Are you happy?: Sally O'Brien, social worker

If I am ill, suffering from depression, the automatic reaction of people around me is to make me happy. They know the things that normally make me happy. I just can't feel them. I love my nephew to bits, and my time with him is true happiness. When I'm ill, I'm not connected to that feeling. I shut down. I get slower, I struggle to keep my eyes open. It's not just my body - it's the same with my mind and my emotions, like a shutter coming down. I don't feel anything.

Nowadays, the word "depression" is used to mean sad or down. My illness doesn't need cheering up more than any other illness does. Not feeling happy is a small part of depression. I can't feel that emotion, but then I also can't connect to sadness, grief, jealousy and others when I'm ill. Happiness is definitely one element, but it's one of many.

When my family sits down to eat, Dad always makes a toast to health and happiness. I'm acutely aware of both now. Life is more colourful when I'm well. I try to be optimistic about my depression. I've seen reactions to the stigma. I have no shame about being depressed. I've lived and coped, and it's just as much a part of me as my blue eyes and brown hair. I don't feel it's something I'll ever get over, but I will learn to manage it. I remember telling friends that when I was ill I felt I was losing myself. They said: you are still you.

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