Dementors and Depression

I chose this title, partly because JK Rowling is one of my all-time heroes but partly because I believe she just summed up this subject so damn right!

‘Dementors are amongst the foulest things that walk this earth, they glory in decay and despair. Get too near a dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory, will be sucked out of you’.

Yep. JK Rowling was bang on with this fictional creature! It’s difficult to describe the type of vulnerability that depression brings and I don’t want to sum up anybody else’s experiences because it is very personal but from my experience this is what I came up with: Depression is like continually being naked in front of people. That is how vulnerable and terrified you are. When you’re not depressed you have your armour on, your protection that stops small blows becoming bigger. With depression though your armour is not there and therefore every small scratch to the arm becomes an axe wound to the head that makes it impossible to get up.

So it’s all very well and good to come up with a metaphor or summary of depression but that’s not really the issue is it? The issue is curing it. With 1 in 4 people in the UK experiencing a mental health issue EACH YEAR, this is not something that can be glossed over with fancy phrases. It’s serious. We all know that. We don’t have to have statistics shouted at us to understand the devastating reality of this illness. In my eyes this still takes us back to two questions: why is there still a stigma behind mental illness? And what is the cure? And I believe that these two questions interlink completely. The cure is to remove the stigma.

Yes I would agree that the stigma has got better over the past few years, with campaigns and media campaigns helping to get people talking about it but it is still more acceptable to call in sick to work with a physical illness than a mental one! Despite the fact that depression leaves you feeling anxious, sick, exhausted, unable to concentrate etc etc.I’m sure any employer and any human would agree that if you are feeling like this you are unfit for work and yet whilst 77% of people are happy to call in sick for a physical illness, this number drops drastically to only 39% when calling in sick for a mental illness. This needs to stop! We already have a mental health crisis in this country and if depression continues to hold this stigma of being weak, unable to cope or just ‘copping off’ then this crisis will continue to grow and explode.

I watched a fantastic TED talk the other day by Guy Winch called ‘why we all need to practice emotional first aid’, which summed up for me our need to treat mental illness the same as physical illness. See the link below!

In it he makes an obvious yet fascinating point in my eyes ‘We wouldn’t get a knife and make a cut deeper but we do this with psychological injuries all the time’. He is SO right and I am completely guilty of it. Why? Because it still carries a stigma. Because the strength it takes to walk into a doctor’s surgery and say ‘I need help. I can no longer carry on living my life like this’ is DAMN BLOODY HARD. But it is not impossible.

I don’t have a cure. If I did I would be rich and famous, but if I can encourage even one person to seek help then this blog post will have been worth it. It can be cured but we need to not be afraid of asking for help. We need to not be afraid of practising emotional first aid!



Why I’m worried about bringing up kids in this world

I’m 23. I don’t want to have children for about 10 years, but I’m already worried. Is that weird? Probably! I know loads of my friends are really excited to have kids but every time I think about it it fills me with dread. Why? I’m worried about bringing them up in a world with all of today’s pressures bearing down on them. Stupid I know! There have always been pressures and bad things going on in the world but then it wasn’t that long ago that I was a teenager and dealt with all those things and now I feel that this has tripled in the past 5 years or so.

Social Media brings easy contact, photos and news articles but it also brings loneliness, more pressure to conform and more comparison, as hours are spent every day looking at other people’s fabulous lives and wondering why yours is not quite so amazing. Hey, how come I haven’t been on 3 holidays this year?!  How does she manage to juggle three kids, a fantastic carer and a husband who looks like George Clooney all at once and still look fresh as a daisy. Answer: You never see the photos of the messy kitchen, the arguments, or the tired circles under her eyes!

Wars battle on throughout the world and meanwhile our government happily sells arms to the majority of these countries whilst wearing a poppy to grieve for the millions who died during WW1 – slightly ironic no?! I think it really hit me around Halloween time this year when the run up was filled with warnings from the police about not distressing and scaring elderly people who live alone. Surely this shouldn’t have to be a warning? It just makes sense doesn’t it. Have fun on Halloween but don’t frighten and upset vulnerable people? Or any people for that matter! Meanwhile the costumes in the supermarkets sum up society’s views on women. As Miranda from Sex and the City quite rightly summed up: ‘The only two choices for women; witch and sexy kitten’. Great. Cheers society for that wonderful and varied choice.

That’s what used to annoy me at uni actually. Whenever there was a dress up night it ALWAYS involved the girls dressing in some kind of sexy way…’Nurses and Doctors’, ‘Back to School’, ‘Baywatch’…I forget many of them but they all pretty much centred around this generic theme. And yes ok you could make your own costume and try to wear something where you didn’t freeze your ass off or get pinched/cat-called or worse by the ‘lads’, but at the end of the day that’s incredibly difficult to do when as a teenager all you want to do is conform! You have to be pretty damn confident to not go with the majority at that age and I bet there’s a minimum percentage of people who would classify as that. I know I didn’t!

So to get back to the point, what do you do when you’re bringing up kids in this modern society? How do you bring up confident, kind and intelligent children in a society that tells them to grow up too quickly, to be unsatisfied with everything they have and to accept everything that society/Rupert Murdoch tells them as binding? I wish I had the answer but I don’t and that’s what terrifies me. But I do have some hope. After all, people do it. I like to think my parents managed to turn out a couple of half-decent children, despite everything and likewise there are many fabulous people in the world despite what you hear in the media. So yes I know it is possible but that doesn’t stop me from worrying already about being a bad parent because I won’t be able to protect them from everything bad in this world, but I guess I’ll just have to cross my fingers and hope!

Happiness VS Contentment

Happiness. One word, but a word that is googled so often. A word that magazines, books, courses, make up artists, restaurants and fosters adverts use liberally to advertise their products and claim to improve your chances in getting it. It has now gone from an emotion to a commodity despite the fact that there have been countless studies concluding that you cannot buy happiness. But I would have to disagree. In my eyes the problem is that people confuse happiness with contentment but these are actually two different things entirely.

Happiness for me is a mixture of feelings. It is a mixture of joy, excitement, lust, passion…(insert other positive adjectives here), whereas contentment is that feeling of complete satisfaction, not necessarily because everything in your life is perfect but because at that moment you have no more desires, and as Buddhism suggests, desire is the root to human suffering because with desire comes a feeling of never being satisfied, always wanting the next thing, whatever that may be. Hence why happiness can be sold, because it focuses on fulfilling a desire. A desire is fleetingly satisfied once you have purchased said product but soon that rush wears off and the next desire takes its place. For example, you see an advert for a new dress and you desire to own it so you buy it and for however long, depending on your personality, you are happy. You have fulfilled that particular desire. But then you see another nice dress you want this one too. The desire, in short, has come back.

With contentment however there is no desire to be sold or bought. Therefore it cannot be transformed into a commodity. How do you sell a sense of satisfaction? You can’t because you can’t even begin to describe it, let alone form it into a product.