Confession Time

I couldn’t decide whether to quote Usher or the Foo Fighters to start this post. But in the words of my beloved Dave Grohl, I’ve got another confession to make.

As open as I have been with you about my experience of breast cancer, I haven’t been entirely honest with you about certain other aspects of my life. I’ve alluded to what I’m about to tell you, but I’ve never actually written it down for the world to see in a way that is quite so frank. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing this post for a very, very long time, even before I got my cancer diagnosis, but I never really found the strength to actually go through with it.

Now I’ve written that paragraph, it feels like I’ve built this whole thing up too much. Because what I’m about to tell you isn’t really that big a deal. It’s a big part of who I am and it’s a part of who I have always been, pre, peri and post cancer. It’s a thing that lots of people know about me, but it’s also something I have tried to keep hidden for a big part of my life. So here we go.

I’M ACTUALLY AN ALIEN. No. That’s a lie. That’s not my “big reveal”. Truth be told chums, I’m standing here with my hands up, my defences down and I’m telling you that, for most of my adult life, I have lived with depression. A depression sometimes so crippling, I can barely put a pair of socks on. A depression so severe that sometimes the whole world looks grey – like every millimetre of colour has been extracted, never to be seen again. A depression so strong that I have, at times in my life, looked in the mirror and genuinely not known the person looking back at me (and I’m not even talking about when I was bald, fat faced and boobless). Sometimes, I am so anxious I can’t even decide what to buy for tea because I’m overwhelmed by fear of what might happen if I pick the wrong thing. I take antidepressants. A little dose of a little tablet, every single day to help me not be swallowed by the black abyss. I have had cognitive behavioural therapy. I have had counselling. I am due to have more cognitive behavioural therapy, ‘cos the work I was doing on that was somewhat derailed by that time I got cancer.

Despite all that, I like to think I’m still a pretty highly functioning individual. That I get shit done and when I’m not in the grip of the shadows, that I have a pretty sunny disposition. It took me a long old time to realise that a) my feelings about the world weren’t necessarily the same as feelings other people experienced and b) that I needed to get some help, before the big dark hole I’d found myself in swallowed me whole. And by Christ am I glad I took help for those things before I got diagnosed with breast cancer at 26. I mean, that’s a bit of a shitter for a person who hasn’t battled with their mental health, let alone someone who has seen the darkest depths of their own brain.

It occurred to me recently that I’ve been so very, very honest about dealing with my breast cancer diagnosis and all of it’s related treatments, it’s ridiculous that I’ve hidden this part of myself away. I’ve openly talked to you guys about VAGINAS for goodness’ sake, but I have been ashamed of the fact that my brain isn’t wired quite right. I’ve been afraid of people judging me and dismissing me as someone who’s just looking for another excuse to bang on about themselves. But the thing is, there are so many people like me. So many people who know all too well the horrible feeling of awakening and feeling sick at the prospect of trying to make your way through another day when you feel like you’re wading through treacle. And so many of us feel ashamed and afraid of talking about these things. And that has to change. So many people are dying because they can’t talk about this illness. I never would have dreamed of keeping the fact I had breast cancer from people I loved. So why do I hide depression? Because of stigma? Well, the only way to change that is to stand up and be counted. So here I am. I am one of the 1 in 4. And I’m going to start talking about it.

ANYWAY. The crux of this post is that I’m working on something I’m really excited about at the moment and I wanted to be up front and honest with all the people who read my blog, so that when I let you know about this new project (hopefully sooner rather than later) you won’t be blindsided by the fact that I’m all too familiar with getting a case of the blues. I’m really hoping that this new project will prove to people that even when living with depression or going through a traumatic health scare, or having to deal with both at once, it’s possible to find light in the darkness, you’ve just got to remember where the light switch is. To paraphrase Dumbledore.

God I wish I was as cool as JK Rowling.

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5 thoughts on “Confession Time

  1. Paul Gilks says:

    You are a total hero in my eyes and as someone who has been in the dark places of my own mind, used and have learnt to live without tablets, I think I understand some of my Voldermort moments.
    It wasn’t until I started questioning and with help identifying how I feel when I start to go downhill that I’ve managed to make the spiral not as deep, which has helped me look forward and mostly avoid the truly bad places that we don’t talk about!!

  2. Karen says:

    “My brain isn’t wired quit right.” Who is to say what is right? Many people have their brain wired differently – that the phrase I use when talking to students when they have just been diagnosed dyslexic/dyscalculic/dysgraphic ( my field of work).
    Keep doing the good work.

  3. mumsreality says:

    Alice, thank you. I have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer and having surgery next week. I take antidepressants long term and am too a positive person.
    I am way more scared of depression than cancer.
    Isn’t it strange how we can talk openly about cancer but not mental health. I think that’s because those who’ve never had it see it as a made up thing, a choice even. It’s something that “weak” people get and yet here we are showing our strength in dealing with cancer. So it’s great that someone undoubtedly as strong as you educates people and shares your experience of depression. I for one am so much more scared about potentially feeling depressed again. After all, there is so much more help with cancer. You are amazing x.

  4. rachelonthehillRachel says:

    A lot of what you wrote sounded so familiar to me – for me, the greyness, the absence of joy. I often found I couldn’t think of one thing that was worth getting out of bed for, and yet somehow, we do it anyway. You are a beautiful writer and a brave person, and so keep getting out of bed. x

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