I am a face of Depression:

It’s probably not the face you expected to see; I’m smiling. You may have expected me to be crying or sad, perhaps curled up in a ball or avoiding the cameras all together, right? Wrong.

I am a face of depression, and I am not ashamed of what I’ve gone through and I’m pretty proud of where I’ve come from.

My name is Lauren Gillett and I am one of the Schools Outreach Coordinators at LUSU. I was diagnosed with depression earlier this year. Luckily, my battle with it seems to have been quite short in comparison to some which is something I am extremely thankful for.

Lots of people don’t ‘get’ or understand depression so I thought I’d try and give you a bit of personal definition. Admittedly, one of the hardest things about it is that it is incredibly hard to explain, or sometimes understand yourself, so please never assume that there is a single definition of what depression or mental illness is. This is just mine…

I remember coming to work one day and wishing that I would get stuck in a traffic jam so I wouldn’t have to face the world that day. I could feel tears hiding behind my eyes ready to burst on queue at anything or everything. I did not really understand what was happening or more importantly why.

I came into work and I hadn’t even realized the tears were already streaming down my face. My colleagues discreetly asked me what was wrong and I took a deep breath and uttered ‘nothing’. I was lying – the issue was, I did not have a reasonable explanation. Nothing had happened that morning – I just woke up feeling like this. From what I could remember, I’d gone to bed feeling like that as well for as long as I could remember in my recent memory. I felt pathetic, like I should be able to handle it and pull myself together but also exhausted at the same time.

I was making mistakes at work, I had dropped the ball on several things and I was feeling extremely guilty that I couldn’t handle myself. I ran to the toilets like a runaway bride at a wedding and cried so hard I felt myself go lightheaded and dizzy. That’s when my line manager, Carla, found me and told me to go home because I wasn’t fit to work in that state. That’s when I knew something was really wrong – she was right.

Carla then sent me an email directing me to call the employee assistance programme. She also insisted that I go to the doctors. At first I thought it was a little ridiculous. I was thinking: get yourself together Lauren; you’re being pathetic. This was half the battle – actually admitting something was wrong and also accepting that it was okay. I was ill and the doctor confirmed a few days later.

It took me a long time to call the employee assistance programme. The first time I rang, I was crying (of course). The second time, I hung up the phone and finally the third time, they called me and introduced me to a counselor called Anne who I’ve been seeing for the past three months.

I haven’t had to pay for a single counseling session but they have been priceless. It has been the outlet I needed to deal with my mental health and accept that it is okay to get help.

Mental health seems to carry such stigma and it’s really hard not to feel like you’re on your own. It’s really hard not to see it as a weakness or a flaw in your personality. I am so thankful that Lancaster University and LUSU have been so supportive and understanding and I really would encourage anyone who feels like they’re suffering to go speak to your line manager, tutor or someone at the University or ring up the employee assistance programme.

I’m in such a better place than I was a few months ago and feel like I should really give back to the community that have supported me so much. Don’t suffer in silence, please get yourself some help and if you do want to join my pursuit of battling the stigma, please support amazing charities such as The Blurt Foundation and Mind. It’s really nothing to be ashamed of, just stuff happens from time to time!

I had a song stuck in my head while I was at my worst. I didn’t really get why it was going through my head but it’s kind of fitting now that I understand what happened. It’s by the Stone Roses called ‘What the world is waiting for’ and the last few lyrics sum up just what you need to do if you are feeling your mental health is getting the better of you:

Anytime you want it then it’s there

All you gotta do is stop it on the corner and ask 

Say, hey, you don’t live today, stop the world

I’m getting off.’

Maybe what the world is waiting for is a few people to stand up and say, mental illness is not something to be ashamed of and I am proud to be one of the many faces of depression.

Lauren Gillettstoptheworld