Depression & Me
My name is Ali Galbraith and I have depression.
Quite an opening statement, right? It’s for a few reasons. Firstly, I wanted something that would shock most people and peak their interest to read on (it takes away a large percentage of what I’m trying to achieve with this piece if nobody reads it!)
The major reason I opened like that, however, was for me. I want to be brave enough and strong enough to admit to everyone at the very start that I suffer with depression. I have for many years now and I’ve spent too long hiding away, not doing anything about it.
For those of you that know me, this maybe come as a very big shock to you. For those of you that I hold closest to me, it may shock you that I am talking about it.
I do a lot in my life and the majority of it is highly motivational and in front of people.
I hid my depression from so many people because nobody wants a miserable Personal Trainer or door staff (waiting for the stereotypical ‘bouncers are ass holes’ comment) I thought having depression made me weak, I was embarrassed and I thought people would think less of me for having it. All of those thoughts are complete sh*t! Let’s lay it out there early, negative thoughts help you out roughly 0% of the time.
So, yes, it may really shock the people who know me and see me at work or in my hobbies that I suffer with depression but it’s the truth. I want to spend the next few minutes with you to talk about this taboo subject to hopefully open a few eyes and maybe even help others who could feel the same way.
Speaking From Experience
I feel I can hit home to people about depression by having first hand experience and living it, along with being the guy who didn’t let on to the masses that I was suffering. There are so many people who are suffering with depression but are not saying anything. I was at a talk the other day and they said the well known phrase “1 in 4 of us suffer depression” is only based on the people coming forward to get help. So the actual figure could be worse than that. Even 1 in 4 should be enough for us to not shy away from the problem.
We as human beings get injured going through life. I’ve broken bones, torn ligaments and tendons, picked up cuts and bruises faster than most people run to the TK Maxx clearance section! I have not once been embarrassed or ashamed to talk about them.
Why should having a little slip up in my mental health be any different than a slip up in my physical health? I am not going to go through my life being perfect, no one does!
I have stopped myself from thinking negatively about the situation, I’m happy to talk about it. This is probably the bravest thing I’ve ever done in my life, opening up to people. Letting people see the me that I have been scared to show. Leading from the front to take away the stigma around the subject.
I am not weak for admitting I am struggling.
I was weak by hiding away and hoping it would pass.
So, how bad was it? Well, I’ll openly tell you.
From a very early age (primary school) I was bullied for my looks - not hold the small kid down while the bigger kids slap his belly until it’s as red as the Coca Cola Christmas truck kind of bullying. Just the laughing and the pointing kind of bullying.
The same bullying carried on through secondary school and even to this day. It was only 2 days ago that someone ‘took the piss’ out of me about my appearance.
If I was interested in girls, they weren’t interested in me. We would play the school classic ‘kiss chase’ and all the other boys were getting herds of girls chasing them, giggling away. Not one of them after me. I even stopped one of the girls to say I was playing and she told me they didn’t want to kiss me.
I had more no’s from girls than Donald Trump had from the British public (I know that’s not factually correct, I just thought a Trump joke would go down well there) Any girl who I was interested in would speak to me as a friend and then end up liking someone else.
It’s keen to state in those moments I was not depressed. I was low in mood but not depressed. What did happen though is I formed core beliefs about myself and others. I told myself from very early on that I was ugly. I was inadequate. I was unlovable. I was a failure. Other people would hurt me and can’t be trusted. Those are some pretty heavy things to tell yourself.
The most important thing for you to remember is be mindful of what you say to yourself, you’re listening! What I mean by that is if you tell yourself something enough times, you’ll start to believe it. You will gather evidence to support your theory and cancel out anything that contradicts your negative core beliefs.
This was my downward spiral.
Over the years I have slowly gone deeper and deeper collecting more and more evidence to support my negative beliefs to the point where I didn’t believe a single good thing existed about me. The problem was, I never saw it happening.
I pointed the finger at those closest to me, “You make me feel like this” or “You can’t be like that.” In reality, they were only living their life. I was making myself feel a certain way and was stuck in a rigid view of my life. Basically saying to myself, if people didn’t do things the way I like it then it must mean my negative core beliefs are true.
