Scarlett Curtis talks to stylist.co.uk about what depression feels like, and unpicks some of the misconceptions associated with mental ill health.
Not only has Curtis tried to upend the stigma around mental health with her book It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and Other Lies), which brings together essays from a plethora of celebrities speaking openly about their own struggles, she consistently makes herself vulnerable and shares how her life has changed since encountering mental ill health.
Although mental health charity Mind’s research suggests that one in four people in the UK will have a mental ill health at some point, it’s still a topic that we as a society find difficult to talk about. That’s why it’s so important that people like Curtis continue to not only penetrate the shame often associated with it, but break down the misconceptions, too.
By doing this we all get a better understanding of how it feels to have an illness like depression, so that we can work together to create a more empathetic environment for those in need.
Speaking to stylist.co.uk, Curtis shakes off the stereotype that people with depression may have always experienced low mood.
“I’m a really happy person. Like, I’ve never really been a sad person. Then suddenly I just become this person that just isn’t me. Someone has this huge hand that is gripping my brain and won’t let it go,” she says.
Another thing that can be hard for those without any history of depression to understand is that there doesn’t have to be a trigger. No tragic live event, no problems at work, sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason to why it’s happening, which can be hard to get your head around.
Curtis understands, saying: “The hardest part about it is there is no bad news. There is nothing to be sad about. When I’m in that place I find it really hard to speak, to look at words or write. Everything’s just really scrambled and confused.”
Depression is also often thought of as illness that doesn’t present itself physically. But Curtis makes the point that to dismiss it as invisible isn’t always technically true. There are often signs you can see in those around you that show they aren’t functioning as normal.
“People describe depression as an invisible illness. It’s definitely true, you can’t see it, but I also think in many ways it is a visible illness. I will feel it coming on like a cold,” she explains.
“I’ll know when it’s about to hit, and when it hits I get a very glassy look in my eyes, I find it very hard to wash, so my hair will be very greasy or messy. My dad came over when I was in a really bad place and he said: ‘it’s just like seeing a completely different person.’ So, I think sometimes we minimise it when we say it’s an invisible illness. Often you can really, really see it.”
But there’s one thing Curtis really wants those with depression to know, and that’s that it will get better.
“My first period of depression really lasted like three or four years. I thought it would never, ever, ever end. I wish I’d known then that it would get easier. When it lifts, it’s just like the most amazing breath of fresh air in the whole world. Everything suddenly comes back into colour. For anyone going through it, I promise you with time and help, it will get easier.”
Watch the full video above.