COLUMN: ‘Stay strong, be positive. We all struggle sometimes’

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By FATIMA PATEL

After resigning as Editor of the Asian Sunday Newspaper in 2015 (for health reasons) I promised myself I wouldn’t ever write again. But here I am with my column YOU, ME & US!

Sometimes when we hurt ourselves, we are too busy worrying about the physical injury to even think about how the injury has impacted on us mentally. For those of you who know me, will know that the past three years and more have been a turbulent few years, but years that I wouldn’t exchange for anything in the world.

For those who don’t know me, don’t worry there will be plenty of upcoming columns for you to get to know me, as I will continue to share my turbulent experiences as well as the exciting, happy and more often than not, stressful experiences.

In this column though I want to express my support for those who are going through depression. If you are sat there reading this thinking, no one understands you, then please believe me when I say I UNDERSTAND YOU.

A freak incident, four years this month, made me realise how many people cared about me and how much support I had out there. However, while I received bundles of support for my physical injury (my ruptured quadriceps tendon), the support for the unseen injury was almost non-existent.

Many people see me as a hugely successful woman who has her own media empire with incredible influence. However, behind this is an ordinary woman who just like everyone else bleeds, hurts and most importantly struggles like most ordinary people too.

So for someone like me who has to live up to this image society has created for me, admitting I was suffering from depression an illness and not something that’s my fault in some way or another was hard. After all who really wants to admit they’re ill with something that’s all in your head. With most illnesses, it’s a different matter, people can see it, they understand it – people are sympathetic. People don’t understand depression, they just think it’s just something you need to get over and cheer up. Life can’t be that bad, surely!

I mean how can someone like me be weak, right?

Well around three years ago, Hollywood celebrity Robin Williams committed suicide. A lot of people would not expect someone so adored and so successful to suffer like that and end his own life, but as we all know this was all down to severe depression.  So anyone can suffer from depression, no matter how great your life has been.

For me the first time I realised I was depressed was when I returned to work, after being away for a year. I returned at the height of the 2015 General Elections. Politics can at the best of times be an ugly industry to be in and to be involved with. Whilst I had recovered physically, I hadn’t given my body time to recover mentally and so at the height of some really powerful articles and significant milestones in my field I felt the emotional political rollercoaster was much more than I could cope with. This wasn’t the same me who only a year earlier single handedly took on an influential council and local authority to task on sexual harassment in the work place and pushed ahead for justice despite pressure from community leaders.

This time though the politics was too much for me. Mentally I couldn’t deal with the pressures, even though it was a job I had signed up for. I chose to step down as an Editor and stopped writing. That was perhaps the most difficult decision I made which at the time, was both the wrong and right decision.

Wrong because I didn’t want to resign, but thought I was too weak to carry on so I did and right because I finally confronted and admitted my mental illness. Even now saying it ‘my mental illness’ is difficult.

Anyway, it’s taken me over a year now to control the tormenting in my head. Most days I put on a brave smile and laugh with everyone, but inside, my heart is in tears. Depression is not something that you can explain. There is no manual or guide. It’s hard trying to explain what it feels like to other people, a dark cloud descends and it’s like fighting a war within yourself. People say try to look at the positives in your life, they don’t understand you really are trying your best and it’s on those days you’re fighting your hardest.

Although, I have mild depression, for which I think I know the cause, whilst many sufferers don’t. Depression can be a very severe condition for some and can take years to treat, with some cases ending in tragedy like Robin Williams.

Even though I still have my moments and I still have a fair bit to go, the fact that I am here, writing this column shows that depression can be beaten and together we can all make a more conscious effort of trying to spot the signs not just with our loved ones, but also within ourselves.

It’s true what they say, storms don’t last forever and one of the hardest things you need to know is that you, me and us, are worth the recovery!

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