When I first started experiencing depression, it seemed like I was the only person in the world that was feeling this way. All around me, my family and friends were going to work or school, visiting their loved ones, making plans, and all the while I was struggling to drag myself out of bed each morning. Life had started to steamroll me – even though I felt numb and completely sapped of energy, the world went on without me. My boss still expected me to turn up to work even though I could barely get myself dressed, and my university professors were waiting for me to write tones of important words when I could barely string a sentence together to offer my parents each evening. I found that I was sleeping all the time, because somehow being awake just seemed like too much effort, and I barely touched any food since hunger just didn’t register as an important feeling anymore.
Even when I was surrounded by love and support, with family members asking me how they could best support me, I still felt alone. Talking to the ones I loved the most somehow felt like experiencing life from behind a pane of glass, so close to connection and yet just out of reach. I felt like I had been submerged under water, unable to hear or see anything clearly beyond the surface and struggling not to drown.
When I reached out to one of my aunts to talk, it felt as though I had finally found someone who was speaking the same language of me. As sad as it made me to know that she too had experienced the struggle of moving through the day when everything felt hopeless, there was nothing more comforting than knowing that she truly meant it when she said “me too”. She gave me the chance to vent my frustrations and shared the tips and skills she has spent a lifetime of chronic depression acquiring. Even when I told her that I didn’t think I could go on anymore, she never judged me or panicked – she simply said that she would miss me too much if I was gone. As pointless as her battles must have felt at the time, I know that someone put her on this earth to guide me out of the darkness, and I will be forever grateful for the wisdom she has shared with me. On countless occasions, calls with her have given me the strength I needed to fight another day, and I still think of her every single time I sit behind my desk here at eFriend.
I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Not everyone has a family member with common experiences, let alone one who is willing to be vulnerable and talk about their mental health journey openly. Regardless of this, you are not alone. 1 in 5 Australians experience a mental illness every year, and I feel confident saying that 5 in 5 Australians know the burden of stress, worry and isolation, particularly in this trying time with COVID-19. It doesn’t matter if you shut down and shut off, scream and shout, numb and self-destruct, or cry for days – you are not the only one. You might eat your emotions, drown your sorrows, bottle up your anxiety, or blow your lid from time to time. No matter what you’re going through, there is someone who has been there before and is waiting on the other side for you with open arms. We might even be just a phone call away…
This piece was written by one of the ICLA eFriend Peer Support Workers. eFriend is an online platform where you can connect using your personalised login to talk with a trained peer support worker with lived mental health experience over video chat or voice call. Your eFriend Peer will listen, chat with you and offer guidance when needed.
There is no need to have a mental health diagnosis or referral, eFriend can be used to simply debrief about what has been happening for you under any circumstance.
If you like, they can assist you to identify any other services you may like to try or help you create plans to improve your personal well-being is a priority and you are safe. Or they can simply listen.