The Real Faces of Mental Illness is a monthly interview series from real people sharing their personal stories and experiences. I want to show people what it’s really like to have a mental illness and not hide behind medical terms and symptoms. I want to share what it’s like to live with these diseases, on a day to day basis and how it really looks and feels and what recovery really involves. I want to share the real face of mental illnesses.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself? (name, age, job, hobbies etc)
My name’s Llinos, I’m 26 and I am a writer. My name is Welsh, I live in Wales in the UK. My hobbies include reading, history, crafting and baking.
For those who don’t know, what is depression?
To me, depression means a prolonged period of intense sadness, which greatly affects a person’s ability to perform basic human functions.
What does depression feel like for you?
In this poem I have used weather as a metaphor for how depression makes me feel. I have tried to depict the loneliness, bleakness and intense symptoms of the illness.
Darkness of Depression by Llinos Thomas
The wind whistling through my mind.
Thunder cracking in my ears.
Lightning piercing my eyes.
Is it my destiny to go through this
Snow clogging up my brain.
Rain lashing on my face.
Hail scraping my ears.
How will I find the strength to
Sleet creeping down my neck.
Drizzle misting up my eyes.
Fog steaming up my mind.
Looking for a way out of the
Hell inside my head.
What do you wish people knew about depression?
It can affect absolutely any one. And it’s not something to be ashamed of.
Have you been officially diagnosed by a doctor? If yes. what symptoms or events in your life led you to being tested? How has the official diagnoses affected your outlook on yourself, and your treatment?
Yes, my first port of call for professional help was to go and see a doctor. In the run up to that, I was completely listless and stressed about everything in life; from what to wear to going to a supermarket. Every morning I was weeping over breakfast, and every evening I’d crawl into bed as soon as I was home. Then I stopped seeing the point of getting out of bed at all.
An official diagnosis of depression really helped me, as it put into words that I wasn’t strange. I had an illness. It also made me realize I had to stop being in denial about how I felt, and it could be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
Have you sought treatment? Are you currently in therapy or on medication? How does that help your illness and day to day life?
First of all I went for counselling, but after six weeks I didn’t feel I was improving, and so I was prescribed medication. I was reluctant to do this to begin with, as anti-depressants don’t receive good press, and it was a few weeks before the tablets began to make any difference. But when they did, I knew I’d made the right decision. They helped me be me again.
How has depression affected your life? What routine event do you find you have the most trouble with? (example: day to day daily habits). How has it affected your relationships (with your family, your friends, your significant others)?
During my worst days of depression, I’m unable to get dressed or washed, hold a conversation, or do anything other than sleep.
Even now I’m on medication, depression means I’m not very social, and I get anxious when I’m out for the evening. I have to put myself first, and if that means going home early, then that’s what I have to do, and my friends are understanding of that.
I know that my boyfriend has struggled at times to see me so ill, and during my darkest days he urged me to get help. He knows me better than anyone else and it’s brought us closer together.
What are your personal triggers? How have you learned to deal with them?
If I become very withdrawn, physically exhausted and moody, I know I am having a rough patch.
I try to be kind to myself and listen to my body – sleep, have a pyjama day, or go for a walk. I’ll also go to see the doctor about my medication – a few times now I’ve reduced the dose and then had a setback, so I know that could be a factor if my rough patch lasts longer than a couple of days.
What coping mechanisms have you tried and what has worked the best for you personally?
I use mindfulness and allow myself to fully experience how I’m feeling. Creative pursuits also really help; I make some cards or paint a picture. Or I curl up with a book. These activities release endorphins.
How do you define the word ‘wellness’? How do you focus on your personal wellness?
Wellness encompasses physical and emotional wellbeing. It’s being well enough to live life at its highest vibration.
Since my depression I have been on a personal development journey, through self help books, yoga, food… I’ve tried lots of different things and I’m committed to my own self development.
I want to be able to live my life to the full and cope with depression, on my own terms.
What does your support structure look like? Do you have people in your life who are accepting and loving but don’t have a mental illness themselves and if so, how have they come to understand your illness?
My boyfriend is my biggest support and I don’t discuss my illness in any detail with any one else. But that’s why I make an effort to connect with others with depression online.
How has having depression changed your perspective about life, creativity, love, etc?
It has changed my perspective on so many things. I feel more than ever that I want to live a life filled with joy. My dreams are worthy of being pursued. It’s strengthened my relationship; I don’t know how I would have coped without him. It’s boosted my creativity as taking time to paint or draw is such a good coping mechanism.
What advice would you give to someone struggling with depression?
Reach out; you’re not alone. Go and see a doctor, chat to a friend. Be kind to yourself.
What resources (books, websites, doctors etc) have been the most helpful in educating yourself about your own and other mental illnesses?
Here in the UK, the charity Depression Alliance has been a big support. Also I read blogs such as the Mental Health Survivor, Esme Wang and of course Kendra’s blog.
How do people react when you tell them/they find out you have depression?
Normally with surprise. I think that’s because they see me when I’m well dressed, with tidy hair and makeup, and I’m polite and friendly. If they saw me on a bad day, barely able to get out of bed, they would think differently.
Do you use creativity in any form to improve your mental health?
Creativity has been a huge part of learning to cope with depression. It fuels my wellness. It ignites my mind. Whether I write, craft or paint, I know it boosts my mental wellbeing and I can’t imagine it not being a part of my life.
Do you see having a mental illness as a curse or a gift? Or both? Why?
I see it as neither. It could happen to anyone, and it’s happened to me, so now it’s up to me to make the most of my life. Life is in my hands, whether I have depression or not.
About Llinos :
Llinos is a creative soul who wants to empower you to live your best life. She uses the internet to connect with amazing women, sell products and demonstrates that creativity can help overcome depression and anxiety. You can read her story on her blog or her book Cancer, Chemo and Curls.