When I started working in community mental health, there was no encouragement to share our own personal story - a story that for me began in my late teens and continues to unfold each day. However, my being able to say to someone "I don't know what having depression feels like for you, but here's what my experience is..." has helped to open many doors of communication, and allowed others to see that despite being ill there is hope for getting an education, a career and just a life worth living. I still have times of real struggle that knowledge and medication cannot not completely erase, but having been through it all more than once I know that there is a beginning, a middle and an end to every depressive episode, and I've learned it's okay to slow down and ask for help.

There is no way to predict what impact depression will have on any given individual, but enough is known now to make being depressed 'safe' to talk about. There will always be folks who won't understand or won't want to listen, but I believe there are enough people around who do recognize and appreciate what depression and its related anxieties can do to the person experiencing an episode (and to those who love and care for us), and these are the people we should put our trust in when needed. Surround yourself with love and understanding, and don't listen to negative talk - even when the talk is coming from you! You are not your illness, you are important and so much more than any illness may try to define you.

I have had days when just getting up from bed to have a shower every day was both a goal and an achievement. But, I've also had many more days where thoughts of depression or being depressed never enters my mind.

Putting our personal stories out there is not for everyone, and we all need to respect that. However, when we can use the experience of those dark times to help someone else get through a rough patch, well - maybe that's what it's all about. I'm not grateful for having a mental illness that requires on-going treatment and loads of personal care, but I'm not going let having a mental illness keep me from having a life.

Judy-Marie (London ON)