'Something started to feel like it wasn’t right but I didn’t get help straight away because I felt the weight of the stigma.'
I've always been prone to anxiety for as long as I can remember.
At the end of high school, the overriding sense of helplessness that comes with depression became very real for me. Then I found myself in a cycle of anxiety and depression.
The familiarity of high school was gone, and my friends had moved away or left for work or overseas. At the start of university. I felt all this pressure to find new friends and do well in my studies.
For a year and a half, I struggled privately with how I was feeling. I became withdrawn at home and I would avoid my family as much as I could.
I had started to become suspicious of how I was feeling. Something started to feel like it wasn't right but I didn't get help straight away because I felt the weight of the stigma.
When things got really bad I started engaging in self-harming behaviours. My close friends noticed I wasn't doing well but I'd just tell them all these made up excuses as to why I couldn't seek help.
My friends didn't stop urging me to get help so I eventually gave in and saw a doctor.
I was 21 years old when I was diagnosed with depression. When I first received the diagnosis I found it really offensive. I thought that it reflected a personal weakness. But I also felt relieved because you can't address a problem without knowing the cause.
I think what made seeking help so hard for me was that I was misinformed about mental illnesses and could feel a lot of the stigma around it. I thought you had to have experienced something traumatic to justify being sick. So I felt very guilty about being unwell because my life was so good.
Ultimately, seeking help and getting the diagnosis was probably the best thing I've ever done for my mental health.
I really had to overcome my belief that feeling unwell meant I was weak. I now know that traumatic circumstances are only one possible cause of depression. Things like your genetics, or stress, can also be causes. I've also learnt that you don't have to justify having depression. I'm just an average university student and I have it.
I do a lot of things to stay well now. Cognitive therapies and breathing exercises have helped me with anxiety and panic attacks. Breathing exercises may sound simple but they have helped me so much.
I also try to eat well, even though I love junk food! I exercise even though my body hates it! I walk more than I used to and use the trampoline in the backyard and jump around.
My psychologist told me to get eight hours of sleep a night, so I force myself to do this. At first, I thought, 'How will I get anything done if I sleep that much?!' But now I know there is a time and a place for rest, and a time and a place for work.
Another thing I find really helpful is talking to people. It always makes me feel less alone. Through volunteering with the Black Dog Institute as a presenter I've been able to talk even more and share my story with more people.
I've been involved with Black Dog as a volunteer since 2014 when I was still at university. I have since graduated and now work as a lawyer. I started in my role as a Youth Presenter but more recently, I have been speaking to companies and businesses who promote mental wellbeing in their work environments.
Being a volunteer has given me a sense of purpose and community. I find the experience empowering and I feel like I'm making a difference. In my presentations, I am always conscious to emphasise two things - there is help available if you seek it, and no one is alone.
Healing and recovery are possible.