My horrible secret

I have a shocking confession to make -

I have depression.

You probably think I’m crazy for admitting that, right? I’d have to be crazy to suggest I wasn’t absolutely perfect, wouldn’t I? Because we are all perfect, aren’t we? Type A personalities. Successful. Perfect Grades. Big Career Goals… ‘Depressed’ doesn’t exactly fit onto that list.

Of all people, I would know. I’ve spent the last 5 years very successfully hiding it. No one would believe I have depression – I was president of my medsoc and on every committee imaginable, have a huge group of friends and amazing parents. I get good grades, won a scholarship to Kings College London and received the prize for contributing the most to my medicine cohort. I have nice hair, perfectly applied makeup, expensive clothes and I have never, ever worn trackpants in my life.

My life might look perfect; but until 12 months ago, I was so miserable I could barely breathe. I had worse depression than I’d ever read about in a textbook, and worse depression than any patient I saw on my psychiatry rotation. Worst still, I’d been like this for as long as I could remember, but I was so terrified to ask for help. I was terrified to admit that I wasn’t perfect because, as far as I could see, everyone else in medicine was.

I would like to say 12 months ago I got better because I was finally brave enough to ask for help. Unfortunately the real story is, in order to finally get help I had to be admitted to hospital after an overdose. That’s the saddest part of my story. I would rather have died than admit to having depression. In order to get the treatment I needed, I almost had to die.

Sometimes I feel like depression is the new thing to be in the closet about. I honestly feel like I’m coming out when I tell someone about it. I even hid it from my grandparents because they wouldn’t understand and I didn’t want them to be ashamed of me. A friend recently described me a little while ago as openly depressed – that really made me laugh. Should we have a depression pride movement as well? Its not something I’m ‘proud’ of – but it’s also something that I can’t change about myself. Even though I’m ‘recovered’, I had depression for some of the most important years of my life – it has had a huge impact on the person I am, not in a bad way necessarily.
Do you know how much CBT actually changes you as a patient? I can analyse any situation as an outsider and chose what to become emotionally involved in. I’ve learnt how to not take things personally. And believe me my empathy for my patients is better than anyone else’s.
I’m not saying a mental illness defines you for the rest of your life, but I think your recovery from one does.

So while you might think I’m crazy for publicly admitting this, I can’t let people continue to believe that they are the only ones struggling. Why can’t we talk about this? We’ve seen the stats! Whilst 1 in 5 people suffers from depression, that number nearly triples for doctors. More than half of us will suffer from depression at some point in our career.

Doesn’t that scare you? Doesn’t it scare you that you could be sitting next to
someone who is completely broken and not even realise? Doesn’t it scare you that, statistically, at some point, three people in your friendship group will seriously consider ending their lives? Doesn’t it scare you that someone in your Monday morning lecture will be successful in doing so?

It scares me, and that’s why I’m writing this. Because you can’t pick who has depression. It could be the person next to you. It could be the most confident kid in your class. It could be the president of your medsoc. I hope it isn’t you, but if it is, this is the message I wish I’d gotten a long time ago - please go and see your GP, please go and get help. This isn’t a life sentence, it’s a treatable disease, you just need to ask for help.

I promise it really does get better. 

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