What depression really looks like...

Throughout my life I have battled with my diagnosis of depression and anxiety. Why? For a number of reasons, on the outside looking in I thought people would make their judgments and say that there was no reason for me to have depression or anxiety, I was always "happy" and "bubbly", I was good at sport, I had friends and I had a loving family. 

Most of all I never wanted to admit that "something was wrong with me" and have an offical reason for my family not too love me. At the most damaging and lowest points of my depression (before I was admitted into hospital) I was functioning at an all time high in my professional and social life. No one suspected I wasn't ok and even my immediate family didn't realise how bad my symptoms were.These thoughts and the negative self-stigma I placed on myself, made me excel more in everything I was doing, contradicting the stereotypical "depressed person" persona. 

I became an A-List actress and equate this time in my life to my very own Oscar worthy performance. I not only had everyone fooled, I even managed to convince myself, until I couldn't any longer. 

Society has this preconceived notion, that if someone is experiencing depression or anxiety that you would normally find them on a couch in the foetal position, in a dark room and malnourished. This was the total polar opposite to how I was during the worse period of my life. I was a fully productive member of society, working, studying and keeping up with social engagements. People would never actually see me in the moments when I couldn't cope. The stigma surrounding mental illness helped me keep my diagnosis secret and avoid dealing with it in a healthy manner. 

Ironically, during my recovery I came to the realisation that hiding my illness actually triggers my depression and anxiety. I discovered that investing in myself (my inner ninja), I could overcome the darkest hours of my life and develop the strength needed to stay mentally well and eventually achieve a state of wellness. It didn't happen over night or in a few weeks this has taken me years. 

Accepting my illness was one of the most challenging things I had to do to become healthy again. A wise friend of mine told me the most profound thing "Stef, accepting your illness, does not mean you have given up" this sentence is now something I repeat to myself often. I haven't given up just because I have accepted my illness is apart of me, I have actually freed myself from the burden of self-judgment. 

The message that I would like you to take away from this post is HOPE. By nourishing our inner ninja's, it gives us the ability to face life in the best way possible, having our own back! We are all we need. The approval we seek from others is unnecessary, because if we treat ourselves with kindness and compassion, you'll come to realise that's the only approval our souls need. 

Live, Breathe, Embrace. 


Tenille Westerhout