friend, GP or trusted adult. I spoke to my friend, who said it sounded like anxiety, if I hadn’t asked her I may have never realised what was wrong, I may have thought I was just supposed to be this way! (Another thing I’ll be eternally grateful to her for) After speaking to a GP when I realised I was experiencing panic attacks (they upped in extremity when I moved to my new house and felt I was some kind of awful, awkward, rude, unintelligent freak around all these incredible people I was meeting) I was referred to a psychologist, and with her help, as well as the invaluable support of my friends and family (I may as well just say family, I just have a massive family now. Scratch ‘friends’ they’re family, maybe not by blood but some bonds are just as strong, if not stronger!) I have come to the stage I am at now: I’m not loud and crazy, I doubt I ever will be. I’m weird and some people think I’m funny, I’m shy at first,  I like both silly and important things but I know I shouldn’t beat myself up for liking the silly things even though others have tried to undermine me for them in the past. I’m still healing, taking one step at a time, and I’d like to finish this very meandering, emotional and possibly boring blog post by saying that if you got through to the end you’re a champ, and if you need anyone to talk to there WILL be a mental health clinic/hotline/ANYTHING in your area. If you need to contact them do so and start changing your life for the better!


I've found a few links for you guys, but if you're outside of Australia hit the Google on the internet machine & try searching for a clinic, hotline or directory for your area. I understand GP's can be frustrating and unhelpful sometimes but a proper mental health service would be committing a pretty serious act of negligence if they were to be unhelpful (actually, so would your GP be and if they are unhelpful tell them so! AND tell them I said they're being negligent!). They're there FOR people with mental health issues, they aren't party to the stigma surrounding these diseases and understand they are as legitimate, uncontrollable and life-altering as something like cancer.

 Mindhealthconnect (Australia)
Anywhere Healthcare (Australia)
Beyond Blue (Australia)

Xo, Ellen.