It has been more than ten years since I first started suffering from depression, when I was first engulfed by the ‘black cloud’. After having my self-esteem ripped away by bullies at a young age, my depression has snowballed ever since.
Struggling with an eating disorder and my sexuality, stress has eaten away at my capacity to cope with everyday life.
When I’m at my lowest ebb, I’m tormented by my inner demons, who repeatedly tell me that I’m terrible at everything I do, that I’m no use to anyone and everyone would be better off without me.
Sometimes, I can see past these thoughts, but in the midst of a depressive episode, it doesn’t matter whether there is truth in them or not. The thoughts just take over.
The world turns into a darker place when the black cloud begins to form. For me, it can feel like being trapped in a dark room. I feel isolated and vulnerable, and suicide can seem like the only way to make the anguish disappear for good.
I went without the help that I clearly needed mainly because of the stigma attached to depression and suicidal thoughts. Hearing others describe suicide as ‘selfish’ or ‘cowardly’ only served to make me feel worse about myself and more isolated.
In addition, the culture of masculinity in our society made me feel that it would be wrong for me to reach out, and that I should ‘man up’, ‘don’t cry’ and just ‘suck it up’. This toxic culture led me to feel a great sense of shame and a feeling of being inferior; I was unable to fit into the masculine stereotypical mould. This was particularly true as a male suffering from an eating disorder; it’s an illness associated as affecting mainly girls and women, which stopped me from seeking help for it.
When I did open up to others about my condition, some were confused, even angry, unable to understand that how I feel when I am depressed seems like reality to me. These people are not bad people; rather, it is the symptom of a larger misunderstanding around mental illness that has gone unchallenged for years.
This is all the more unacceptable when you consider that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental health condition at some point in their lives, that suicide kills almost one million people worldwide each year, and that suicide is one of the leading causes of death among 15-24 year olds.
If one million people were killed by sharks each year, governments across the world would pour millions into preventing this from happening. Yet, when it comes to suicide, it appears that many turn a blind eye. It’s not a conversation people want to have.
Our inability to talk openly and freely about depression, suicide and mental illness more generally is killing people.
For those who live life under the ‘black cloud’, it is all too easy to think no one cares or is even listening, which is why it is up to all of us to challenge the stigmas surrounding mental health and help others to understand what sufferers endure each day.