Why is it easier to say I have cancer than admit I have depression?

Cancer has been a part of my life for 5 years. In that time I have grown immune to the range of reactions people give:

“But you’re so young!”

“You must have a history of it in you’re family”

“But you’re back to normal now?”

And another common response is one of silence carried with a look of disbelief. I am an open person and frequently use my story as an opportunity to raise awareness. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t introduce myself as ‘I’m Heather and I have cancer’ but if the topic does come up in conversation I will reinforce how important it is to regularly check your boobs or balls, attend your screenings and go the GP if you do notice any changes. I do wish cancer wasn’t a part of my life but it is not something I am ashamed of. I think it is important to educate people that cancer does not discriminate which means we are all at risk. There is no history of it in my family and unfortunately life never goes back to ‘normal’.

Cancer has a huge impact on mental health and over the last few months I have really struggled. At first I thought it was just a blip – it has been a crazy year and at some point the emotions were due to catch up on me. After a gentle nudge from the Funny Boy I finally visited my GP. I explained how my mood was impacting my work, relationships and even preventing me from making simple decisions. She diagnosed me with depression and suggested I try taking an anti depressant. I left the surgery with my prescription and dismissed her diagnosis. I was stubborn and embarrassed – I had no intention of taking the medication.

Unsurprisingly my situation didn’t improve. I felt like I had failed at everything and even started questioning ‘what’s the point?’ Once again the Funny Boy intervened. We booked another appointment with my GP and planned a trip to Maggie’s. I was honest with my doctor and admitted I hadn’t started the medication. At both meetings I explained how ashamed I felt – I wasn’t prepared to accept or admit that I was depressed.

Thankfully, with the support of my GP, Maggie’s and Funny Boy I started to take the medication and see a psychologist. More importantly they gave me the courage to start talking about my mental health with my family and friends.

According to statistics 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Or to put it another way at some point pretty much everybody will experience poor mental health in their lifetime – so why is it still a taboo?

Why did I fear telling people?

Why was I so scared of being judged?

And why, why, why do I find it easier to say i have cancer than admit I have depression?

I am definitely beginning to feel better but it hasn’t happened overnight. For me everything began to improve when I admitted there was a problem and I started being honest with my nearest and dearest. The reality is my family and friends have shown me nothing but love, support and understanding.

As always, FUCANCER!

2 thoughts on “Why is it easier to say I have cancer than admit I have depression?

  1. Oh you are so right, why if your legs broken and in plaster or you have cancer and wearing say a bandana people accept it, but please don’t mention mental health, your heads broken oh don’t worry you just need a swift kick up the pants; get on with it etc etc. I take medication every day in life for anxiety and panic and l could not cope without it. That’s who l am, it’s hard work some days but l am lucky like you l have friends who understand and support me. Believe me l didn’t chose this and would not wish it on anyone, but talking helps and my ears free to bend anytime. xx

  2. Hi Heather,
    After all you’ve been through physically there was always a chance your mental health would suffer too. To be brave enough to say on social media that is how you’re feeling takes so much courage. I know I only know you a wee bit through Duffer and hockey but some words of wisdom from an elderly friend – keep going to counselling as long as you can, keep taking your medication and do not stop when you feel ok….and you will feel ok again but stopping suddenly does not help.
    Depression is something that will effect most people at some point in their life so for you to speak out is amazing. Do not feel like you need to be the strong one – always here if ever need someone to speak to. I was crying non stop two years ago and still struggle a wee bit..would never want anyone to feel like they were on their own.
    Nic / Badger xx

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