My name’s Úna-Minh Kavanagh and I’m a 23-year-old journalist living with depression and anxiety.
In 2009, I had a very tough year and that’s when my mental health struggles began. I was just coming up to the final stages of my Leaving Certificate and I was being badly bullied by a teacher, as well as dealing with a toxic relationship.
Out of a mix of exhaustion, anger and upset, I slipped into a depression and found myself in a hole where I couldn’t climb out. I was surrounded by dark thoughts and I couldn’t find any way to voice how I was feeling.
I was soon diagnosed with depression and began medicine that I would eventually wean off.
In the end, I was glad that I managed to wean off medication so quickly because I knew that, that option wasn’t really for me. I know that this completely depends on the person’s personal reaction but I found that they made me feel lifeless and numb and I knew that I had to look for another route for peace of mind.
The biggest thing that helped me was the support and love of my mother, who was there for me when I went into such a depressive slump, and my love for writing.
Writing is a release for me, especially on a computer when I can type them all out with speed and then just delete the whole thing. The words can just spill onto the page with ease and there’s no one there to judge.
Both combined, I felt less alone and managed to source some strength in me to make it through.
To be honest, I don’t really use the word “recovery” when it comes to my mental health battles, because for me they’re always in the background and have become part of everyday life. This isn’t such a bad thing in one way because I’ve learned to see the signs and reach out more when I’m starting to feel off.
There are still some days where I find it incredibly hard to get out of bed and pull on clothes, and others where it could be the sunniest most pleasant morning and I could have a cloud hanging over me.
It frustrates me sometimes because there’s still a lot of stigma that’s attached to mental health and I’ve always been wary with my peers when I’m having a tough time.
In college, phrases like “there’s obviously something wrong with xyz” or that’s person’s “not right in the head” were constantly being thrown around, and I felt like they would think I was making a fuss about something that was “in my head”.
My advice to people who are feeling down in themselves or who are embarrassed about their mental health issues is to know that it’s ok. The more that we talk about it, the less unusual it is.
There are many days when I don’t feel ok, but little by little, I realise that there are so many people out there who are probably feeling the same.
I’d also implore people who hear about friends or family that are not having a great time, not to judge. I know it can be hard but the best thing that you can do is be a support and a good listener.
Don’t be embarrassed about asking for help if you need it. We all need to have a bit of support at times and it’s only natural to have different feelings come in waves. We’re all human.