I thought perhaps it was time...

I've been meaning to post about this topic, but never could figure out what to say. However, in the spirit of today is "R U OK?" Day I thought perhaps it was time.

Some of you may be aware, others not so much, but for the past two years I've battled with depression. For a period of time it spiraled down into the really bad, perhaps worst kind, where I struggled to hold on. I think only one person really ever knew the depths of the struggle that I battled with, and I feel bad for putting (past and present tense) Kerry through that. But I'm also very grateful that she's been here to support me through this battle - I think some people don't have anyone at all.

The cause of the depression isn't really important - let's just say it was an accumulation of the issues in life that I never really got around to dealing with, all deciding to strike at once. What I wanted to share though, was my experience, how I perceived the world, rightly or wrongly.

When I felt like everything was going wrong, no matter what I did, to the point that there was no escaping it, I began to question my value to the world, so much so that I really (and on some days still do) felt like that I have nothing meaningful to contribute or offer to the world. I began to feel as that I had made so many mistakes in my life that I had failed as a person. That I really had no value to add to any friendships, and that no matter how hard I tried I couldn't provide enough for my family.

I reached a point where I felt that no one would really miss me if I disappeared from their lives. So I began to disappear from the lives of everyone I knew. And as I expected, nobody seemed to notice, because nobody got in touch. And so the depression became worse, before it started to turn around.

Isolating myself from everyone is my fault. Even though you want help, you don't feel like you're worthy of it, and that everybody is too busy with their own lives, so you don't ask for it. In fact, I did my best to try and not let everyone know what I was going through, until, at least March this year.

A very good and perhaps my oldest friend once told me about how great my life looked during this period of time. To him, it seemed like I didn't have a boss to report to, surfed almost everyday, and disappeared in the mountains to ride my bike on the days that I didn't surf. Someone else, an acquaintance that we had over for dinner a few months ago said that we were "living the dream".

And while our lives, my life, has its ups and downs and is in my mind a lot better that the lives of other people, it doesn't stop the depression from attacking. The life that I show people is just the illusion of being okay because I think we're taught from a young age that we have to be strong and not share our problems with others, because they are our problems to solve.

I still deep inside, feel this way.

The other thing that I wanted to say was that there have been a few, very rare occasions where I may have made mention or posted something on here that was a half-hearted cry for help, or for even just someone to notice. There are some people, that are really good at asking for help and support, and thankfully get the attention they need to get through. I suspect there are even more people that aren't.

Another friend, once said to me that they once saw a post of mine and was concerned and wondered if they should check to see if I was okay.

They didn't, not until a month after the post. Incidentally, I was okay, but it showed me just how hesitant people can be to check and make sure people are okay.

I don't know why this is, why it can be difficult to ask someone if they're okay - because it shouldn't be. If you're not sure, just ask anyway - even if they won't admit to anything being wrong, it's always appreciated. Sometimes it just comes at the right time when it's least expected. It has for me a few times.

On a personal note, yes I am okay. I still battle with depression, but I've learnt how to keep it at bay. For those of you who keep wondering why I don't surf as much any more, I have one word for you - endorphins.

Endorphins are a hormone released to combat pain and stress, which commonly happens through vigorous exercise. They also happen to keep the effects of anxiety and depression at bay. As my depression became worse, I found the only way I could fight my way back was through exercising harder. Surfing wasn't cutting it, so I switched to mountain biking as I found the exercise harder. Actually, over time I have had to ride even further to get the same effect (crashing also seems to release a large amount of endorphins).

So that's why I mountain bike now much more than I surf - it's my anti-depressant. For anybody that does suffer from depression, I do recommend getting a regular exercise regime to help. It won't necessarily fix your depression, but it may help clear your head enough so you can start fighting your way out of it.

On another side note, I'm sorry that I haven't been there for some of you. It can be challenging to be there for people when you can't even help yourself. I'm hoping to have this depression thing nipped in the bud in the not too distant future.

Finally I only have something like 23 friends on Facebook now, 8 of whom are family. So if you think what I've written here can help others, please share what I've written as I know how hard it is for someone who is suffering from depression to ask for help.

Thanks for reading and I hope you're all okay. If you're not - I'm here to listen

Written and Submitted By the inspiring Mal Schulstad