A few weeks ago, I was approached by PlusGuidance, an online counselling platform, in regards to writing an article for them, highlighting their site's benefits. Having personally endured a long history of mental health issues, which are thankfully now in the past, I think it's a subject that needs to be discussed and highlighted as much as is possible, as I know only too well, how difficult it can be to go through, especially if you don't know where or even how to get help.
I think depression, much like grief, is one of those things, that can seemingly hit you from varying angles, at varying speeds and with varying ramifications. Its onset can be caused by a variety of reasons and each experience with it is seemingly very individual. Sometimes however, it is that precise individuality that can make it so difficult to treat, because ultimately and perhaps rather inconveniently, it's not just a case of one solution for all.
My battle with depression raged on for over ten excruciatingly long years and I can honestly say, without a shadow of a doubt, it was truly the darkest, loneliest and most hauntingly solemn period of my life. I felt completely unable to express how I was feeling to anyone, ever and thus, for the most part, I found myself repeatedly seeking comfort in my own bitter twisted thoughts, somewhat convinced that no one could or would, possibly ever understand what I was going through, let alone help.
I was entirely suicidal for all of my teen years and well into my early twenties and spent much of those years contemplating and indeed attempting to end my own life. My body became a cage to me, something I felt trapped in and I was so overwhelmed by feelings of grief, rage and sadness, that I, quite literally, hit, bit, screamed and attempted to punch my way out of it, often leading to battle scars and tears.
I just didn't know how to help myself and the few people around me, who were witness to what was going on, equally struggled to know what to do, in order to aid the situation. Which, in truth, lead to a lot of resentment on my side and probably a lot of grief on theirs.
On the first few occasions that I managed to pluck up the courage to seek out professional help, each appointment ended up leaving me feeling more lost and isolated than ever. Both doctors I saw were older, male and very unsympathetic, asking me very few relevant questions, handing me a questionnaire to complete and then ultimately sending me away with a pamphlet for counselling. I remember walking out thinking, 'if a doctor can't help me, then who can!?' Which, to a certain extent, made me start to believe that this endless suffering was just something I needed to accept, as part of who I was.
After several years, I did finally attempt to seek help again, mostly because by this point, I had tipped so far into a state of suicidal thinking, that it seemed as though I had nothing left to lose. Thankfully, on this occasion, my experience was entirely different. I had a young female doctor, who was empathetic, she listened and asked me questions. She offered me counselling, gave me advice for my insomnia and prescribed me anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. Sat in her office that day, I burst into tears in relief that finally, someone was acknowledging that something was wrong with me.
In all fairness, I never did end up going to counselling and the medication, whilst it helped for a duration of time, was really more of a prevention than a cure and after nine months, with the effects of the drugs having somewhat worn off, as my system adapted to it, my suicidal thoughts returned once again and I ended up trying to take an overdose. However, in a lot of ways, just getting that initial help was exactly what shifted things for me and ended up changing everything, because I no longer felt alone, or ashamed at what I was feeling, which meant that I was finally able to overcome my inability to talk about it and in the end, that has truly been one of the major factors in getting better.
Personally, I found that the main cause behind my depression was a complete inability to deal with and equally let go of, some of my childhood experiences, as well as a general feeling that my life lacked any purpose or direction. Over the course of more than thirteen intolerable years, I suffered abysmally from both mental and physical abuse at my own hands, almost entirely in silence, simply because I never knew where to turn, or how to get help and I am certain, that even now, despite mental health being given more and more coverage, there are still people out there, suffering the same.
Which is why I think websites like PlusGuidance, are such a great idea. They offer an online counselling service, that helps anyone, anywhere and pretty much at any time. Which, when you consider how imperative time and accessibility can be, in terms of getting help, before things fatally veer off course, I think it's a pretty important service that they're able to provide. I know that a large part of what put me off getting counselling, through the NHS, was the long waiting list. When you're already struggling and it's taken everything you have, just to pluck up the courage to finally speak to someone, being forced to wait several weeks can potentially see you vastly lose enthusiasm.
Also, the ability for people to keep their anonymity when using the service, is something that I think will most likely appeal to a fair few individuals, who perhaps weren't comfortable seeking help in the first place and although the multitude of professional counsellors on offer to choose from, who each vary in levels of expertise in differing subjects, might be understandably daunting at first, in terms of knowing who's going to be the best fit, another notable advantage to the site, is the free consultation option on offer. Which personally, I think is a great feature as, in their own words, "people should be able to choose who they speak to, as it gives them the opportunity to see who is right for them."
So, as I say, all mental health issues are entirely individual and really, must in turn be treated that way, however, if you, or someone you know, is suffering, don't let them or yourself, suffer in silence. Sometimes, just taking that initial step and having a conversation, can ultimately be what puts you, or them, onto the road to recovery.
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