It can be difficult, knowing that important things like your outlook on life, your relationships with others, and how you react to even the most minor annoyances in life can be affected by a constant battle raging in your head.
I've had some form of depression for as long as I can remember and it's manifested itself in a variety of ways. I avoided medicating this problem until very recently, and felt for a long time that I had reached a point where my depression was no longer an issue and required no further treatment.
I'm not sure if there's still a stigma regarding mental health problems, I certainly have no issues openly discussing my condition or the treatments I've tried and I've found it helpful to listen to other people's accounts of their struggles with this illness.
My condition started as an overwhelming feeling of anxiety, often with physical symptoms culminating in a panic attack. I first started feeling this way around the age of 10 or 11 and I let it control me for a number of years.
I would not partake in a lot of different things through fear, and I would have negative, horrible and sad thoughts invade my head all day every day. It affected my social relationships, my education and my temper. Once I realised the negative impact it was having, not just on me but on my family, I decided to seek professional help.
My parents had tried to put me through therapy when the problem first became noticeable, but being young and not understanding what was happening, I resisted. It took a lot of self reflection as a young adult before I really made any attempt to understand these issues. I'd been surviving by either avoiding uncomfortable situations, wallowing in self pity and lashing out physically and verbally at those around me.
I'd pretty much given up, and was living a temporary life, treating people badly, making silly decisions and in general being a not very nice person indeed. After some very bad experiences and some earth-shattering realisations, I decided I couldn't go on this way and needed to find help.
The first step on this path was the local doctor. It was on his advice that I underwent hypnotherapy and counselling. It took a lot of effort on my part to make this work, and it took a lot of patience from those around me, but after a few months my anxiety waned and the black cloud that had followed me around and had put me into conflict with much of the world for so long began to disappear. It wasn't long before I'd stopped living so hedonistically, stopped taking silly risks and started actually considering that I might end up with a life and a future
To everybody's surprise, not least of all my own, after a few years spent learning about and managing my condition I started to enjoy life. I found a girl, settle down, got married, emigrated, built a career and had a kid.
Now, I don't want you to read this and think that everything is rosy after a brief bout of counselling. It isn't. As I got older my depression grew with me. It learned to adapt to my new-found happiness and figured out how to sink my mood. It never got bad enough that I felt like I was in trouble of serious regression, but it did make me go back and seek further help.
Today, I've become adept at recognising my symptoms and trying to abate them. I have a tendency to dwell on situations outside of my control and to play back events over and over in my mind, finding the smallest things to pick apart. Perhaps someone didn't laugh at my joke, maybe they cancelled plans, maybe I've had a bad day and the house is a mess. This sort of situation can lower my mood for days.
When I'm feeling like this it becomes very difficult to think rationally. I make decisions on the spur of the moment, I snap at those I love, I make extravagant purchases and then I feel overwhelming guilt and worthlessness. I feel guilt for not being able to control my feelings and then I'm sent spiralling into self pity. Sometimes it gets so bad, I check my life insurance policy to make sure I'm past the 13-month waiting period on suicide, and that perhaps my family would be better off with a large payout than a husband and father.
Don't panic, this happens very rarely and the thoughts never linger for that long. Instead my mood gradually picks back up, often with the help of my family and friends (mostly unbeknownst to them) and I return to my usual cheery self.
I've focussed on the bad parts of this condition, but they really are a rarity these days. Those who know me who don't know about my condition may find it hard to believe that I even have it; I am often light-hearted, jovial and rarely take things seriously. It's perfectly possible to live a normal life whilst having depression, and I do, but it takes hard work, help, and most importantly an acceptance of the condition and a willingness to fight it.
If I can do it, you most certainly can too.