If you've read my memoir Depression is a Liar, then you'll know that I've always had the feeling that I'm a very lucky person: to have been brought up in a wonderful neighbourhood; to be surrounded by a loving, supportive family; and to have had the opportunity to do anything I wanted to in life. And, you'll also know that I always wanted to use my blessings for good - to try to help other people who weren't as fortunate as myself. For this reason, while I was studying at university, I become heavily involved in charity- and non-profit work, and I was committed to staying involved for the rest of my life.
Unfortunately, though, around that time back in 2008, I also found myself struggling with negative thoughts like "I'm a failure", "I'm hopeless" and "I'm a loser". I struggled with feelings of worthlessness, and on many days, I absolutely hated myself. I felt completely overwhelmed and exhausted by life, and I found myself wishing I was dead and fantasising about killing myself.
Eventually, I saw a doctor and was diagnosed with depression. However, like so many people when they're diagnosed, I was prescribed medication and then shown the door - without ever being given a clear, straightforward treatment plan that I could follow to recover. Left to basically figure out how to beat depression on my own, I spent the first two years of my illness doing all of the wrong things to get better – which ultimately, led to alcoholism, drug abuse and medicine-induce psychosis, before pushing me to the brink of suicide.
There were many days that I'd felt suicidal, but I remember that day very clearly. I was standing outside my university in the pouring rain, desperately trying to fight off the urge to end my life by jumping in front of a speeding car. In the past, I'd always thought that suicide was selfish, because even though it may have given me peace, I knew it would've left my family in ruins. But in that moment, on what was, unquestionably, the worst day of my life, my depression had tricked me into believing that maybe I'd been wrong.
Because I swear, I vividly remember thinking, if my family knew how depressed I feel right now, they'd want me to end it all and finally be free.
It was a dangerous, dangerous revelation to make.
Does this mean I can die now? I thought. Guilt-free and with my family's blessing?
The rain continued to pour down on top of me.
Can I really do it? Can I really jump in front of a speeding car and kill myself?
I stood at a right-angle to the road, watching the cars zooming past.
Is this really it? Can I really end it all right here?
My mind was a warzone. So much conflict. But eventually, there emerged a definite answer.
I can’t do it.
It’s the same answer I’d always reached, but this time, the reason was different.
It wasn’t for me.
It wasn’t even for my family.
It was for those less fortunate than me.
Regardless of how depressed I feel right now, I remember thinking, I know that I’ve been tremendously blessed: with a loving, supportive family; with First World privileges; and with the opportunity and the ability to do whatever I want to in life. Regardless of how depressed I feel right now, I have had a lot bestowed upon me, and I have to use my good fortune to help others who aren’t as immensely privileged as I am. If I kill myself, the charity I'd just set up will disband. All the great work I'd planned on doing will never get done. I’d be abandoning all the people I have the capacity to help. And no matter how much pain I’m in I just can’t do that. To whom much is given, much is expected. I can’t kill myself. Not now, not ever.
I felt it so strongly, with such paramount force that it couldn't be doubted. So, I stepped away from the road, called my mum to pick me up, and shortly afterwards checked into a psych ward.
Inside the psych ward, I met countless people who’d been crippled with depression for 5, 10, 20, 30 or even 40 years. And, like me, aside from being prescribed a medication, they too had never been given much guidance or treatment to ever get better.
“I’ll never get over it,” I'd always hear them say. “There is no way to beat this illness."
"We'll always find ourselves back in this place. We'll get out, and if we're lucky, we'll stay out for a while - may two or three years. But we'll always relapse back into depression, and when the depression's at its worst, we'll find ourselves right back in this hospital again."
"Depression is just a part of who I am, and it will be this way until the day I die."
When I heard all this, I was so, so scared.
Is this true? I remember panicking. I’m only 21 years old – is this my future? Is this my destiny – to spend the rest of my life consumed by my illness, and going in and out of this psych ward time and time again?
It probably would have been. However like I said, I was blessed to have a caring, understanding family, who not only supported me through everything, but who also convinced me to see a psychologist, and who even paid for the sessions as well (since as a student, there was no way I could’ve afforded them myself).
To cut a long story short, I then worked really, really hard with my therapist; committed to living a healthy lifestyle; and completely changed career paths – with the result being that by the start of 2012 a couple of years later, I’d beaten my depression for good. Since then, I’ve been happy, healthy and loving my life, and during that time, a lot of incredible things have happened to me!
But I know that I got really, really lucky.
I know that for every lucky one of me, there are many more people who aren’t supported by such a caring, understanding family, and who feel misunderstood, dismissed and lonely as a result.
I know that for every lucky one of me, there are many more people who are perpetually trapped in depression – because they’ve never been given a clear, step-by-step depression treatment plan; let alone had access to a therapist who could teach them the strategies they need to recover.
I know that for every lucky one of me who found an incredible therapist that was able to really help them, there are many more people who didn’t have such a positive experience in therapy for any number of reasons.
I know that for every lucky one of me, there are many more people who rather than getting the help they needed and being fortunate enough to live their dreams, ended up dying by suicide instead.
And, because I am - and have always been - a very blessed, lucky and fortunate person, I believe more passionately than ever that it's my obligation to try to give back, and to help other people who aren't as privileged as I am. In particular, when it comes to mental health, I want to do everything in my power to help current sufferers of depression: