By Georgina Woolfrey
Two months ago, I wasn’t a blogger. I can’t claim to be a prolific one now – this is still only my second article. But on 11th June around 8pm, with a heart racing with nerves and admittedly some excitement (and the ensuing high blood sugar), I posted a link on Facebook to an article I’d written. Having dashed off to choir, it was a couple of hours later when I tentatively took out my phone. I had approximately eight million notifications. You may have spotted the exaggeration, but I did have dozens of messages from friends, family, and friends of friends I’d never even met. I was…stunned. Plus excited, proud, and buzzing with adrenalin (blood sugar: literally no idea by this point).
So what was this article about? Well, unlike my original idea for a blog (dating stories; I have a back catalogue), the article is a journey through my experience of depression last year. June to November 2014 wasn’t just bad, it was non-existent; a void that swallowed six months of my life.
It was a euphoric feeling this year when I knew that I was 100 per cent back to my optimistic self, and motivated to re-start the projects I had abandoned when depression took me under. One of these projects was starting a blog. And suddenly, I realised that perhaps I had some interesting content. And perhaps that would be a good way to tell my friends and family why I wasn’t myself last year. And hey, depression is so misunderstood, maybe I can explain what it felt like, so that people ‘get it’ and are more understanding and less judgmental?
But there was something else playing on my mind, willing me to write. Something I learnt at the JDRF London Discovery evening earlier this year from Paul Buchanan of Team Blood Glucose: 86% of diabetics will suffer from depression. I think this was most shocking to me because, in my 24 years of being a type 1 diabetic, the grand total of times a medical professional had asked about my mental wellbeing equalled zero.
So on the train home one evening in May, I started writing. To date, the article has had over 8,000 views, over 2,000 Facebook shares, and has been tweeted and acclaimed by SANE Mental Health, Mind, authors including Matt Haig (Reasons to Stay Alive), and type 1 twitter nobility.
The number of messages I’ve received is in excess of a hundred. Most of them were to say thank you. The majority of messages were from people I’d never met, people, writers even, telling me they’d suffered from depression for up to 15 years and had never been able to put into words how it felt. People whose friends and family had been through it said they finally understood. A friend’s ex told me it moved him so much that he felt like a different person afterwards. But not surprisingly, it was the people to whom I most closely related – people experiencing depression with type 1 diabetes – whose words meant the most:
“I openly wept when I read your article…it felt like I could finally forgive myself.”
In the article, I talk about the power of knowing you’re not alone. One of the huge positives of JDRF and social media is that where we had to just get on with it on our own before, now we have a community. Damn, we have a freaking army. And we have a voice.
Community, virtual or physical, cannot be underestimated. And nor can the importance of our mental health.
To read Georgina’s full article please click here.
You can also follow Georgina on Twitter, her username is @georgewoolfrey.