My name’s Kyle Shiels.
I’m 20 years old and I study Broadcast Journalism at the University of Leeds. I love presenting on the TV/Radio and I enjoy a bit of cricket and football every now and then.
That’s pretty much how I define myself.
The fact I suffer from depression is something I will never include in that definition.
Before writing what you’re about to read, I thought long and hard about whether or not I’d submit it anonymously. “Do I really want everyone finding out?” I thought to myself. But the more I thought, the more I realised – why the panic? It is, after all, just an illness. Depression, at a base level, is a difference in neurotransmitter and hormone levels in the brain. Obviously it’s much more than that, but in terms of the science, that’s pretty much the gist. “God forbid people find out about my neurotransmitters!” Now of course I’m not knocking the idea of someone keeping it on the down low – that’s perfectly okay. But in terms of me and this article, I’ve decided not to. It doesn’t define me, so I’m not gonna let it.
That took me a while to understand, so that’s what I wanted to talk about. Things that I had to get my head around. Again, these will obviously differ from person to person, but that’s just the nature of it. But who knows, maybe someone will read this and think “Oh, I understand it a little better now.”
“I’ve got nothing to be sad about, so why am I depressed?”
I was diagnosed in September last year. I went alone to the GP and only told two really close friends. I remember after coming out of the doctor’s office just being really numb and confused. I walked around for a good 3 or so hours, just thinking. I remember how terrified I was to tell my Dad, not because I didn’t think he’d understand, but because I didn’t want to admit I was sad. After all, I had nothing to be sad about. I go to a great Uni, I have great friends, a loving and supportive family, and everything’s just generally good. I remember feeling ashamed that I had the nerve to take all this and still feel sad.
Well, it took a few months, but I’m finally able to explain why that’s not the case: Depression and sadness aren’t the same thing. Yeah, it may be a symptom of it, but sadness in general is just a passing emotion and one of many a depressed person may feel. Just like how you can’t simply “cheer someone up” to cure depression, it can come about without a cause as well. Obviously there’s all the science-y brain stuff I mentioned, but other than that, it CAN just happen. You don’t need a reason to have the flu or a cold, so try not to apply different logic to depression.
“I have to rely on tablets now, I’m a weirdo.”
When the doctor mentioned anti-depressants, I was very apprehensive. I’m already a pretty medicated person (shout-out to my inhaler) and I didn’t want ANOTHER part of my life dictated by a tablet. They even increase anxiety for the first couple weeks of taking them, so I wasn’t ultra-keen. I had to try though, and so I powered through. And after a while, I realised that it was okay. They didn’t own me, I wasn’t addicted and I barely noticed them. A lot of people hear the word ‘medication’ and assume the worst. There are many ways to tackle depression, from the tablets to psychotherapy, and now I can understand that it is totally okay to need help.
“It isn’t something I should talk about”
The understanding on this one is fairly recent. I’m talking ‘since I got halfway through this article’ recent. I’ve gotten to this point, having bared a sizeable amount of personal experiences and surprisingly, it feels good. It is VERY easy to keep it all bottled up inside, but I don’t think that’s where it belongs. I think as people we’re supposed to share and talk with others. No, it’s not easy for everyone, but that’s okay. Not everyone understands depression, and that’s okay too. But rather than accepting that – let’s talk about it. Not just so people who don’t suffer from it can understand, but so people who DO can understand themselves.
I don’t always believe it during the shittier times, but depression isn’t a sign of weakness nor is it a character flaw. It’s just an illness. Yeah, it sucks, but there are SO MANY people willing to stand by you and help.
So, come on then, let’s chat about it.