SOMETHING like one in four people will experience poor mental health throughout their lifetimes. That’s a quarter of the folk you know. This is not some fringe issue that only affects a handful of people. Yet, we don’t really talk about it because talking about it can be really hard. I’m now in a place that I can talk about going through depression (and how for me, I don’t think the threat of it ever goes away).

I think depression is experienced differently by different people. The NHS says: “Depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days”.

About half my life ago, when I was a teenager, I had a pretty rough time in my Higher year at school. There was a lot of pressure to get good results and I didn’t deal with that very well at all. I should be clear that the pressure entirely came from myself — amazing Higher results weren’t expected of me by anyone other than me. Nonetheless, I struggled to cope. Although things got better a lot of the time, I hit some pretty dreadful patches after that.

For me, I struggle to sleep when I’m going through a patch of depression. I don’t go to bed until later than I should because I don’t want to lie in the darkness thinking. I avoid dealing with difficult things and procrastinate terribly. I distract myself with books or computer games or work. There’s a sort of spiral where the difficult things become more difficult to deal with the longer they’re left and the sleeping problems get worse. Lack of sleep impacts on how I deal with daily life, and I’m spending so much time trying to avoid thinking about things I don’t want to think about, that I can’t concentrate on daily stuff I should be dealing with. When things are that bad, the negative spiral can be pretty difficult to break out of.

Now though, I know myself well enough to recognise the earliest of warning signs. I’m in a place where depression doesn’t impact on my daily life at all, and I rarely even feel the hint of problems on the horizon. I know when I need to step back, take time to re-evaluate and take action to avert issues. For me, self-care has been working well for a few years.

I still don’t find depression particularly easy to talk about though. I still judge myself harshly for having been through this. Which is totally ridiculous — I don’t judge myself harshly for having had shingles. Both are illnesses.

And if I’m judging myself harshly, how must other people be judging me? I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to get past the stigma about mental health problems being a weakness is for people to talk about their experiences, when they feel ready to. I’m ready now.