I recently (half) jokingly responded to a text asking how I was, with the overview “Marriage and parenthood are wonderful but hard, depression is f’ing awful, I like coffee, gin, and Sertraline”. The reply was that I could sell millions of books with that synopsis, and my friend and fellow blogger Amber from Meet the Wildes said that ‘I like coffee, gin, and Sertraline’ would make a great mug.
It won’t be going on a mug, because I don’t want to be seen to be poking fun at being on antidepressants, but on the back of Amber’s comment a very interesting conversation was sparked.
Sertraline is a much safer drug than alcohol, and arguably safer than caffeine too. People will happily talk about ‘wine o’clock’ and being ‘fuelled by caffeine’, but not so much about being on an antidepressant which allows them to function as their best self.
The truth is that it’s ‘fun’ to talk about whether it’s too early for a glass of your favourite booze, about how you’re so tired that you can’t deal with your kids until you’ve had your morning cuppa. It’s lighthearted, relatable, normal. But what about those of us for whom a normal, functioning daily life genuinely does depend on a substance? Those of us who, without our legal, safe, prescribed medication, would still be having regular panic attacks and living under a cloud of constant anxiety and dark thoughts? That’s pretty deep, too deep maybe.
A little pill from a red box isn’t as Instagrammable as a beautifully formed artisan coffee on a wooden table, manicured nails reaching for the mug, a single flower delicately placed to the side of that essential caffeine fix.
It’s not as funny as a photo of a mum on the sofa pouring wine into a glass up to the brim and a caption declaring that thank goodness the children are in bed and where can she buy larger wine glasses from. Is that the problem?
Mental health issues aren’t funny or glamorous or pretty.
Even many of the social media posts that do discuss mental health are either quotes against block colour backgrounds, or stock images of people looking wistfully into the distance. That’s not to say that there aren’t people doing amazing things to raise the profile and break down the social stigma of mental health, because there are. But I’m not talking about the accounts specifically set up to discuss mental health, I’m talking about ordinary people the world over, suffering in silence because their version of survival isn’t pretty.
I was recently tagged on Instagram by a truly lovely lady called Jade from Mama Scrumpy. She used my account as an example of real life, no sugar coating, to a lovely new mama who felt like she couldn’t continue to be on Instagram, because her life wasn’t as ‘together’ as her followers would expect from her feed. How sad is that? I personally share the good the bad and the feral of our family lives; I aim to show that every aspect of life is okay, it is all normal. There are amazing moments and awful moments and totally, utterly mundane moments. Depression, for many, is a huge part of that and it isn’t fair for any of us to feel like we have to hide that for fear – of what? Of upsetting our friends and family? Of ‘over sharing’? Of PRs thinking we’re not worth working with? Of our colleagues thinking less of us?
To hell with that. I am a damn good person, a hard worker, a passionate and committed mum, wife, business owner. I am all of those things WITH my depression, not in spite of it. It is a part of who I am and it is a huge factor in me being strong enough to keep going every single day.
I will not apologise for, not hide the existence of, every aspect of my mental health. The highs and the lows are my normal. Sometimes I am owning it and sometimes it is owning me, but it is my life and I will not be afraid to talk about my experiences and encourage others to do the same. Maybe the sooner everyone feels as comfortable talking about mental illness as they do physical illness, the sooner more people can manage their illness effectively and successfully without fear of being ‘found out’.
I will give the final word to my wonderful friend Lucy from Mrs H’s Favourite Things:
“It seems odd to me that we can say things about tea, coffee and alcohol but not antidepressants. My antidepressants are my life line. I honestly wouldn’t be alive today without them. I will be taking antidepressants for the rest of my life and I’m willing to wear that on my sleeve.”