Why having hope matters

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A leaflet with ‘Look after your Mental Health’ slashed across the page, is sitting on the GP’s desk as I nervously twiddle my thumbs. You see, mental health isn’t something that was ever talked about. All you had to do was exercise, eat your 5-a-day and you'd live a happy life. 

At the end of the appointment, I'm told I have depression. Instead of being upset, I'm relieved that these feelings I had are not alien, that there is a scientific name to the confusion in my head. Finding a cure is the first thought.

Depression isn’t a recent development. I first started showing symptoms 4 years ago, at the start of A-Levels. Feelings of hopelessness, particularly about the future, replaced my optimistic nature. “The Shadow” as it has often been described, reminding me of failures, disguised as trivial things, and the impending doom that is death.

My passion for anything and everything went out the window, replaced by the constant reminder that my life was worthless. In the grand scheme of things this may well be true, but to the people around me, I know my existence was far from that. I had been coping alone with these thoughts for years. Not attending school, then university, sometimes work, because it was physically impossible.

The GP offers anti-depressants, but I've heard horror stories of dependency. She mentions some possible side effects, including: feelings of anxiousness, headaches, indigestion, loss of appetite…The list is extensive and I decline. I leave with printed pages of the NHS website explaining depression, and contact details of multiple organisations that offer therapy. You’re just expected to cope, it seems.

I cast my mind to the feel good movies I’ve been worshipping since forever. Mean Girls-esque films seem to have the right idea. The break ups, the bad days, all seem to disappear when you go out and pamper yourself. What if I was to do one of them changing outfit montages too? 

I want that feeling they have in the movies, the complete happiness they seem to achieve from going to the spa! Nothing else has worked till now, perhaps immersing myself in different activities will at least distract. 

Now the first thing I find out about spas- they’re pretty elitist. Accessibility is not the aim for them, costing upwards of 70 quid for an hour. I’m not here to ruin my finances so Groupon quickly becomes my best friend and does me a solid. I run out of there with a spa voucher thing for some place in central London. Truth be told, I’m nervous. I don’t like the idea of forced relaxation and alone time but there’s no denying the positive reputation that spas have.

There’s definitely an air of calmness around and everyone seems all too happy to guide you on your first visit. Soon I’m getting good things done to my face, with harp-like music playing softly, somewhere in the background. Steam from warm towels almost knocks me into a deep sleep. This is brilliant. A bit of Jacuzzi time seems to ease muscle pain wonderfully. For that hour, I forget that I’m in some building in London. The whole place becomes a type of refuge, and I walk out of those same doors feeling like an invigorated me. Just like in the movies.

There’s definitely an air of calmness around and everyone seems all too happy to guide you on your first visit. Soon I’m getting good things done to my face, with harp-like music playing softly, somewhere in the background. Steam from warm towels almost knocks me into a deep sleep. This is brilliant. A bit of Jacuzzi time seems to ease muscle pain wonderfully. For that hour, I forget that I’m in some building in London. The whole place becomes a type of refuge, and I walk out of those same doors feeling like an invigorated me. Just like in the movies.

I want to continue to climb out of depression, and this time I cling on to laughter. I happen to have tickets to Dane Baptiste’s comedy tour. And as expected, I have another great night. Full of topical, often political, humour and belly hurting laughter. I leave there inspired at the talent of it all. 

As I wind down for the week, I pay a visit to the library. Being productive is something that I was always encouraged to do on the bad days. Getting things done has become an alien feeling. Breaking the habit is so very satisfying.

As I’m writing this #MyDepressionLooksLike, a hashtag to share the experiences of individuals suffering with depression, is trending on Twitter. To see this gives me hope, because sharing my thoughts and feelings has really helped with my recovery. It can often feel like I'm in this alone but you’ll be surprised to find that help is out there, you just have to take the first step towards it. Whether it be with a family member, a friend or a therapist, we all need to be able to express our feelings. 

On the whole I had a pretty great week where I got to experience things I wouldn’t have typically done. Perhaps a spa day or a nice meal doesn't have the power to fix you, but that’s not to be taken as a loss. Searching for ways to get better is progress in itself. Taking each day as it comes and being patient with your recovery is key. We need to be gentler on ourselves, and learn how to remain hopeful. 

August 2016, THE HAPPY NEWSPAPER