I am Isobel and have just started my second year of University.
So I have spent the last few months thinking about what I could write that could help people struggling with depression like I was – what could I say that could help? What would I have wanted to hear when I was in that position? The truth is, the best thing I could have heard what that someone was there to listen. Not necessarily to give advice, but to just listen to me and let me talk about what happened.
As it says in my story I grew up in a house with a parent battling with severe depression, and this is obviously a terribly hard thing for anyone to go through let alone a tiny child.
I grew up having it engrained in me that I had nothing to feel sad about because my life hadn’t been as hard as my mothers, now to this day I still feel terrible for the fact that my mother is a huge reason behind the fact that I was depressed, but seeing your own mum constantly depressed and angry and bitter with her own life is going to have a detrimental effect on a child. I always genuinely felt that I wasn’t able to voice my opinion on something or about how I felt something had made me feel because it would instantly be shunned and I would be told ‘it didn’t happen like that’ or ‘that didn’t happen you’re over exaggerating’. To instantly have your feelings squashed and made to feel totally insignificant is going to stir up all kinds of problems in a child. It made me think ‘Maybe I am over-reacting’, ‘Maybe I don’t have a right to feel sad about this’ ‘I can’t talk to mum because she had it harder than me’. These experiences and thoughts stayed with me right through to my adult life, as someone who is a very emotional and affectionate person any way it was very hard dealing with growing up with a mum who is the exact opposite, as she had to struggle so much without my dad around and with little money she was naturally more practically minded and has never dealt with showing her feelings and emotions very well – unless it involved shouting. But there are few times in my child hood I can remember my mum just coming up to me and giving me a great big hug and telling me she loved me, I mean obviously she did, but the fact that I struggle to remember anything like that really is in my opinion not OK, a mother should always tell her child how much she loves them, show them affection and not off load their problems onto them. In my adult years as I have dealt with my depression I have talked these issues through with my mum, reminded her of things she did, things she said and how she behaved and whilst she found it very difficult to accept and on many occasions still didn’t accept, and the fact that as a result of how she acted and things she said I felt I could not go to her when I really needed her there. I let her know that I wasn’t going to let her invalidate my feelings anymore. These were my memories and my feelings and she was NOT ALLOWED to say they weren’t real. I told her that instead of trying to offer practical help to a problem when I am upset by simply saying ‘just get over it’ ‘ there’s more important things to be doing’ was not helpful at all, and that sometimes all a child wants from their parent even when they are an adult is some comfort. Since saying this rationally to my mum and telling her straight how I feel without getting angry or upset she has actually listened, and I did notice a change in how much she told me she loved me, and how much kinder she was in her tone of voice and just small things like that that go a long way to making a big difference.
What I realised when I went to speak to a counsellor about my experiences as a child and what I went through as a young adult was that I have absolutely every right to say ‘It is not OK that happened to me’ and ‘I was your daughter you should have been there for me when I needed you’, by simply saying this out loud to someone and hearing them say to me that they agree it wasn’t OK and allowing me to talk about it was absolutely incredible. Having spent my entire life up to that point feeling guilty for how I felt to be then told I had every right to feel that way made me feel so much better initially and as a result obviously brought with it a lot of anger and resentment for the fact that no one had said this to me before. Which is why there is no quick fix for depression, it is the age old thing of ‘opening up a can of worms’ once you have a ‘breakthrough’ it will certainly lead to dealing with more issues you perhaps didn’t even know existed or had never really thought about.
Yet going on that journey and indulging yourself in being able to do this will honestly be the best thing you could possibly do. You don’t have to feel guilty or bad, the time you are in that room with a counsellor is purely FOR YOU, no one else, you can talk about anything and everything you want to in that room and never have to feel bad about. There are SO MANY PEOPLE THAT WANT TO HELP, and it is so so easy to find them. I wish now I hadn’t waited so long before I did it, but I too did not realise how easy it was to get this help.
Dealing with any form of depression is a battle, but like in any battle you do not have to fight it on your own. The hardest time of day for me was the mornings. I did not want to get out of bed, but the truth is, if you’re going to fight this you have to force yourself initially. Because the problem with depression is it makes you not really want to do anything, but what you need to focus on is the fact you want to feel better and the simple act of forcing yourself out of bed in the morning, making some breakfast and going outside for a walk is a great way to get your mind focussed and a bit clearer. It is so easy to lock yourself away and hide from the world, believe me I have done it. But don’t stay like that, the first step is accepting what has happened and making the decision to move forward and get better. Don’t let your depression control you! You need to take control of your depression and let it know it is not welcome, I can honestly say after my first session of counselling I began to feel better, I also felt exhausted but that’s because you are dealing with things you don’t normally talk about, but just imagine your depression as a big round block and after each session it moves a bit out of your way, no matter how long it takes that will one day completely go and all you need to do is talk to someone! :o)
If I could offer any advice it would be – don’t isolate yourself – that is the worst thing you can do, i did it and it only made me more depressed and lonely. The best thing you can do is talk to someone, go outside in the fresh air and stay social, and don’t feel guilty for feeling depressed like you have no right to be, it’s how you feel and no one should ever make you feel bad about that. At universities we have excellent counselling services and they are free! I cannot recommend them enough they were seriously unbelievable and now I absolutely love my life at University as everybody else should – we only get to do this once! Do not spend it on your own!
I will do my best every month to focus on different ways of dealing with depression by drawing on my own experiences that some of you may be able to relate to and my hope is that some of you will read someone’s blog and know you are not on your own. You can get better and there is a way out of feeling like this and so many ways to get you feeling better, this will definitely not last forever :o)