How depression has affected me
Depression since start of secondary school
I have suffered from persistent low moods, and depressive episodes varying in severity, ever since I started secondary school. I would say the depression started from when my oldest sister started to get ill – she was diagnosed with schizophrenia when I was about 15/16, but prior to that everything was just a mess. I never realised it was depression so to speak. I just thought everyone has that loneliness sometimes. I’d say I was up and down throughout school.
Issues with weight
I project a lot of self confidence, but I don’t always feel that confident about myself. The big problem for me was image because I had puppy fat and then I started losing weight when I was about 16, just before I started college. Then I just kept losing weight because I stopped eating. The thought of eating made me feel sick. I was about 7 stone or something and I am not short, so I was underweight. I still have issues with food. I don’t each so much now and have a really small appetite. I think I must have trained myself to do that because I used to eat a lot. I eat til I am full but I really don’t eat that much.
Linked with boyfriend issues
Round about that time I got my first boyfriend. I never thought I’d find a boyfriend. I am the kind of person who bends over backwards which is a pretty stupid thing to do most of the time. It ended quite badly and I guess that’s when I started losing a lot of weight.
Home pressure affects college
My sister would be in hospital and we’d go to visit her and then I’d go to college. I didn’t do so well in my ASs; I actually failed two of them. But I didn’t get kicked out; I dropped an A level and then picked up another intensive one. Then things with my sister and my home situation got really bad in my second year and I had a quite serious period of depression.
I couldn’t get out of bed, not because I was lazy or wanted to sleep in – I didn’t feel like I could physically make myself get out of bed and so I missed a lot of college. My chemistry teacher thought I was bunking and tried to get me kicked out, but my English teacher appealed to the director. I didn’t tell them everything that was going on but I did tell them that I had a situation at home and so I couldn’t always get to college. I did get kicked out of chemistry though.
Did an extra year
I didn’t want to do an extra year in college. All my friends were going to university and I felt like I’d be a failure, but in my third year I actually quite enjoyed it. I met a whole lot of new people in the year below me and I made some quite good friends and I picked up another A-level so I got three As.
Affected university entrance
Because I did a third year, I wasn’t accepted into a lot of universities because they thought I’d repeated all my subjects which wasn’t true, so that’s always with me. My parents don’t believe in depression or anything that is an outside attribute to failing – it’s all you, you, you, which is not always the case. Sometimes there is stuff that you can’t control.
Didn’t give enough thought to halls choice
So I didn’t visit the uni I’m at first, which was a mistake. In my first year I was in halls that were in the middle of nowhere. Coming from and living in a big city and then arriving literally in the middle of nowhere was a big shock. Most of the halls are catered, which isn’t ideal when you’ve had past problems with food. I never once ate in the halls.
Things deteriorated after okay start
I did enjoy it at first. I had a boyfriend who I was going out with and then he split up with me because he said I was too far away, which was just an excuse. I made quite a few friends here and then I don’t know what happened. I just started falling out with people and withdrew. I use to work in the next town and so I’d go to work at the weekends, come back, go to lectures and I was just isolated.
I considered leaving and going to another university. I think I feel kind of stuck because it’s so encapsulated and small. There are good aspects. It is nice to be away from the hustle and bustle, but all the time that stagnant feeling comes back in that I feel stuck and I can’t do anything about it. That’s what I hate the most; feeling helpless.
I’d say my depression is worse in the winter because I don’t feel like I can do anything. It’s dark and it’s cold and you can’t really do anything; can’t really go wandering around the streets. I find the summer is always better.
Things finally came to a head in February of my second year. I would say I suffered some kind of mental breakdown where I shut down and didn’t see the point of going on anymore. I locked myself in my room for a week and didn’t eat or speak to anyone. I cut myself off from people; from everything – emotionally and physically. I wasn’t eating; I couldn’t leave my room. If I went through the door my hands would shake because I couldn’t bear to go outside.
