Coming Out of the Closet Again 20 years ago I came out to my friends and family as gay and then just as now I thought this was going to be a difficult and scary undertaking. Much to my surprise and luck, my big statement was met with replies of, “Yes we knew and we love you all same.” My older sister even pre-empted my words to tell me I was gay before I could finish. I count myself lucky as there are millions of LGBT folk around the world who don’t have open-minded / loving friends, family or support. Many coming out stories result in all kinds of unspeakable terror, so yes I am very lucky and thankful indeed. Today I am coming out again. I want to come out as someone who suffers from depression. Even writing those words sound ridiculously silly to me and I’m sure that many people who read this may think the same but I have my reasons for doing so and hope that anyone who is going through the same thing may benefit from knowing they are not alone. I am not asking to be treated any differently, for special treatment, or looking for excuses to pardon any wrong-doings I have made. Part of this process—for me—is recognizing regrets, apologizing for them, learning and growing to be a better person. The phrase “no regrets” actually angers me now and I think “Wow you must be an angel or incredibly selfish.” I have a list of regrets as long as my arm and want to try to make amends for all of them. My depression hit me totally out of the blue, whereas previously I felt like King of the World and indestructible, I suddenly felt isolated, feeble, miserable and worthless. For all I had and all the love I had around me, my life felt meaningless and I saw no way to change this. Furthermore, and most worryingly, I didn’t want to try and pull myself out of the hole that I now found myself in. I very quickly cut myself off from the world, refusing to leave my bedroom let alone my apartment for days and often weeks on end. All the goals and aspirations I once had were forgotten. The spiral effect of depression, my willingness—or lack thereof—to do anything and decision to ignore my responsibilities soon mounted up. Like a high-speed accident on a busy road the casualties were many. Sorry for the pun, but this is all sounding rather depressing and instead of air what is quite frankly dirty laundry, I would rather move on to the next bit. It has been 18 months since I first felt the way I do and the good news is that I am getting better. I now (obviously) recognize that my brain is not working the way it should and mental illness/depression, just like a physical sickness, needs treatment. Additionally, I know I no longer want to feel like this and I feel like I have the motivation to get back on track. You may be asking yourself why I am making this statement at all and why on such a public forum. Firstly, I feel I have been “cat-fishing” my friends here, all has not been well and life has not been a bed roses. The pictures that I post of myself are old or have been taken on the very rare days when my mood was not sullen. Secondly, I felt inspired by others who have taken the time to share their own stories and say, “You are not alone and yes it can get better.” Lastly, I wanted to thank friends and family who have witnessed the real me over the last 18 months. Your words of encouragement mean everything to me even if I did nothing about them at the time. If my words resonate with you and you feel you may be experiencing something similar, I hope the following advice will help you. It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”, and you can take steps to develop it in your own life. Stop worrying about how your “Real-Self” will be judged by others. Those who love you, love you, those you who don’t just don’t. It’s not your mission to change their opinion and it’s a pretty fruitless exercise to boot. Expressing your “Real-Self” gives you a huge energy boost and that positive energy is felt by everyone around you too. When you feel all is lost, be creative, sing, dance, turn that Donna Summer—disco works for me and I make no apologies for it—song up to 11 and sing it like a crazy person, as clinically you probably are and there’s nothing to be ashamed of in that. Recognize your problems, go as far as to embrace them; there’s a difference between embrace and invite. Resolve, apologize, make amends and grow mentally and physically. Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your loved ones are watching your mental descent into darkness with breaking hearts. Most would be willing to offer support if and when you ask. The British in me thinks that all can be solved with a cup of tea but all joking aside, a friend offering an open ear over a cup of tea—even bad American tea—has helped me to no end. I want to close by saying that obviously I have no medical training and I personally shy away from taking prescription pills to treat my symptoms. If this works for you then fabulous and all power to you. Talk to your doctor, get as much professional help as you can afford and/or is readily available. If your doctor recommends prescriptions then do ask if he/she personally benefits financially from giving you one brand over another. It’s your right to know and you want to make sure you are not just their cash cow. The National Alliance on Mental Illness in the USA and Mind in the UK both offer free support and have lots of resources you can use to make the best choices for you. Don’t be ashamed of your illness. If you had a broken limb you would (I hope) go get it fixed. You just have a broken brain cell or two. I started this piece by saying this was my second coming out and yes it really does feel like it. It’s a huge weight of my shoulders to say what I have said. I hope I am lucky enough (once again) that you will not judge me too harshly and that you treat me just the same as you did before. Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope to see you out and about soon with a beaming smile back on my face.