How depression has affected me
Worse at uni
The depression increased significantly when I started university. I was commuting a two hour journey every day, and because I was not living in halls or in a house I found it very difficult to meet anybody and make friends. With problems at home as well, the negative thoughts and depressive symptoms that had plagued me for so long finally began to come into the open…
Depression made me feel like I was worthless. I felt guilty all the time and that I was a useless waste of space. The more I thought about how bad I felt, the more guilty I became.
Isolated and full of self-loathing
I just wanted to stay alone in my room all day because I hated having to talk to people. However at the same time I felt desperately lonely because I did not think I could talk to anybody about what I was feeling. I had no self confidence, and loathed myself. I felt that trying to make friends at university was pointless because nobody would want to be friends with me.
Loss of motivation
I also believed the world was a horrible place to be, and I assumed everyone else just got on with life without complaining. I failed to see the simple beauty of things in life, and lost all interest and motivation to do the things I used to enjoy. Everything seemed like a hassle, it wasn’t worth wasting my time on.
Impacted on uni work
I found it difficult to keep on top of university work because it all seemed so trivial; I just didn’t care. I was also worried I was wasting my life doing the wrong thing.
At this stage I began to wonder what the point of life was. There was nothing I enjoyed, every day was miserable. Although I loved my family very much I could not stand to be around them.
Guilt and self blame
I hated myself every day for feeling so low, when I had so much to live for. How could I be so ungrateful when I had a home and a family, when there are probably millions of people worse off than me? I felt so guilty because no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t change my mood. I felt selfish, ungrateful and angry because it all felt like my fault.
All the time I tried my best to hide the way I was feeling, because I did not want to upset my family. I was also ashamed – I thought “Who would want to be friends with me? I can’t even stand to be around myself”.
But the more I tried to hide it, and the more I blamed myself, the worse my depression became. I thought about suicide, but I realised it was not a realistic solution, that it was irrational.
Stumbling through life
On the other hand I just continued to stumble through each day, wishing I had never been born, or that I was someone else. The only thing I looked forward to was being able to crawl into bed at night.
Unaware I had depression
At this stage, I never thought I had an illness. I thought depression was only for people that had suffered really tragic life events, such as the homeless who live hand to mouth, people that truly know the meaning of suffering…
Realising I had depression was the turning point
I felt that I was just a selfish teenager, which caused me to hate myself even more. I would never have started to get better if I had not realised I had depression.
Father violent with alcohol and drug problems
I had grown up in an unpleasant environment. All through my childhood my father had suffered from alcohol and drug problems. He had also been physically violent towards my mother. Even after their divorce he was still a problem for the family.
Difficulty with friendships
I also had a bit of trouble making friends at school because I was quite shy and lacked confidence. Although I had managed to form a lot of great friendships by the end of my time at school, I unfortunately had to say goodbye as everyone went off to university.
Mistake not moving away to uni
Choosing not to move away to university – due to a number of reasons, such as my low mood, problems at home and financial worries – felt that I had made a big mistake. With the 2 hour round trip and my depression at its worst point I made little effort to be outgoing and make friends.
Life upside down
My whole life had been turned upside down – I saw all of my friends move away and I had to quit my job to make time for university; I had no friends, no money, no job and what felt like no hope.
Trouble at home
I was also having trouble at home, trying to be a supportive family member in a home that was still feeling the after effects of an ugly divorce. I felt like I was the only man in the house that could look after everyone else. However, I felt I was useless and not up to the job.
Admitting I had a problem
My first step was to admit that I was in serious trouble. I realised that I could not live the rest of my life feeling the way I did. I realised that feeling like this was not normal and I should not have to live with it.
Identifying the problem
Studying Psychology at A-level I had already learnt about mental illness, and what I had learnt about depression seemed to really resonate at this point in my life. I started to look up some of the symptoms of depression, and almost all of them seemed to fit; permanent low moods, rumination of dark thoughts, guilt, low self esteem, anxiety, intolerance, the list seems almost endless.
Accepting that I was affected by depression
Of course it then took me some time to persuade myself that I was feeling depressed. I thought if I told anyone they would just assume it was something I had picked up in Psychology class, a sort of mental hypochondria. It took me at least a month to convince myself to book an appointment with the doctor.
Going to the doctor
He was very caring and listened to me with an open mind. He validated my emotions and took me seriously. He did not patronise me or get angry at me for wasting his time, like I was afraid he might. He prescribed me some SSRIs and recommended that I look into CBT. He also recommended I seek counselling from the university counselling service.
Self help CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
I got the book ‘CBT for Dummies’ from the university library. Although I had to select the bits that were more appropriate to depression, there were some incredibly valuable sections of information. These, along with the antidepressants and frequent phone calls with my doctor, were the only things that kept me going until the end of term and the Christmas holidays.
Moving to university
After thinking long and hard over Christmas I decided to move into a flat near the university, which was one of the toughest choices I have ever made. This gave me the change of environment I needed to realise it was time to start looking after myself.
This meant I could start regular counselling sessions with the university counselling service. At the time of writing I am still receiving counselling, and I am finding that my counsellor is very supportive and helpful. We have talked about a lot of things that I had never even considered relevant before as roots to some of my anxieties and depressive thoughts, like my childhood and my father.
Planning my days
Making sure I had something to do every day gave me something to work for.
I had read this advice in lots of books, but didn’t think it would apply to me. However, I started running regularly and found it really helped me get out of my lazy routine.
What I’ve learnt
You are not alone
During my depression I felt very alone, and that nobody understood my problems, but now I see that this was untrue, and I would like to share with other people the fact that they too are not alone in their battle with depression.
Give yourself a chance to try counselling
I thought my problem was not ‘big’ enough for counselling. However, talking to my counsellor gave me a great opportunity to talk to someone about my problems and understand things better.
Depression is an illness
It is not your fault and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is also not a permanent condition. Although at the moment you may feel that everything is worthless and things always have been and always will be this way, this is not true!
Depression distorts your thinking
Feeling depressed can distort your thoughts and feelings, so it is not fair on yourself to make such sweeping statements. If your best friend was feeling this way, what would you tell them? Both your situation and feelings can change.
Depression can be overcome
You can learn how to handle life even when it seems to get too difficult. Instead of being ashamed of feeling sad and miserable, you can conquer your illness and be proud to say you have done so.