How depression has affected me
I had a difficult time in my early teens because of how strict my parents were, but I first experienced full depression during my A-levels. I could not explain why I felt the way I did. I no longer had the same restrictions from my parents. I was not insecure about my looks nor my studies. I would lock myself in the bathroom and cry and I didn’t know why I was crying. If people asked me what was wrong, I couldn’t really give them a reason. I felt isolated and couldn’t really talk to anyone.
I just felt this emptiness. Like there was nothing to be happy about at all. My whole outlook was negative, thinking that no matter how good life is, it always ends in tragedy with people going away or dying. At the same time, it felt like there was so much emotion in me, it was just overflowing. I couldn’t hold it back.
Obsessive self harm
I began to self harm at 17, and the act became an obsessive one that has resulted today in gaping scars in my arm and stomach. I did not seek to shock – I prevented anyone in my family seeing my arms for the next three years.
On my own in my room
I can’t remember what made me decide to do it at first. I remember spending a lot of time in my room on my own, just feeling so angry. I would listen to music a lot, very intensely, and then just feel like I had to do something to make me stop feeling the way I was inside. Just anything that could numb that – whether it be physical pain or whatever.
Parents confronted me
My mum became suspicious and found out indirectly. My parents brought it up with me and it made me really angry at the time. My dad was trying to approach me and ask questions and I just sat there in silence. I was in shock and didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t know how I’d got to this stage and now my parents were here confronting me.
Begged me to seek medical help
They were obviously so upset about it and I couldn’t deal with it all. I just wanted to be alone. They begged for me to seek medical help. I refused to do that, but I did eventually stop the self harm out of embarrassment and guilt.
In year 13 my obsessive nature took a twist and I began to refuse food and water, the very substances that sustained the life I was despising. It was a gradual thing. It was a while before I realised it was becoming an issue for me. I just kind of lost my appetite for my life, I guess. I found pleasure in depriving myself of my biological needs. I hated the thought of consuming anything at all, even medicine, water, or coffee – anything that was keeping my body alive.
Not about being thin
I refused to be labelled as another case of anorexia. I believed at the time I was different. It was not about getting thin or looking good, because I didn’t have an issue with that. I think I was very angry at life and it was like saying no to life and not accepting the way everything was. It was a way of hurting yourself but without doing it directly, like cutting yourself. It also seemed to dampen down all the feelings.
I found I was no longer thinking rationally. I used to get quite ecstatic seeing myself withering away. At dinner time, we’d have big arguments – my mum would end up in tears because I wouldn’t want to eat anything. At the time, none of it seemed to matter; I just kept doing it. I lost about 18kg, my hair was falling out and my blood pressure was dangerously low.
Dragged to the doctor
I could see my parent’s pain over what was happening to me, but I felt immune to any feeling of compassion. I just felt anger towards them for not understanding and trying to interfere. It got really bad to the point where my mum said “You’ve got to sort yourself out” and just dragged me to the doctor’s.
Didn’t like it
Again that whole confrontation I didn’t like. I didn’t like sitting there in front of this woman who was calculating my BMI (body mass index), and just looking at me like any other case. I didn’t feel she understood – she would just talk about issues which weren’t really the reasons why I was doing it.
Put weight back on
My mum just kept bringing me back every week to be weighed, but I found it very difficult to just completely change. At first I just put stones in my pockets to give them the impression I was getting better. It took about eight months for my mentality to change and weight to get back up. It was seeing a bald patch in my hair that really hit home. I realised I had to start eating more and started getting a bit closer to my parents as well as I saw how upset they were about me going away to uni.
A new start
I was quite excited about starting uni. I still got depressed, but I felt like I’d come to like an end of an era and things were going to change and get better. I knew I’d been through a lot and put my parents through a lot. It felt like a closure to all that and the change would help me.
Better at first
Things did change drastically initially. In the first year I thought I had never been happier. Life was busy. I had responsibilities, friends and a boyfriend who was always there and who made me happy. I was a completely different person to the frantic, solitary and destructive person I had been in the previous two years.
Going down again
Life was good up till the middle of the second year. Then I found myself falling into the same pattern of thought as before. Nothing excited me anymore. I seldom smiled and I began to neglect my friends. Sometimes I would unexpectedly get overridden by emotions that left me feeling empty, pointless and unstable.
Couldn’t explain it
Again, I couldn’t explain why I felt this way. I wasn’t struggling with work, and although the early ecstatic feelings had worn off in my relationship I didn’t think I had a problem with my boyfriend either. He would see me just cry for no reason and he got upset. All I could say was – I really don’t know why. I just feel so sad.