I have felt empty, stagnant, stuck and useless – like I am not doing what I should be doing and I am not doing as much as I should be doing, for someone of my intelligence and ability. I just feel a bit rubbish most of the time.
I would say I feel useless; incompetent; can’t do anything right; things just spinning round in my head; a feeling of being stuck and in a panic because there’s not enough time to do everything. Everyone’s busy but I feel like there isn’t enough time to get through things that need to be done and there are also things that I want to do but can’t.
Ups and downs
I have varying periods of a persistent low mood and euphoria, in the middle of an exam I was incredibly happy and euphoric for no apparent reason. I hadn’t felt so happy in a while, but then I slumped down again.
Hard to get up
A lot of the time I wake up and want to die, because I physically feel I can’t get up and go through the everyday motions of life. I find it difficult to explain to anyone why I feel the way I do, when I do make a half-hearted attempt to draw attention to it, I get told to snap out of it. I don’t think anyone realises that I don’t choose to feel this way, and I feel stagnant and useless and hopeless most of the time.
Contemplating self harm
I have contemplated self-harming on a serious level which scares me because I’ve never felt that way before, I usually pride myself on being rational. I just felt like slicing my wrists or my thighs; I wanted to step out in front of a car; I wanted to get hit and feel all my bones snap – that is not a rational way of thinking and I know that. It is kind of like 2 halves in my mind – one half is thinking that and the other half is thinking what are you thinking? I don’t want to think like that.
When it first started
I’d say I was about 11 or 12 when it first started – when I started secondary school. I think part of it came from body image, being quite a chubby kid. You hear hurtful comments and I have two sisters who are both really slim and pretty and I was this little chubby kid. So it all started out from that. I’d have food at home and then one of my sisters would take half my food off my plate so that I wouldn’t eat so much.
Not liked at school
I’ve had the same friends since we all grew up together and they are three really, really nice girls who everyone likes and gets on with, but at school not everyone liked me because I don’t have the personality that gets on well with everyone. I used to get picked on and ignored and stuff like that at school. It’s difficult when everyone likes your friends. You exchange cards at Christmas and you don’t get one but all your friends do. You can laugh it off but it still hurts.
Stress of sister’s illness
That was also the time when my oldest sister’s symptoms started to come out in full force. She wasn’t diagnosed til I was about 15 or 16, so it was going on for quite a few years. She was the most rational person you could ever meet; really smart and got a 1st class honours degree and had everything going for her and then just started going down hill. It’s hard to see someone like that slip so far down. She thought she had a chip in her brain and was hearing voices.
Swept under carpet
At that age, I didn’t know what schizophrenia was and I was never actually told but I figured it out for myself through studying psychology. She disappeared to Europe for about a year and we’d hear from her randomly. She’d be visiting hospitals and having MRI scans done of her brain to find out where this chip was and every hospital told her there was nothing there and she didn’t believe them. My parents were worried but I think they were tying to sweep it under the carpet.
Lots of pressure on me
I was kind of used as a pawn – that’s the best word I can think of. She was angry with my parents and the only person she’d talk to was me because being the youngest I am kind of the favourite sometimes. I’d be told “Do this; do that; call your sister”. They put a lot of pressure on me. I don’t think that people realise how much pressure they do put on me because I am the kind of person who is pretty easy going – I don’t get easily offended or if someone starts on me I just laugh it off.
Pressure from community
I guess it just built up and built up and you don’t say anything but when you do, you are told you are being dramatic. I guess I shut it away in one part of my head for a while but it sort of came to a head when my she came home and where we used to live was quite a tight knit neighbourhood; pretty much everyone knows each other. We’d hear all these people saying stuff about her because they’d see her on the street. I got into quite a few fights because of it.
Family not aware of impact
My family didn’t realise how it affected me. It was just “She’ll be ok.” At the same time, I don’t get told things that are happening in my family until I hear it second or third hand from someone else. They are always patronising me all the time so most of the time you can’t be bothered to say anything because nothing is going to change.
