this is a very personal message, but I feel the need to share it, so please excuse this lengthy message. Growing up, there where a couple of dates I needed to remember. Christmas, my families’ birthdays, my parents wedding anniversary, maybe Easter (and of course the start of summer holidays in school!). The only official date I was aware of was October 3rd, Germanys national holiday. These days this has changed, there are more or less official days for everything. July 6th is World Kissing Day, May 4th is World Star Wars Day and August 8th is International Beer Day. The list goes on forever. Today, October 1st, marks one of those days as well.
October 1 is International Depression Awareness Day. Depression is a topic that I know all too much about. I have suffered from waves of depression in the past and my own personal darkness is one of those demons that come back to haunt me regularly. I have learned how to put on a smiley face when I have to, fully aware that every second will eat away my energy. There are moments when your brain is so wired with thoughts, anxieties and fears that you cannot fall asleep even though you are tired and can hardly keep your eyes open. Moments when you wake up in the morning, feeling like you haven’t slept at all. Moments when you look into the mirror and cannot stand the face you see. Moments when you receive compliments and all you can do is think that people must be either blind or lying straight into your face. Moments when you constantly lose the battle with your own expectations. Moments when you feel worthless and your life feels pointless.
Over the past couple of years I have experienced people’s inability to cope with this, branding me ‘weird’, ‘strange’, ‘anti-social’ or, worst of all, ‘sucker for attention’. People have told me to ‘cheer up’, ‘be grateful for what you have’ and to ‘not be sad’. The truth is though, that I don’t believe that people who have never experienced depression have the slightest idea what it feels like. When, a year or so ago the hashtag #notjustsad came about, it hit the nail on its head.
Some time ago, I saw this internet meme that said “if you want my sympathy, get a disease I can see.” We (rightfully) sympathise with people that have broken a leg, that have to undergo surgery, that fall and contract open knees. Yet, large parts of our society still look down on people who suffer from burn out or depression with a raised eyebrow, secretly thinking that they are just making a fuss. Why? Because you cannot see depression. Not on the outside at least.
Societies have to realise that depression is not sadness. It is not a choice. And most important of all: Depression is not a weakness. It is an illness as real as a cold, as real as migraine, as real as a broken leg and the suffering is as much your choice as it is to be in a car crash.
Try and understand that wounds that cannot be seen usually go much deeper than those that can be seen by everyone. Try and understand that what helps you through every illness is the knowledge that things are going to get better and then try to understand that depression is so insidious that it takes exactly this from you. Try and understand that there is no “why” for depression. It has no reason. It might be triggered or worsened by certain circumstances, but it is just like the weather. It just “is”, as Stephen Fry once put it.
Studies show that around the world about 16-20 percent suffer from depression, some worse than others and that of those approximately one million people who commit suicide every year, more than 70 percent are severely depressed. It is serious.
What helps me is writing. It’s an outlet for my rage, my sadness, my joy, my fears, my beliefs, my anxieties and – most of all – my depression. And even though I am a pain to everyone around me when I am in my dark days, I still count myself lucky, because I have learned to live with depression, in some way I have learned to control them and to accept them as part of my life – at least most of the time. I also know that many who suffer from the same affliction are not as fortunate as I am.
On this day, October 1st, I am touring with my friend Tim Vantol in France. I am in a very good state and have been for a while. I love my job and I cherish the fact that I get to travel places and play to and meet wonderful people all over Europe. I know that I have friends and a family that loves and supports me and accepts me the way I am, however hard that must be for them.
Friends, if someone you know suffers from depression, be there for them, even if they push you away. Have an open ear if they want to talk. Show patience. They need you, even though they might not be able to show it. Give them space if they ask for it and nearness if they are looking for it. If they space you out from their lives, be there for them when they want to get in touch again. Swallow your hard feelings! But most importantly: Don’t judge them. They did not chose to be that way. To quote Stephen Fry again: “Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
And friends, if you suffer from depression, know that you are not alone. Know that people are there for you no matter what. And, should you feel lost and alone, dark and helpless. Should you feel like there is no one out there in the world who cares for you, please, I urge you, get help. Know that you are loved.
This song is my second single of my album. I wrote it at a time when I was severely depressed and trying to get back on tracks. This song is not about depression. This song is about fighting and not giving up in the face of hopelessness.
P.S.: Stiftung Deutsche Depressionshilfe offers free information. 0800 3344533 www.deutsche-depressionshilfe.de So does Deutsche Telefonseelsorge: 0800 111 0 111.
Don’t be shy and get in touch!