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“Left Picture: What I showcase to the world via social media. Dressed up, make up done, filters galore. The ‘normal’ side to me.”  I wonder how many of us do this? Last week, Amber Smith from Warwickshire, England posted these pictures to her Facebook network. “Right picture: Taken tonight shortly after suffering from a panic attack because of my anxiety. Also the ‘normal’ side to me that most people don’t see.” She bravely revealed that she suffers from, at times, crippling anxiety and depression.

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Her post was shared over 7,500 times and countless comments were left commending her for her courage. She mentioned both pictures are her ‘normal’ but only one is seen by most people. Putting on a smile while suffering on the inside is probably one of the worst feelings ever, as I can certainly attest to from personal experience. But it’s something most, if not all of us, feel obliged to do on a regular basis, and Amber’s post serves to highlight the stigma around mental illness which causes us to hide in this way. Here it is in full:

God knows why I’m doing this, but people need some home truths..

Top picture: What I showcase to the world via social media. Dressed up, make up done, filters galore. The ‘normal’ side to me.

Bottom picture: Taken tonight shortly after suffering from a panic attack because of my anxiety. Also the ‘normal’’ side to me that most people don’t see.

I’m so sick of the fact that it’s 2016 and there is still so much stigma around mental health. It disgusts me that so many people are so uneducated and judgmental over the topic. They say that 1 in 3 people will suffer with a mental illness at some point in their life. 1 in 3! Do you know how many people that equates to worldwide?! And yet I’ve been battling with anxiety and depression for years and years and there’s still people that make comments like ‘you’ll get over it’, ‘you don’t need tablets, just be happier’, ‘you’re too young to suffer with that’

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F*** YOU. F*** all of you small minded people that think that because I physically look ‘fine’ that I’m not battling a monster inside my head every single day.

Someone actually said this to me one day ‘aren’t you too young to be suffering with anxiety and depression? What do you actually have to be depressed about at your age?’’ Wow, just wow.

I’m a strong person, I’ve been through my fair share of crap in life (the same as anyone else) and I will be okay. I have the best family and friends around me and I am thankful everyday that they have the patience to help and support me.

To anyone who is going through the same, please do not suffer in silence. There is so much support around – Don’t be scared to ask for help.

This is why I can’t stress enough that it costs nothing to be nice to others. Don’t bully others, don’t put others down and the hardest one of them all (as we have all done it at some point) don’t judge another person. We’re all human regardless of age, race, religion, wealth, job. So build one another up instead of breaking each other down.

Peace & love guys

Her post is a moving, raw display of emotions and truth. Panic attacks are no joke. They can strike without warning and often leave the person feeling numb, almost zombie-like. And depression is no less frightening. Many people suffer with it their whole lives, bearing a burden that simply becomes part of their ‘normal.’

A new study is challenging the way we look at depression, however. As things currently stand, to diagnose a patient, psychiatrists typically tally up the number of depression symptoms that patients report in questionnaires. It does not matter which of the symptoms these patients have, so long as they have a certain number of them. But depression is a complex beast. “We need to stop thinking of depression as a disease that causes a number of interchangeable symptoms,” says the lead author of the study, Dr Eiko Fried from the KU Leuven Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences.

He stresses the complexity of depression and the fact that “some symptoms may be far more important than others.” What the checklist doesn’t really account for is how a patient’s symptoms are interacting and potentially influencing each other. Insomnia may lead to fatigue which could lead to lack of focus, making it a somewhat vicious cycle that just keeps perpetuating. Without asking the right questions and looking at the broader picture, it could be easy to miss. Perhaps it’s time to review The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and how we care for people that suffer from depression and anxiety. Taking a closer look at individual symptoms and how they relate could be a good first step.

Personally, I think there are many more people like Amber out there. I can relate to her story and know that with some time I too will have the courage to share my experience with depression. We can all support each other by living more like we’re part of a growing community and sharing our experiences. Everyone has a story and someone out there can learn from it.


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