At college it was still kind of a double life. I vaguely told one of my friends that my sister had a breakdown. I don’t think she realised exactly what I was saying; I don’t think I explained it very well. My sister has been committed quite a few times but she keeps escaping; jumping over the fence and running away. Ambulances have come to our house a few times to get her. Now, I wouldn’t say she’s all there, but she’s working; she’s married and she’s taking medication. But it’s always just there; she can slip any time if she doesn’t take her medication. She accepts it now, but before she didn’t and since my parents couldn’t accept it, they tried to ignore it…
My financial situation also contributes a lot to my depression. I had problems with my LEA because my parents were self employed and now they’ve retired and so they do their own taxes and my LEA always loses my details. I didn’t receive a lot of my funding last year and had to use all my savings. I had a job but it wasn’t enough. I just feel I should be able to be far more productive.
Seeing the doctor
It kind of clicked into my mind that it wasn’t right – I’d never felt that bad before – I didn’t want to go on at all. I think the fact that I wasn’t acting like myself. I locked up; not wanting to do anything; not wanting to talk to anyone; self harming thoughts. I needed some kind of outlet to let something out, so I booked to see the doctor.
I was referred for psychiatric assessment from my GP. I have been very reluctant to take anti-depressants although they have been offered to me quite a few times, but if they help to rid myself of this way of thinking, then they can’t be all bad. I saw a psychiatrist and I have been taking Sertraline, and it has helped a lot. I still have periods of low mood but not as bad as they were before. There were side effects, such as sleeplessness and nausea, but they have settled down, and I don’t think anything is worth it if it’s not worth the cost.
Talking about it
I found it helpful when I did tell my housemate what was going on with me, I thought no-one would want to listen to me but I was wrong, and talking about it did make me feel a bit better – verbalising what I felt, rather than keeping it inside.
Counselling was a good release as well, as I usually am the one listening amongst my friends rather than talking about myself. I have been seeing a counsellor at university which has helped a bit. I went to see them after several more issues with financial support and the fact that I was very near exam period and could not study. I saw one counsellor and I wouldn’t say we got on so well, but then I saw another one quite a few times and it did help. I plan to continue with that.
Yoga and other new pursuits
I also took up yoga which did help me relax and feel better about myself. I am really impulsive; I end up doing lots of new things. I learnt to sail and that’s something that’s interesting; it really takes my mind off things.
I have kept a blog and no one I know knows about it which is good because I can get right to the heart of things. I think it’s an important social platform, especially in regards to depression; you are anonymous over the internet and you’re free to write anything, without the fear that most people would have about being ridiculed or discounted.
What I’ve learnt
You are not alone
I hope to share my experience with others and let them know that the way they feel is not their fault and that they shouldn’t be labelled as ‘freaks’ or ‘odd’ because they’re suffering from something they don’t have control over. Hopefully, they won’t feel as alone as I do, and that there are people who do get what they’re going through.
Need greater awareness of treatments
I hope to also explore the options into treating depression, most people shy away from the thought of anti-depressants like myself but awareness of treatments including anti-depressants are important as I don’t feel people are informed about it as they could be. I was against medication for a very long time – I am not too keen on taking medicine generally. I know it is not rational to think like this – I do need help sometimes and it is something I need to admit to myself.
Finding a balance is important
I told one of my house mates about how I was feeling and another two of my friends and they have all been really supportive. One of my friends is bipolar. I had no idea but he’s been on medication since he was diagnosed as a kid. I feel that I shouldn’t lump my problems onto other people because everyone else has their problems to deal with and maybe I don’t like being seen as weak but equally I don’t always like to be thought of the strong one who knows everything.
Linking up with others
I think one of my problems is the feeling that I don’t have anyone to talk to and it is always helpful to hear that someone else has been through something similar to you, or even different, but exam stress or money worries… stuff like that. It’s helpful to know that there is someone out there going through similar stuff to me and then I don’t feel so alone any more.