I started acting upon my NATs (negative automatic thoughts) and my behaviour would follow suit. I’d be blowing things out of proportion, mind read people, labelling myself, trying to predict the future, along with many other things!
Other people make me feel ugly, sad, angry, upset, alone, unloved, hurt. No, Ali. You made yourself feel like that. When I was stuck in a depression I looked to blame everyone but myself. All I ended up doing was hurting those who cared about me the most. The ones who were trying to support me.
I would cancel things with friends. Withdraw myself from a social situation. Snap at people and cause unnecessary arguments and tension. If I wasn’t at work I would go to bed. I didn’t open a letter that came through my door for years and years. The whole time getting more and more evidence to support my negative beliefs. It was a vicious circle.
I would spend my time getting so frustrated, I hated feeling the way I did but I had no clue why I was doing it or what was going on. Which, of course, only fueled the fire more!
I condemned myself a complete failure after attempting to help but never following through. I was left with a defeatist attitude to myself and put me down as a lost cause. “This is me and there’s nothing I can do about it” I used to say to myself.
So What Did I Do To Help Myself?
I have tried things in the past, like I mentioned above. I have been to the doctors many times, I’ve tried some talking therapy, medication etc. I never pressed through with it though, maybe I wasn’t ready to help myself. Maybe I was scared. I can’t really tell you.
I even spent a large sum on hypnotherapy. I really liked this but maybe because it gave me an hour everyday where I could shut off from the world around me. Most of the time I found myself asleep before the end of the ten count. Not sure that was the way to do it :)
What works for me the most though is CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
I got the biggest boot up my backside that really woke me up to reality.
If I don’t change myself now, I’m not getting better.
So I have knuckled down, sometimes spending hours a day working on myself. I found something that after all these years of frustration finally explains why I feel the way I did. Why I acted the way I did.
Most importantly, the steps to take to no longer feel or act in that destructive way.
I invested time in me.
I still have a long way to go but I am moving in the right direction. I open my letters. I take long walks. I try and do something to better myself every day. I tell myself positive thoughts. I work on my CBT homework. I organise things with friends. I don’t nap in the day. I smile at people more.
Some days are harder than others. That’s a given. But as long as I am looking at the positives I can do a little bit better everyday. Baby steps.
I’m not saying if you’re reading this and suffering, do CBT. It might not work for you. The same as my other options I tried didn’t work for me. I’m saying if you are reading this and feel it strikes a cord with you, don’t give up your fight.
What Can Others Do To Help?
Request number 1: Don’t be scared to talk about it.
Obviously don’t go for the jugular and ask personal questions. Just ask how someone's feeling. If you know that someone isn’t doing too well then ask them to go for for a cup of tea or if they want to talk. People will open up to you as much as they feel comfortable.
Request number 2: Try your best to not pass judgement.
We are fallible human beings. None of us are perfect so we can forgive ourselves for saying or doing the wrong thing from time to time. What isn’t cool though is passing judgement for your own entertainment. Something that could be so trivial to you, could be a whole world of insecurities to someone else.
Request number 3: Be supportive and understanding.
Something none of us know for sure is how somebody else is feeling. Try your best to be supportive of a situation and understanding of how people may feel.
Take for example the homeless community (I’m using them as an example because it’s where a large majority aren’t understanding without necessarily realising). Most people look down on the homeless, don’t give them a bit of spare change, complain when they get near them, make the streets look dirty, want to clear them before the royal wedding...no comment.
That’s not being massively supportive or understanding of them. Don’t you think they have enough on their plate?
Just aim to up your kindness levels, we will all need a little help in our life at some point or another. Either very big help, or very small help.
I have laid it out for all to see in the hope that we can take away some of the stigma around depression. Let’s not be afraid to talk about it. Support people. Be there for a friend. Step forward with confidence if you are suffering.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope I have opened a few eyes.
My name is Ali Galbraith and I have depression, but I’m fighting back :)