The Cotswold Way Reflection: I did it my way😊

After a bit of an emotional and tiring day on day 4 I actually took the decision to come home instead of going to the B&B for what was supposed to be my last overnight stop on the route. The 4 days ultimately served their purpose: I got fresh air, peace and quiet and time to reflect on things and because of that I returned much calmer. I also feel good for challenging myself, doing some exercise and spending time in the outdoors. Slightly annoyed I didn’t complete the whole thing but I gave it a go and considering how the reality of it all panned out, I think I did myself proud.

I know it must be scary reading some of my posts; I really don’t mean to upset anyone but I want to be honest because it’s helping me recover and I hope it’s helping in a wider sense in contributing to an honest, no-bullshit conversation about dealing with a mental health illness. Showing the ups and downs all at once shows how not so black and white depression is. You can feel elated yet down at the same time; motivated and disinterested all at once; brave and scared in the same instance. It really is bloody confusing! And I know it must be like that for people on the outside looking in, not knowing how I (or others with depression) are feeling. But I can tell you one thing: support, no matter how big or small, makes the world of difference. I don’t expect anyone to understand this illness – especially when I don’t myself – but knowing there are people who care about you along the way despite not understanding is what really matters.

To blog or not to blog…

Something that played on my mind when I first thought of setting up my blog was whether or not I should do it at all. My home page explains why I wanted to write these posts but here are some of the reasons why I’ve had some reservations…

Reason 1: Will blogging do me more harm than good?

Yes, a problem shared might be a problem halved but at the same time am I creating more problems for myself in the process? I worry that regularly analysing, reflecting and dissecting how I feel – and why – is draining my energy, bringing me more pain and reinforcing some of the bad feelings and thoughts. I don’t want to identify solely as someone who has depression because that would be losing sight of the so many different aspects that there are to me. But by checking up on my progress, my stumbling blocks, my symptoms and the causes, am I fueling the fire I’m trying to put out?

Reason 2: Will my blog do more harm than good to other people who’re suffering from depression?

I find reading other people’s experiences of depression both comforting and helpful. It’s a cliche but having reference points to relate to not only helps you through coping with the depression in a practical way but it also helps to not feel alone. So I felt compelled to stand up and shout about my own experiences to do the same; if just one person is helped by my writing, like other blogs have helped me, then at least there can be a silver lining to my own personal experience of this rotten illness. And while it can be challenging when writing my posts, I do often find it cathartic. But not everyone suffering from depression will find sharing their experience a cathartic one like I do. And that’s ok. But I worry that in me sharing, I’ll make people feel bad if they feel they’re unable to share. I had an incredible response to my last post, commenting on how brave I was to share my feelings and I do get why people think it’s brave given the stigma surrounding talking about mental health so openly, but I don’t feel like I was being particularly brave; I’m comfortable talking about my feelings (probably too comfortable for some people’s liking!) and I tell stories about other people for a living, so while it is a bit different to tell stories about myself, it’s not all that difficult – just uncomfortable at times. But I don’t want ‘talking about depression’ to be a binary thing when it comes to being brave. I don’t want people thinking that they’re only brave if they’re talking about their mental health openly. It takes courage to face up and admit to your own self in having a mental health illness, like it does with a physical illness. But how that’s subsequently dealt with and managed varies for different people. Just because someone isn’t talking about it doesn’t mean that they’re not being brave; I hope people know that when reading blogs like mine.

Reason 3: Will I lose friends by talking about my depression?

I have had so many messages and offers of support from close friends to acquaintances since being diagnosed with depression. I really am lucky and without this network I’m not quite sure where I’d be. I am constantly told that people are there for me to talk to if I need to and I am so grateful for that – and I do bend a few ears every now and then (sorry if it’s one of your ears I’m wearing out!). But I worry that on top of talking to my friends about my own worries, I’ll end up boring them with my additional blogging. Plus, it’s not exactly the most uplifting of topics is it?! I don’t want to bring everyone down around me…

Reason 4: Will I upset friends and family with my posts?

I’ve had a lot of time to think about my depression. I’ve had numerous therapy sessions – group and individual – and I’ve read A LOT about the illness (perversely, I find it fascinating and I’ve enjoyed learning more about it – weird and sadistic, I know). I’ve had time to come to terms with having depression and what that entails. But I realise that not everyone around me is the same. For some, this will be their first ever insight in to depression, through my experience. For others, they know a fair bit about it from personal experience. Whichever way, no one likes to hear that someone they care about is suffering. And to hear just how they’re suffering is not easy. So I worry that I’m being selfish with my honesty; revealing the truth might be liberating for me but I could be causing pain for those having to read about it. I don’t want to cause even more worry and upset to my friends and family.

So, to blog or not to blog?

Some of my thoughts on the above…

1. Blogging is not going to be 100% healing for me nor is it going to be 100% harmful. It will be both these things in different measures and at different times. I think the important thing is to be aware of that, monitor how I’m feeling and the impact it’s having on me and go from there.

2. I have good intentions. I can’t control how people will react to my blog. I take great care and time in writing my posts so that I minimise the amount of upset, offence, or harm I could cause. I believe in the positive aspects of the blog, for me and others, and so I hope they outweigh the potential negatives.

3. If I lose friends through me talking about my depression then they’re friends that aren’t worth having. I still need to be a good friend myself and be there for others for the good and the bad stuff, but if simply talking about the depression is enough to put people off of me then that’s not my problem. And anyway, I think this is a fear rather than a real problem (I hope anyway!).

4. And that leads me to this point: I worry too much about too many things. But that’s a symptom of depression and something that’s being measured on a weekly basis at my therapy sessions (true story – sometimes I worry about my worrying!). But I also know that worrying is a normal human emotion and many of my worries are because I care. But I do need to stop worrying so much – it’s so bloody tiring!

5. This is a hard one but I think I have to accept that I might upset some friends and family along the way with my blog. Again, I can’t control how people respond to what I write, I can only mitigate it the best I can. But being upset isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s not nice, but it’s life. If I upset friends and family (unintentionally, of course) it’s because they care about me, not because I’ve been nasty and horrible (well, not on this occasion anyway!). And a lot can be learned from pain and suffering. Like I said, it’s life.

6. I really do believe that it’s important to talk about difficult subjects, whatever they might be.  If no one talks about them, then we can’t learn from them and tackle the important issues that need to be addressed.

7. It’s ok to do things for yourself; that doesn’t make you selfish. At the moment, this blog is giving me a huge boost. It’s a way for me to talk about things which, at times, I find difficult to talk about face to face. Because of the blog, I’ve had a number of people who’ve suffered from depression get in touch with me and pass on some of their advice. I’ve also had messages of thanks from others who have said that my writing has been a comfort to them. That means the world to me. And the writing itself has been good for me; I love writing and at the moment I feel like I have something worth saying. Whether people want to listen or not isn’t my business, but I hope they do. 

Now I think you know the answer to the initial question…