Sometimes I just didn’t talk to him because I couldn’t think of anything to say at all. He would be really caring and try and understand, but I still felt he didn’t quite know where I was coming from. He would try and do little things to cheer me up, but it never seemed to make me feel any better.
Worse and worse
My moods just got worse and more frequent. My boyfriend started to get quite sad about it. Then I started to get quite irritated, at little things at first, but it got worse and worse. I got quite snappy and we started having really vicious arguments. One particularly bad time, I was trying to scratch my own face and then scratched him really badly until he was bleeding.
Realised I had to do something
The next day my boyfriend persuaded me to go to the doctor. I’d never been keen on seeing a doctor, because I didn’t feel you could be helped with drugs. I felt they would just change you, change your hormones. But I realised I had to do something because I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to lose him, because even though we argued he was like the sole support I had.
I think the first time I started feeling sad was probably when I started secondary school. I didn’t recognise it as depression at the time but I used to get quite down about things. My parents had a very different outlook to most of my class mates’ parents. They had a strict Asian way of upbringing. They were really overly strict with me, emphasising studying and education and allowing minimal socialising.
Even though I agreed and knew I had to work hard, it made me angry towards them. I was very jealous of my friends who could go out. My parents would always say I wasn’t allowed boyfriends, and it wasn’t even that I wanted a boyfriend, but they were just putting all these barriers in my life.
It made me feel quite different to everyone else at the time. And apart from that, I didn’t really enjoy school very much either. I went to an all-girls school and I just found it really hard to get along with the people there. I had different interests and it wasn’t very nice. I very quickly began to feel distant and in a world of my own from my classmates who were always laughing and smiling.
My GCSE period was quite miserable, but A-levels were by far the darkest times. I could reduce myself to tears in the most inappropriate moments. I withdrew myself completely from the friends I once had, my family – everyone. I didn’t think anyone understood me. I savoured solitude.
Parents more supportive
My parents could see that I was suffering and hurting and they became much more lenient and concerned. They even encouraged me to go out and have fun with my friends. But my moods were plummeting out of control.
Being forced to go the doctor
I didn’t like it back at school when my mum forced me to go the doctor, but it did help. It was good she did that because I think if she didn’t, I don’t know where I would have ended up. This time I reluctantly started on antidepressants.
Antidepressants had definite effect
I actually noticed the effects quite quickly. It was kind of quite similar to anorexia how it just dampens your mood. I was quite happy with it for a while. Just that I could get on with life and concentrate on my work, and wouldn’t have these stupid arguments all the time. But I felt that the drugs changed my personality. I often seemed to lack any emotion at all and was always tired.
Missing how I was before
I even noticed my passion for music stopped as well. These things didn’t bother at first, but after a while I did start to almost miss the way I was before, being more emotionally alive and receptive to the world. I didn’t like being ‘dependent’ on drugs, walking around mindlessly to just carry out the functions of life. It didn’t seem right to me and that in itself started making me feel quite down again. I discussed it with my boyfriend and decided to stop the drugs and try alternative therapy.
Homeopathy and hypnotherapy
The homoeopathist I saw spoke about the importance of nutrition and gave me fish oil and various other pills. It seemed too simple an explanation to the way I was feeling. I did try it for a while, but it was just so expensive. Hypnotherapy was interesting, but even more expensive. Again I did not feel either of them really understood me, but tried to explain how I felt in their own general terms and jargon.
Didn’t try counselling
My parents and the doctor who gave me the drugs wanted me to go for counselling, but I didn’t want to. I am not quite sure why. I think it was just fear that they wouldn’t understand me, because no-one really had. I had met people who were depressed but none of them seemed to be the same as me. They could always give a reason and I felt like I’d be silly going there saying I don’t know why.
Ending my relationship
My moods continued to fluctuate with rage and utter sadness beginning to reign. I was feeling increasingly trapped in my relationship, but simultaneously was convinced that he was the one for me. I thought I couldn’t survive without him for the immense support he had given to me previously. Breaking up with him was the hardest but most vital decision I had to undertake.
Letting go of dependence
I talked to a lot of my friends about it and they were supportive and encouraged me to break up with him. It’s what I knew I had to do, but I was just so scared of doing it, so scared of losing this support. It sounds quite dramatic for just someone who’s a boyfriend, but I really thought I would be with him always and he always used to say he would support me if I couldn’t find a job and things like that. I just realised I had to be on my own and do everything for myself; I couldn’t depend on anyone any more.
Antidepressants and sleeping pills
He actually turned very malicious towards me and for a period I was very, very low again. I went back to the doctors and went back on antidepressants for a little and they also prescribed me valium as well to help me sleep.
