These four words will probably resonate with an awful lot of people.

Currently I am going through quite a tough time with my anxiety. My depression is under control for now but my anxiety has highs and lows. I have been off work for nearly 2 months and while I am enjoying the time away to look after myself I miss my colleagues terribly. We’re all a bit of a crazy bunch where I work and support each other through everything (well, wherever we are able to) and that friendship is what I miss most.

I try and get out and about most days just to get some fresh air and also to prove to myself that the outside world isn’t as scary as I think it is. On some of these days I take my camera and take some photos of the town and surrounding areas, other days I have a list of things to do such as getting bread or just paying a bill. On the occasions that I have to speak to people I know they ask, as they do, how I am. It is at this point that the conversation goes one of two ways. Best case scenario is they listen and sympathise and even ask questions to allow me the chance to explain what’s going on. However, usually the other scenario occurs where I mention the not-so-magic word ‘depression’ and the conversation diverts quickly to a not so sincere goodbye.

I don’t blame them really. It’s not their fault. The one thing I’ve learned so far about this illness is that people don’t really know how to approach the subject when it comes up in conversation. I try and make it as easy as I can for them by explaining how I feel in simple terms without going in to too much gory detail (almost as if there was a ‘Depression for Dummies’ book) but I can already see the glazed look on their face. If I had broken a bone, or injured myself in some way I would most likely have a plaster cast on. Or crutches. Or just a plaster or a bandage. If it was a physical impairment that would also be quite obvious to people. But, because I have what could be classed as one of many ‘invisible’ illnesses it becomes harder to explain to people that you are genuinely unwell and you begin to feel like people don’t believe you and just think you’re lazy or just making a drama out of nothing.

But it isn’t just nothing!!! I know I’m not well. My family know I’m not well. My doctor and my local mental health team know I’m not well.

Why do we get made to feel like we have to justify our illness just for the sake of other people’s misunderstanding? Maybe it’s just me but I don’t appreciate being made to feel worse than I already do when I am doing my best to keep my head above water and get through the day. Leaving the house may not seem like a big deal to others but to me it scares me. Once I’m out I can manage my breathing and control where I need to go but the initial step out the door is a massive step to take. I can do it, it just might take me a bit longer than others……….

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