I’ve been a little quiet lately. Very few updates on social media; hardly any blog posts; away from running; and little to no contact with friends. Sometimes I’d even avoid social situations from fear of feeling out-of-place and anxious.For a while now, I’ve wanted to find the words to offer you a glimpse of where I am at, but usually, my words are inadequate. Other times I withdraw, sinking deep inside of myself and then the words don’t come at all.Only now am I in a place where I want to try to get this all down. Tell you all everything I want you to know. It won’t be perfect, but it will be real. It will be the best snapshot I can give you of where I am right now.I want to get across that this wasn’t my choice. I didn’t choose any of this. I never decided that one day I would walk away from the sport I once loved. It’s part of my brain chemistry, my DNA, along with a thousand other things about me. Just like my eye colour, my height, my long fingers, I have depression.Depression picked me.Depression isn’t a joke. It’s a silent and sometimes deadly disease. The stigma of depression needs to end. I don’t understand why so many people still try to pretend that depression doesn’t exist, or that a depressed person can be “talked out of it”. The stigmatization of depression does nothing to help or encourage those grappling with depression — in fact, treating depression as a personal problem instead of a real illness can lead depressed people to avoid seeking professional help and instead blame themselves for their depression. I want to change that.For the last two years, I’ve battled depression. You see, depression isn’t easy to explain. Dismissing one stereotype, it’s not always constant. For an episode to occur, it doesn’t mean I need to be triggered either. It just happens, and when it does, I can physically feel the weight of depression hanging over me like a cloud. I feel empty; numb; and lonely. In the beginning, an episode would be once in a blue moon. Over time, however, I began to spiral downhill rapidly. The weight on my shoulders became unbearable. Depression became a familiar friend, who overstayed their due a lot more frequently than before.I refer to my depression as ‘The Unwanted Guest’. It began knocking louder than usual at the door a few months back. Some days, I managed to avoid answering it, but the incessant light rapping at the door never gave up. I grew tiresome of it. I’d give up and allow the guest to come in, hoping he wouldn’t stay for long. I’d try to ward him off, convincing myself I could defend him on my own. I failed. Each visit would become more intense. I was focusing all my time and energy on locking out this guest, that I had nothing left for anything else. Each time he’d leave, I was less likely to ignore answering the door again. What was the point? Depression was already overruling my life; I was exhausted from trying to fight it off; I may as well let it win.I felt trapped. I couldn’t understand why depression had picked me. I was under the illusion you needed to have a reason to be depressed. That’s not how it works though. Like me, you can have a roof over your head, food on the table, family, a loving significant other and still be unhappy. It’s just how depression and anxiety works. Although there are some reasons behind my depression and anxiety (due to an extreme set of domino-like circumstances), it can strike anyone.Around May, my depression hit rock bottom. Hitting rock-bottom is similar to sitting on the bottom of a swimming pool and looking straight up to the surface. At the bottom of the swimming pool, there is an awareness of sound and movement whirling above, but nothing is clear enough to be understood.I completely isolated myself from countless of opportunities. I abandoned every passion, and I avoided every social situation I could. I would overreact to the smallest thing and get angry. Due to lack of energy and depleted motivation, it led to emotional eating that fed into an already heightened self-consciousness.I was tired, exhausted tired. Sometimes the fatigue was unbearable. Every bone ached. It sounds crazy I know, but that’s the reality of it. It’s the monster, not just me feeling tired. Simple tasks such as getting out of bed, or taking a shower became a chore. A new day would often scare me – how would I cope? I was sick of feeling like this. I wanted to give in to this monster inside my head. I felt paralyzed.It felt like I had no future and no answers for any of the problems I was facing. All I want is a purpose for why I am here.I was so incredibly raw on the inside with pain that I was at a crossroad. It required me to either follow in the footsteps of dysfunction by continuing this exhausting cycle until it eventually resulted in drowning, or figure out a new, sustainable way of living.I owe everything to Joe; he stood by my side during the dark times and has certainly celebrated with me on the mountain tops too. I have opened up to him in ways I could never share with anybody else, and for that, I am truly thankful. There were countless times where he did not have a clue what was going on; times where he desperately wanted to help