I thought long and hard about writing this post because I know that people I know read my posts. And my mental health status isn’t something I tend to share with a lot of people. It almost feels like coming out of the closet. And of course, the problem with being depressed and anxious is that you feel anxious talking about it. I’m scared of being judged, I’m scared of people treating me differently, I’m scared of people doubting me. Because my depression is telling me that there will be more negative responses than good. It’s hard to think that anyone might be positively affected by me sharing how I feel with others, but, having seen a lot of other posts recently about the subject and given it’s World Mental Health Day, I thought it was time I got it off my chest and share my story.
When I was a teenager I was a pretty awful person. I was angry all the time, at everything and everyone. I didn’t really know why, but assumed that it was just because teenagers are moody and snappy. All I wanted to do every night was sit in my room, listen to music very loudly, watch TV and chat to my friends on MSN Messenger. I assumed that the way I was feeling was the way every other person my age was feeling. Because I had quite an active school life (I went to school six days a week and played sport for four of those days) I didn’t really realise that I never wanted to do anything. But my go to phrase soon became “I can’t be arsed”.
I think the first time I noticed that something was wrong was when my parents went away for a holiday or a weekend away, or something or other, and I was fending for myself at home. I was hungry, so went to the fridge to get something but there was nothing in there that I could make a sandwich with. So I sank to the floor in tears. I didn’t even want to get up and try and make myself some food with whatever was in the fridge. Everything was difficult and therefore not worth doing.
I was predicted four As at AS Level but came back with an A, two Bs and a C. I was absolutely devastated and couldn’t understand how I had fucked up so badly. My teachers were also really surprised and my hopes of going to Oxford University were dashed. I felt like such a failure. I can’t really remember what made my Mum tell me to go see the Doctor, but I think it must have been around that time. I can’t actually remember a lot of what happened in those years – I’m not really sure why.
But I do remember talking to my lovely, kind Doctor, who asked me lots of questions and sat there while I cried my eyes out. He prescribed me with Citalopram tablets and I’ve been on them on and off (but mostly on) ever since. I reckon that’s about 10 or 11 years now. And I do remember my parents going in to see my teachers at parents evening. They were gone for hours. But everyone seemed to understand and gradually my behaviour was kind of explained.
The tablets worked, I managed to get three As at A Level and got into my first choice of university, Newcastle. I moved out and felt like my moods were better under control. But looking back, I was still pretty awful, particularly to my parents, who only wanted to help me and look after me. I look back at how I behaved and cringe – I feel so guilty.
Since then my moods have oscillated up and down. I’ve tried to wean myself off the tablets numerous times, but I always end up back on them. I’m now only taking 10mg a day (which is the lowest level you can take) and they honestly keep me sane.
For those who have never suffered with depression, it’s the hardest feeling in the world to describe. That’s why you get told to snap out of it, to cheer up, to pull yourself together. The best way I can explain the feeling is as though there is a weight, a black, heavy, dense, hard weight pulling my heart down into my belly. It feels like it’s crushing you, like it’s always there, like you can’t stand tall or raise a smile – like you’d rather cry than try and make yourself some food. It feels like you can’t remember the last time you were genuinely happy. It’s a horrible, lonely experience to live through. But thousands of people do, and learn to live with it like I have.
I know the signs to look out for – if I feel “blue” for a couple of weeks then I know I need to take action; I know that it feels worse in winter because of the lack of sunshine; I know I have to take my tablets otherwise I will feel worse. I have tried to think of it as a medical imbalance much as a diabetic might: my brain does not create enough serotonin so I have to take a tablet to get it. But it’s a concept I struggle with. I always feel like that’s not genuinely right, like I’m copping out of admitting that I’m not mentally strong enough. And that’s when I have to remind myself that I am – I’ve made it this far haven’t I? From the outside, I have a pretty awesome life, which sometimes makes it harder as people think being depressed is being ungrateful. It really isn’t. You can have a Facebook profile full of smiles and feel like you’re falling apart inside.
I am so lucky to have a group of people around me who are super supportive and I want to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to my wonderful fiancé Andrew, my amazing Mum and Dad and family and each and every one of my friends who make me smile and lift my spirits when things seem tough. I love you all.
If you think you might be suffering from depression then please try to talk to someone about it, whether it’s your GP, a close friend, a family member or joining an online community and chatting to strangers. Just voicing your feelings to someone else can make you feel better. The charity MIND have some excellent resources on their website, which is especially good reading if you think someone you know might be struggling.
Whatever you’re going through, please know you’re not alone. There are plenty of others out here feeling like you are. It will get better.