The Right to be Depressed

I’m gonna come out and say it…

I don’t always remember it, but I’m pretty lucky.

I grew up in a “Nuclear Family”, which is often referred to as the “cereal packet family”. It is so-called because of the use of this kind of family set up when advertising.

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For example – a breakfast cereal advert may focus on a father and mother in the kitchen one morning – the father dressed in a suit ready to go to work (the bread-winner husband), his wife preparing the children’s cereal for them (the mother as the primary care giver), with the son and the daughter (average 2 children who are both born to the same parents) looking anticipatingly at the amazing cereal they are about to experience!
The subliminal message from the advertising company:
This family is ‘perfect’ – and yours could be too… if you buy this cereal!

Now we know that this is, of course, just an advertising ploy, but generally people do make the assumption – even in these days – that a ‘cereal packet’ family is a happy family.
Lets not assume that is the case for all.
However, it was the case for me.

I was so lucky as a child – My dad worked as the bread winner for the family which meant that when it came to birthdays, Christmases, holidays… we didn’t want for much.
Although mum did work, my dad worked some long hours, so mum took care of us, the house, and provided the family with lovely nutritional home made meals etc.
Dad would ring the house phone from his car phone (welcome to the early 90’s!) for 3 rings to let mum know he was on his way home, and she’d have our family meal ready for him coming home.

We went on annual holidays – camping holidays, exploring the British coast, swimming, crab fishing, flying kites, building sandcastles.
When we got a little older we had annual trips abroad to various European destinations – Spain, Malta, Portugal, Greek islands… and more.

My brother and I had our own bedrooms and when I was 10, we moved to a larger detached house which gave us added space in our rooms as well as a spare room, and also meant no longer having to share a bathroom with everyone. My friends at school even expressed their envy at our amazing new home!

Growing up I was able to go on all the school trips I wanted, I enjoyed time with my friends and rarely missed out on anything.
Outside of school my friends and I were often at the cinema, visiting theme parks, or going shopping with our pocket money…

When I did well at school I got extra pocket money.
When it came to my GCSEs, my parents rewarded my grades with money.

I had a plan… I was going to be a teacher. I went to college with my sights set on following it up with University… however things didn’t quite turn out that way.
I spent more time out with friends and focussed on alcohol than I care to admit. Although I did get the first part time job I applied for to make money while I was still in full time education – I spent very little time thinking about my coursework outside of college.

After 2 years, I left college with nothing to show for it, other than some life lessons.

I landed a full time job and have been employed ever since, always landing on my feet through every redundancy.

I have worked for 11 years at the current company I’m employed by…. And have progressed during my time there.

After meeting at 20, and getting engaged at 21, my husband and I were married in 2012. Following years of support from my parents while we saved, we bought our first house.
We still live there now with our 2 cats. We live in the same town as both sides of our families and are financially stable.

My life is perfect.

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Except for the fact that it isn’t of course.

The above is my life as seen from the outside.
It doesn’t reflect the inside.
That’s not to say that any of it is untrue, because every word is fact. Nor does it mean that I had an extremely difficult and traumatic childhood, because thankfully I didn’t.

What it does mean is that there is more to my life than is seen on the outside.
Experiences and events are what shape us.

Mental Health issues are not as straight forward as they may sometimes be perceived.

Being depressed doesn’t mean that you hate everything you have, or that you’re ungrateful for it. It doesn’t mean that you hate the people in your life, or that you don’t appreciate them. It doesn’t mean anyone has caused it or let you down.
It’s more than likely that you don’t believe you deserve it. It’s more likely you feel so much hate for yourself that you find a reason that you shouldn’t have this as it doesn’t feel right that you have nice things or people in your life.

There is misunderstanding that if people are depressed then they are just being ungrateful for their life and the things they have.
That they need to ‘snap out of it’ and realise what they’ve got.
Yes, knowing that there is a lot to be thankful for can be helpful, but mental health issues are more complex than that.
Adding guilt won’t make someone more likely to recover quicker, quite the opposite.

“There are people a lot worse off than you” – what does this even mean anyway? We’ve all heard the phrase, probably even said it at some point in our lives. Yes. This is true. But that doesn’t stop the pain we feel does it?

If someone cuts their finger it can really sting. We all know how bad a paper cut can be.
If we compare that to someone who has lost their finger, it doesn’t take the pain of the paper cut away does it? It doesn’t make us ungrateful for having a finger to cut in the first place.

And what if the person who lost their finger compares themselves to someone who lost their hand? Does it make it easier for them to cope if they think about someone else who has no hand, so they should be grateful they have the rest of their hand?

