“I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, why am I crying’? I had everything in life – a loving family, an education, friends, food on the table, a roof over my head. I didn’t have anything to be sad about,” recalls Morgan, now aged 26.
“I was 18 years old, and went from being a happy, outgoing teenager to not wanting to do anything.”
Luckily for Morgan, her mum recognised she may be experiencing depression so took her to the doctor.
“My mum was amazing and I had a really lovely GP who was great at talking about what was going on.”
Morgan underwent six counselling sessions that really helped her identify and talk about things that had happened in her life that could be affecting her.
She also started on a low dose of anti-depressants.
“My depression was kept at bay for a couple of years. But as a lot of people do, I kept it to myself and didn’t say anything to anyone.”
Breakthrough in understanding
Morgan says she felt a sense of shame because she believed she had no right to be depressed, so she didn’t tell anyone. “I hadn’t had anything terrible happen in my life and there were people out there much worse off than me.”
She was feeling fine so stopped taking her medication.
“I felt okay for a couple of months then came crashing down. Back then I wasn’t so good at noticing the signs of depression like being snappy, irritable, and not eating properly or exercising.”
Morgan, a customs officer in Auckland, went back to her GP and had a breakthrough in her understanding of depression.
“We had a massive talk and looked into my family history of mental illness and she explained that my brain wasn’t producing the chemicals it needed… I realised then that I needed to take medication all the time.”
She says she was a little nervous seeking help initially.
“Admitting you need help can be a big thing but once you get over that initial fear, you walk out of the doctor’s feeling like your shoulders are a bit lighter.”
Talking is key
Her advice to people who may be feeling down is to find somebody to talk to.
“Find a friend or somebody who will listen and support you in going to the doctor. The key is talking to break down the stigma and it gets the ball rolling with getting help… I’m more accepting of my depression now. I’ll always have it but at the same time I don’t let it dictate my life.”
For Morgan, exercise and eating a healthy diet are crucial to feeling good. She took part in the Auckland Marathon this year and has raised over $4,000 for the Mental Health Foundation. She’s also taking part in the Kilimanjaro Challenge in September to raise money and awareness for mental health.
“The more people talk and the more that organisations like the MHF do amazing work and break down barriers, the better.”