“A certain kind of darkness is needed to see the stars.”
I’ve always turned to this quote when describing my experience with mental ill-health. Because, as much as depression has been a blanket of darkness cast over me, it’s also provided a backdrop which allows other parts of my life to really ‘shine’. These are some of those stars — the more positive things my experience with mental ill-health has given me;
Being open about my mental health has definitely pushed some people way, but it’s also been a warm welcome for others. Where I answer “good thanks” to everyone else, my friends hear the truth. They hold space for me, and in return, I do the same for them. We validate one another’s feelings, the realness of our struggles, and our worth when it comes to healing. People bond over all sorts of things from music to food and even all the way down to the colours of their socks. I’ve got friendships that revolve around all those things. But without a doubt, my closest friendships are based around our similar experiences with mental ill-health and a desire to stay in the light. To grow. To be our best, healthiest, selves while still be unconditionally accepting of who we are every step on this journey.
A Sense of Compassion
When people open up about their experiences with mental ill-health, my responses are more relatable and genuine because I’ve been there. That doesn’t mean I’ve walked in their shoes — rather, I have been down a similar road in my own pair. I know that everyone is dealing with difference circumstances and smiles can hide a lot — the same way I hide behind mine at times. Which is why I’m always willing to lend a hand, shoulder, or ear to anyone that needs it. I think Plato summed it up pretty well when he said “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Appreciation of the ‘little’ things
Depression keeps me locked in my own head at times. That I don’t enjoy. But as a result, I’ve developed a different perspective on the world… for my own good. It’s led me to take better notice of everything going on outside of my repetitive negative thoughts and feelings — as a way to remind myself that there is still beauty and good in the world: The sun cutting through the clouds, the joy of children, a good movie, moments you laugh with a friend and forget everything else, text messages to ask how you are, animals and unconditional love. A fresh haircut or new clothes. The little things are easy to overlook, but I notice and appreciate them because they all add up to make a difference.
I can’t remember when exactly, but I reached a point where I realised I’d never “get over it.” Depression isn’t just something I’m experiencing. It’s something that’s interwoven into my life and reflected in my choice of friends, hobbies (such as writing about mental health topics), interests, work (I’ve worked for two leading mental health organisations) and personality (I’ve already mentioned my sense of compassion). And for this reason, appreciating all my positive qualities and the good things in my life means accepting the things I’ve always wanted to change and leave behind. I don’t define myself by my mental ill-health, but rather the good things that have resulted from it. I wouldn’t be who I am without it.
Ricky is one of our batyr speakers in Melbourne, who participated in one of our Being Herd workshops. He submitted this for our blog series themed “What my experience with mental ill-health has given me”. You can find more of his writing on his blog ‘Boy Under The Bridge’.