And what about the person with no hand comparing themselves to someone who’s lost an arm… it could go on.
It’s not about comparing ourselves. Everyone is different.
Everyone struggles at some point and that’s ok. It’s ok to struggle. It’s not about what you had or have. It’s about what you think and feel, and your ability to manage.

We don’t have to explain our issues, or justify or explain why we feel the way we do. There are a million reasons why someone may be depressed and a million reasons why they “shouldn’t be” – but they are.

We have the right to be depressed without owing anyone an explanation or an apology.

We have the right to be ourselves.

The Millennial Life

How many times have we heard the negative things about ‘Millenials’?
They get such a bad reputation that even people who I know that fall under the Millennial generation try and deny they are a Millennial – simply because it is a label, and a lifestyle reputation they have no connection with.

So who are these ‘Millennials’? Generally a Millennial is classed as someone who was born between the early 1980s to the mid to late 1990s.

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We are a generation who were raised in a time where it was still ok to play in the street and ride to the park, but where we had an array of TV shows at our finger tips on Sky TV or Cable; A generation who adapted quickly from the adjustment from video cassette movies to DVD players; The first generation to perfect their text typing speeds. We grew up in a world where Beanie Babies would one day be worth something, Pogs were banned in playgrounds due to them being a ‘gambling concern’, and where we were amazed that we could teach Furbies how to speak. In our childhood, the biggest worries were knowing who loved Orange soda, memorizing the lyrics to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and remembering to feed our Tamagotchis so they didn’t die!

With the introduction of the internet and home computers becoming the norm, we were also the first generation to excel at online communication – waiting for someone to finish on the landline so that we can use the old dial-up connection to join chat rooms, log onto MSN Messenger and perfect our ‘MySpace’ layouts.

We had it all. We had everything. And we were reminded of this.
In the UK, growing up we had exams around every corner – SATS every few years, GCSEs, A-levels… We had the best opportunities and we were expected to succeed and being constantly tested to see how we performed.

We are expected to succeed academically so that we can succeed in our careers – so that we can excel and be the best we can be.
We are expected to have some kind of recognised profession co tributing to society – Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers.

Without the qualifications, will people want to employ you? Yet with the qualifications but no full time work experience, will people want to employ you?
I have seen so many examples where people have walked out of University with degrees and ended up working alongside those without qualifications – working sometimes for a higher wage for their degree and sometimes not. Those with a degree of course, still having to pay off University debts so being on the property ladder is not something they can even consider whilst in their 20’s.

The house prices these days make it terribly difficult for people to get their step on the property ladder. A study from the financial Times https://www.ft.com/content/81343d9e-187b-11e8-9e9c-25c814761640 looked at the cost of housing, while “incomes have faltered”.

There are, of course, those who are fortunate enough to have parents who can help them out financially, to help them onto their first step (for me and my husband our support came in the form of us both living with my parents while we saved – something which is becoming increasingly common in millenials in order for us to be able to afford our own homes).
There are those who are unfortunate that can afford to get onto the housing ladder due to an inheritance following a bereavement – something else which happens less due to the longer life expectancies.

We are faced with the challenges we learnt from the lessons of previous generations where pension schemes can’t always be trusted and you need hefty deposits to purchase homes.

Women are expected to work full time, have careers and still manage a household. There is still shaming from previous generations if homemade meals aren’t cooked. There is still a judgement from previous generations when it comes to hired help in the form of cleaning companies – and this is for the ones who are fortunate enough to be in a position to earn enough to have that as an option.
Men are also expected to work full time and have a career and expected to be a ‘modern man’ – contributing to household chores.

Women are stigmatized whatever choices they make it seems – if they choose a career, why are they not having children? Or why is someone else taking care of their children?
If they choose to be a stay at home mum – why are they not working to provide for their children? Why are they not setting an example for their children?

Who adds to the stigma Millenials face? Well for one, The Media. Compared to previous generations, there has never been such an overwhelming media presence – News 24/7 – News on the TV, in Newspapers, Online. The Media have to make stories to feed the demand.
Social Media also has a massive role to play – playing the comparison game on Facebook is not productive and negatively affects our mental health.
As we are the first generation facing this lifestyle, we are the ones who’s mistakes will be learnt by future generations.

More of the issues Millennials face can be found in this interesting post about ‘quarter life crisis’ https://www.theguardian.com/global/2018/dec/30/me-and-my-quarter-life-crisis-a-millennial-asks-what-went-wrong

It discusses the pressures we are faced with and how it impacts us mentally and is an interesting read.

