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.
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.
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.