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What have you got to be depressed about?

This is a phrase I heard multiple times when I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and still sometimes hear it today - I even use it when talking about myself.

If you've ever been told when you're sad, 'there are people dying' etc. this has the same meaning. However, have you ever told someone you're really happy about something, and they have replied with 'well I bet Meghan Markle is happier'? (because let's be honest, she's winning at life) No, you probably haven't.

I don't know if it is one of those things about being British or it's a human flaw, but it seems that we can never be sad, we can never be having the worst time because someone always has it worse. As a result, we feel that our negative feelings are not validated, therefore they're not real, we are being dramatic, we are overreacting, but this needs to stop. It's perfectly acceptable to not be okay; sadness is not a competition.

I'm not just talking about mental illness, but any emotion - you don't have to have depression to be sad; you don't have to have anxiety to be stressed. Sometimes it can take a lot for someone to tell you how they're feeling, and if you respond by brushing it off and not actually listening, that person may not be able to speak to anyone about that feeling again because they think that they can't feel that way.

When I was first diagnosed, I had a few people ask me what I've got to be depressed about, but as anyone with a mental illness will know, it's never just one specific thing that causes your illness. The fact that antidepressants change the chemicals in your brain surely proves that mental illness is a result of a biological imbalance, not just an environmental factor, it's not something you can control. You can control how you act and cope with the illness, whether you ignore it or get help for example, but you're not in control of the cause. However, the lines I got were: 'but you've got friends', 'you went to a good school', 'you have a good life', 'you've just gone to uni, surely you're happy' etc. Hearing things like this made me even more terrified about what was wrong with me, because I didn't think I had any reason to be feeling the way I did. But like I said, I sometimes still have the same attitude about myself when talking to other people with mental health difficulties. For example, someone I know has also been diagnosed with depression but their childhood/teenage years were a hell of a lot worse than mine, so sometimes when I'm having a down period, I feel like I have no right. However, this person doesn't force me to feel like this, they validate how I'm feeling.

So what I'm trying to say in summary, is if someone you know speaks to you about how they're feeling, whether it's a mental illness or a difficult period in their life, listen and understand, don't question the validity of their emotion. And if you're on the receiving end of this kind of reaction, don't feel that you can't feel how you're feeling. Maybe the person just needs a better understanding, or if they continue to make you feel invalidated, maybe they're not the kind of person you need in your life if they're not going to support you when you need it most.

Look after yourself and the ones around you,

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