While we as Millenials are very fortunate, we are constantly referred to as the ‘snowflake’ generation – when the truth is that we are like many other generations – we have benefits previous generations before us didn’t, but there are also challenges we face that other generations were not faced with.

My view is that every generation can learn from the previous, and that in a time when we will be living longer and become a world of multiple generations, we should each respect our similarities and differences.

A Christmas Gift

Each Christmas was the same, the family would all wait until everyone was awake before venturing downstairs to see what gifts had magically been left beneath the twinkling tree during the night.

A man, a woman, a boy, and a girl, all made their way down the stairs in their pyjamas and dressing gowns, while it was still dark outside because the day hadn’t really broken yet!

The mother and father were in clear need of a coffee or two, the son was eager to see what surprises lay ahead, and the young girl’s long hair had no time to be brushed when there was important present opening to be done!

The lounge door was pushed open, as if it lead to somewhere magical, which to the children, it did. Under the tree, was everything and more than they had expected!

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Amongst the masses of presents, stood a large wooden doll’s house. While the son, being older and uninterested in doll houses, was more interested in the presents still to be unwrapped, the youngest and only daughter, approached the doll house excitedly. The young girl explored the tiny details of the house, a gift which, she imagined, had been built for her by Father Christmas and his elves in his workshop.

The doll’s house came perhaps up to her waist. It had a hinged front and like all the outer walls of the house, it was covered with a red brick work pattern and fitted a look similar to that of a traditional Victorian Town House. Front windows with netted curtains gave it a homely feel, and she couldn’t wait to see what surprises lay inside.

She lifted the little hook which held the front of the house in place, and opened it to reveal the little world inside.

The inside was sectioned – kitchen, bedroom, lounge, and bathroom. Wallpaper decorated the interior of each room, which had tiny Victorian doll furniture, a size which would be suitable for the young girl’s ‘Sylvanian Families’ figures.

So much detail had gone into the various rooms, all matching the Victorian feel of the home – a Grandfather clock, a mangle, a lifting toilet, furniture patterned with tiny flowers.

Looking closely, she could see a light bulb in the ceiling of one of the upper rooms… but wait… did this work?

She explored the little house further. Looking at the outside again, she looked closer at the roof of the house which was patterned with black slates… another hinge! She unhooked the catch, and upon opening found that the whole of the front of the roof lifted to reveal an attic. In the attic she found a small switch, which (as you have probably guessed!), once pressed, lit up the light bulb inside the house!

This house was perfect and became a great little home for the various members of her Sylvanian Family, and the little girl couldn’t have hoped for much more from her doll house, her special gift from Father Christmas and his elves.

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Having once stood in the lounge for some time, the pretty house was moved to the young girl’s bedroom.

Over time, as the girl grew, and with the introduction of a new neighbour in the form of a karaoke machine, the house was used less and less. Many days the noisy neighbour appeared to be hosting a party with appearances from the likes of The Spice Girls and other 90s pop icons, whilst the poor house became somewhat of a clothes horse at times.

Eventually, during a house move, the doll house which had once been so dearly loved and treasured became redundant, and so, was taken to the local tip as there was no place for it in the new home.

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Some 10-15 years later, a young woman sat conversing with her mother. Her dark brown hair, once long enough almost to sit on, was much shorter now, giving a more mature look. The mother and daughter were talking cover coffee, reminiscing. The daughter mentioned a doll house she once had. Looking back, she remembered it fondly. She remembered all the details of the house she had loved as a child, forgetting how over time it had become abandoned in her eagerness to grow up and escape childhood to gain her own independence.

She asked her mother about the detailed furniture, curious about how it had all come together. Her mother told her how she had been and picked each item especially for the house, mentally designing it as she brought it all together.

Not having given it much thought since childhood, it occurred to her that Father Christmas and his elves obviously hadn’t made the dollhouse, so where did it come from? Her mother explained how every little detail had been designed, calculated, and handmade by her own father! Despite working long hours, her father had come home and spent his free time carefully building this house as a Christmas gift for his only daughter. Suddenly all of the tiny details the house had – the red brickwork, the slated roof, the working lights, the little hooks and hinge seemed all the more appreciated than had already been. She felt overwhelmed with emotion and appreciation for the effort that both her parents had put into just one of the Christmas gifts she had received that year.

She also felt a pang of guilt at the thought that the lifespan of the house had been so short and it had come to a bit of an abrupt end in a rushed house move.

The house didn’t still stand, but the memories, love and appreciation for the effort of such a beautiful and thoughtful Christmas gift for a child will always stand. It will never be forgotten or unspoken of. It will forever been one of the greatest Christmas gifts.

And in case you were wondering, and it isn’t already obvious – yes, the little girl was me.