but couldn’t; times when he probably felt rejected; times when it felt like I didn’t care; and times when I took my frustration out on him. Despite everything we have gone through, he is still here. He is my absolute rock. Joe, I love you dearly. I am sorry that depression can cloud my mind, it fills me with horrid thoughts about how worthless I am. I know you prefer the good days when I am happy, not anxious or snappy. I wish I could have these days every day, but I can’t. Thank you for fighting this with me. Thank you for loving and supporting me through it all. Thank you for encouraging me to seek help when I refused.I got diagnosed with severe depression after Joe insisted I see someone and thank God he did. I turned to Thinkaction, a mental health service who, without them, I do not believe I’d be in the position I am today. At first, I hated every minute of counselling. I couldn’t understand how it would help me. I felt like it was a waste of time. I had to bring up my past and unscramble what was going on inside my head. It was tough! I’d walked out beating myself up, questioning why I was like this. There were so many times where I just wanted to walk away from it all and give up. Countless, sleepless nights, where I would break down to Joe, begging him for the pain to stop. I’m proud of myself for persevering though.My therapist taught me how to defeat depression. To begin with, we tried the approach of challenging my thoughts. I had to acknowledge them, write them down if I wanted, and then try to step back and access them logically so I could reframe them more positively. This strategy didn’t suit me. I had too much going on inside my head, it was overwhelming, to say the least, to try and challenge all my thoughts. As this didn’t work, we tried the distraction method. When I felt the cloud approaching, or if Joe noticed I was becoming distant, we had to distract my mind. I would count from 100 backward, or if Joe tried to distract me, he’d try and get me involved in hangman or something. It worked as a short-term relief, but as soon as the distraction was over, I’d sink back into my clouded thoughts.I found my counselling sessions extremely difficult. My therapist would insist I see my GP who would prescribe me “happy pills”. From the very start, I refused any form of prescription. I didn’t want to rely on something external to make me happy. Although I never went down to collect mine, these pills work to boost a chemical in your brain (like taking iron supplements for example), but I wanted to do this on my own.We agreed on trying one more method before resulting in taking medication. Acceptance. Rather than trying to ward off the unwanted guest, I had to invite him in. I had to accept that I had a mental illness. It was not about trying to change how I felt, but remaining in touch with my feelings and taking them for what they are. One thing I can take from this is the amount of inner strength I have. I’ll still have my ‘down’ days, but I’ve come a long way over the last couple of months.Admitting to having mental health issues is never easy. It makes you vulnerable, but it does not make you different. By accepting it, I could begin to move on. Feel happier. Stronger. I’m not a prisoner trapped inside my head anymore.Although I would rather keep this private, I simply cannot justify doing so. I am scared as hell writing this post, but I cannot keep my story secret. I want it to help other people. I need it to help other people. Even just one person. Life matters. Life is worth living, even on days when you wish to breathe your last. There is hope, there is always, always hope. I hope this post helps you, whoever you are.I understand it’s hard to help somebody through depression if you’ve never experienced it for yourself. To those out there watching a loved one or a friend go through something similar, here’s some advice:Love them dearly. It’s not their fault. Ask them about their cloudy days as well as their good days. We won’t bring it up in conversation first, ever. You have to break the silence. Never ask if they’re OK, the automatic answer will always be yes when in reality it’s a big NO. Depression makes you feel ashamed, you see. I wanted to talk about these black clouds, but unless Joe said something first, I wouldn’t. There is a certain freedom when it comes to talking openly about the monster. Help us find that freedom. Constantly tell them how much they’re worth. They may not always believe you, but never stop telling them. We need someone to hold our hand, tightly, and guide us through the storm. I know it’s hard to understand but be understanding. Without Joe, I couldn’t have fought this battle myself. Even if you feel helpless, I promise you that you are not!Depression is far more than just “having the blues” or feeling “sad”. It is a soul-sucking, debilitating illness—one that is so severe that it claims nearly a million lives a year worldwide. So if you know someone who has it, don’t just tell them to “pull themselves together” or to simply “get over it”. Instead, listen to them. Support them. And most importantly, be their friend.Thank you to anyone who reads this.