I have depression.
I'm writing this to share my journey with this clinical condition, in the hope that it may help raise awareness.
During the past few weeks the western world has mourned the loss of comedian Robin Williams, who took his own life on August 11.
Like many people who left tributes for the comedian, I was unaware of his struggles with depression.
A friend of mine was also battling. We lost him only a week earlier.
Depression is not a mind-frame; it is sore joints and no energy, a heavy head, emptiness and overwhelming despair.
Feelings of uselessness are internalised and justified with self-blame.
Depression is a legitimate illness.
More than one million Australians live with the ``black dog'' and less than 50 per cent use medication to keep it at bay.
I lost 10 years of my life to un-managed depression.
Some of what should have been my proudest achievements were shrugged off with nonchalance, I was too numb to care and too fearful of disappointment.
I took solace in depression, like embracing a parasite, it seemed things couldn't get worse and that was relieving in its own way.
Eventually, it felt as though it was the only consistent thing in my life.
I skipped out on my musical studies, damaged friendships and sabotaged relationships in an effort to escape commitments - all of which were just another overwhelming burden to bear.
Depression stole my income and trampled my physical well being as I attempted to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
The drugs felt good, but not for long, and soon I was worse than before, the dog was replaced with bad habits and worse lungs.
I hurt too much to care about my mental woes.
During that decade I went through four doctors, two counsellors and three kinds of medication.
I lost 20 kilograms, my touring band, two long-term relationships, strained bonds with my family and nearly lost my life.
The ride is tough, and often one travelled alone in fear of stigma.
Do you tell you friends, your love interest, your employer - if so, then how do you do it?
That question alone was enough to throw me into turmoil, and it was only after I felt pressured to explain my behaviour that I spoke out.
``Go and see someone about it cobber.''
Sure, but it didn't seem that easy.
I had already lost faith in specialists and did not want to face the process again.
Besides, although I only lived 10 minutes away from the doctor, it may as well have been interstate in terms of the mental barriers and anxieties to break through.
Things needed to be just right, and it didn't take much to knock me onto the path of an appointment cancellation.
No commitment, no stress.
It was about six months until I got there, and another two years to get back after I relapsed.
Looking back on those years, it seems obvious that I was unwell.
I finally found the right medication, which I view as pain relief, and manage the condition as best as I can.
I quit smoking, kicked drugs, cut down on drinking and made sure to socialise.
I keep busy, exercise, eat properly and - above all - talk to people if things aren't going so well.
The moments of despair do not disappear, but they pass and the future no longer seems bleak.
This month I realised that there is an abundance of support available for people going through hard times and that stigma surrounding the condition has all but faded.
It is important to seek help, or to find someone willing to listen.
Those who lent me an open ear during that time are my heroes.
If you need help or counselling contact on Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1300 224 636.