It was an important time of year for me with finals coming up, and I was really edgy all the time. I don’t know how it’s possible to be awake all the time and just constantly thinking and even when you do sleep, it’s so fragmented and your dreams are infiltrated with thoughts. But eventually it just naturally died away a bit. My friends were supportive. They went out with me more.
Meeting new challenges
The practicalities of breaking up were quite difficult because we were living together. We had to cut the lease and I had to find a new place a few weeks before the exam. It was stressful, but it was also quite a challenge in a way. I was starting to realise my own independence, that I could make choices and do what I wanted to do. It was completely different and quite daunting, but I think it definitely made me happier in the long run.
A healthier relationship
When I got settled down, I started seeing someone else completely different to my ex. We could both have our own lives and live in separate places. I much preferred the way life was. I felt like I had my own life outside our relationship and that made me a lot happier as well. It was quite an exciting time really just trying to get myself organised, for myself.
Speaking to a tutor
I still wasn’t completely back to a happy state. I wasn’t over my ex and felt a great sense of loss of the security and closeness that I had with him. Once when things did get on top of me, I broke down in tears in front of a tutor. It was actually quite helpful talking to him, because I was really worried that it was all affecting my studies. He was really supportive as well. It definitely helped to speak to him.
Making new friends
Making new friends was really important because in my three years of undergraduate studies I’d spend all my time with my boyfriend and his friends – I didn’t really have my own life.
Happier and more confident
A year later I am much happier, more confident about the future and more independent. I still sometimes get melancholy over apparent nothings but it does not compare at all to past feelings. Today I find keeping myself occupied with a variety of things helps me from getting down. I have increased my circle of friends and broadened my interests.
What I’ve learnt
There’s always a reason
I used to be utterly convinced that my depression had no motive behind it. I now believe this to be untrue. Even if there is no apparent reason and nothing I can see which is specifically upsetting me, I believe there must be something or the lack of something, which is encouraging me to feel this way.
Depression is more widespread than I realised
I used to be convinced, especially during my A-levels, that I was alone in the way I felt. That other students could get depressed over financials, social life, looks, worries about exams etc, but that no one could be like myself and not have a single reason to justify their moods. I didn’t really think of depression as a widespread disorder that happened amongst everyone. I knew a lot of people suffered, but I felt that mine was very distinct and tailored to me.
Links with others would have been useful
I think it would have been useful for me at that time to have access and communication, such as through a website, to others in a similar situation. In that way I could have perhaps expressed myself in a way which was not self destructive, and would have listened to others’ advice as they would have understood me.
Re-assess your life
The biggest help for me was to radically change my life structure, which opened up doors to other people and opportunities. I couldn’t see it at the time but life was stagnant and I felt trapped in a situation which I thought was best for me.
Try different kinds of help
I did not particularly find talking to professionals helpful, but would not disregard it for everyone. The hypnotherapist tried to look for definite causes to why I was feeling like this. Because I couldn’t give her an explanation to the way I felt, I felt like she didn’t really know what to target. She was just trying to give me a general boost to my self esteem which wasn’t really what I needed. But if people have an issue which they want to resolve, it could possibly work for them.
Seek the help that suits you
Antidepressants and sleeping pills certainly put my mind at ease, but I was not happy with taking them for a long time. I think it is my sceptical view on drugs which fuels this, and my refusal that a doctor could truly understand me. Most importantly, it was probably because both times I was seeking help for the sake of others who were concerned about me. I did not want to go for myself.
Talk about it
Trying to talk about it helps. One thing I did a lot was just writing, even if it was just writing emails to people, just putting down in words how I felt and sending it, not necessarily expecting a lot of advice back. Quite often you wouldn’t be thinking rationally and your friends would give you feed back and put you back in reality. I think talking to people definitely helps, especially close friends.
Write it down
Keeping a diary is also really useful. I just used to write down everything I could because I just wanted to get it all down, like a record of what I’d been through. It did help to sort things out in your mind and it was a relief just getting out whatever you were feeling. It’s quite interesting sometimes to read back and see how your thoughts have progressed.
Keep yourself safe
Writing it down is a much more constructive way of getting feelings out than self harm. I don’t do it any more, but sometimes I still get urges to do it when I have very strong feelings. I don’t have any razor blades in my house because sometimes I am there and I feel like it, but you have nothing to do it with that’s good. You just deal with the feeling instead.
Keep working on it
I still wonder about some of the stuff I’ve done, and why I did it and I’m still a bit bewildered by it all. But I’m a lot better now. I try not to sit at home and dwell on things. If I have a low moment I try to see friends and just get away from it, because I know it’ll go away.