How depression has affected me
I had a tough childhood and was in and out of care from my early teens. I felt I had no future. I felt useless, inferior, and ashamed. Sometimes I would self harm, cutting myself with razor blades. I think because I was going through so much inner pain I was taking it out on my body. Some people say it is a kind of release.
After coming out of care I found myself in a relationship with someone who was quite dominant. I had my son when I was only just 17. I knew that I wasn’t ready to have a child. The hormones from the pregnancy also intensified what was going on inside me and I self-harmed quite badly then.
Though I wasn’t prepared for the tiredness, motherhood turned out actually to be quite positive for me. My little boy was a joy to be around. He was so busy and so happy, and everything was so amazing to him. I think that actually increased my happiness.
My main problem then was his dad and the domestic violence and emotional abuse in the relationship. I tried moving out and then came back, and just found again that I didn’t have a voice. When I had told him things they had been used against me.
I felt so trapped and unheard, like I was screaming inside, sometimes. At times you can be really screaming and screaming inside. To me that’s the worst kind of pain a person can be in.
Sleeping a lot
I always remember feeling this intense hopelessness. Sometimes the way it would show was in always feeling tired. I would sleep a lot and that’s still sometimes a problem today, sleeping a lot just because you feel you can’t cope.
More time for myself
When my son was about 3′ he was going to nursery so I’d started having more free time to myself. I’d got myself a Saturday job which I absolutely loved. I started to have more time to myself to think. I was getting out and meeting people again and I started making some really positive friends which was really helpful. All of that gave me the strength to end the relationship for good.
Starting to get a voice
I think also having my son maybe brought out the will to fight. We went through a court case for parental responsibility and there were a lot of fights. But I think because things were in action, I was starting to get a voice then, I was really starting to speak up.
Because I was busy during the days, there was less time for me to dwell on my depression, and it wasn’t as intense as it had felt during the relationship. I gradually worked up from part time work to full time. Unfortunately, then I found that the job was very demanding and took a lot out of me. I found I wasn’t looking after myself well, and that triggered the depression again.
I was also still using marijuana and I found that made the depression worse. But all my friends smoked at the time and I couldn’t get out of it. I started using a strong type of weed and I found that compounded things for me, where I already had this kind of tiredness in my depression, it made it worse. Then I’d have issues like being late for work and being a bit haphazard.
Still feeling inferior
Also, although I loved my job and did well in it, I think I was always aware of those inferior feelings. Like knowing I didn’t have any GCSEs, and that people would realise and wouldn’t understand the reason why I didn’t finish school. I was afraid of failing at things, and taking it badly.
I’d get pulled up on a lot of my mistakes at work, lots of which I realise now were due to the marijuana and stuff, not really being able to concentrate and focus. I got into a horrible cycle. Go to work 9 to 5, absolutely hate it, hate myself. Go home, smoke my drugs, go to bed.
I had debt issues with my house as well. I didn’t know how to handle money so I ended up in rent arrears. This made other things difficult ‘ I was wanting to move out of the area because of ongoing problems with my son’s dad, but I couldn’t because of the debt. I started holding down two jobs, battling to pay off the debt and taking on too much.
Another draining relationship
I got into another relationship, with someone who had a lot of his own issues as well as depression. Over several years I was supporting him through use of crack and attempted suicides, and various other things. Even after we had broken up, he used to put me down as next of kin and I lived in fear that the police would turn up at my door to get me to come and identify his body in the morgue.
Three years into that relationship I got pregnant and had a termination because I knew I couldn’t cope with any more. I still had the debts and he wasn’t in a position to help me, and obviously wasn’t in a very healthy frame of mind himself.
I think I got to a stage where I was numb ‘ I don’t think I was feeling anything. All my energy was spent. I was completely and utterly drained and just dragged myself through life. I was still smoking’ I was smoking before I went to work and when I came home from work. I was really low.
I found myself at the lowest point of my life after I moved away to a completely different area. I’d squatted for a year and I think I had what is called a ‘wilderness experience’. I was cut off from everyone and just stayed in bed. I was left alone with a lot of my own thoughts and I felt I’d screwed things up completely.
Depressed from a very early age
My earliest recollection of experiencing depression was from about the age of 4, though obviously at that time I couldn’t quite define what it was. I always remember finding it so hard to fit in with the other kids of my age. I didn’t ever feel happy and didn’t like myself. I just had a dark Charlie Brown type cloud hanging over my head.
I believe that all this was triggered by factors such as abuse and emotional neglect. My mum was a single parent and wasn’t around because she had to work. I had to learn how to cope by myself. If I did speak out as a child, a lot of the time I was reprimanded or beaten.
There was also a series of incidents with the son of the childminder I went to. When I did finally manage to tell my mum he just said I was lying. The incidents did stop, but I had to keep going back to that house. I actually hated it, and lots of other things that happened there definitely made me feel bad about myself.
No choice and no voice
Really we had no choice. My mum didn’t have her mum, and our family weren’t that close. I had no choice. I wasn’t old enough to make my own decisions. I felt that I didn’t have a voice. I couldn’t say what was going on inside of me.
School also difficult
I hated school except for lessons like story time when the lesson helped me forget about my problems. Everything seemed quite an effort. I was in a fog. Sometimes it was hard just understanding what was going on in a class. I was struggling and the teachers didn’t seem to notice. I found it very difficult to make friends, was bullied and became a bully in turn.
Angry and binge eating
I remember I felt angry a lot of the time. My mum used to come and pick me up and I just used to say, “I hate you. I hate you. I hate you.” And then I’d feel guilt for saying that. I used to binge eat as a child. I think that was another way my depression showed up. I would just eat for no reason, then get into trouble for eating everything in the house.
Isolated and alienated
As I got older, I continued to feel very isolated from peers. I felt so alien, like no one could understand me. Then I would get frustrated, angry and awkward or difficult to get on with. Because I never felt positive about anything I lost friends, and that rejection made it even worse.
Petty crimes and running away
By the time I’d got to 12 or 13, my mum and I weren’t getting on at all. Feeling claustrophobic and oppressed by my life I had periods of running away. I got involved in petty crimes, which I believe I did to get attention, to meet needs that weren’t being met. At one stage I was in care, but got asked to leave because of my acting up.
The only thing that kind of made me come out of myself, at that time, was getting involved in the party scene and getting into drugs. I got introduced to both marijuana and crack cocaine at the age of 13. I started it very naively, but soon was using it to try to feel better from the depression. But with drugs you’re never satisfied, you think that you are using it to get what you want, but eventually it rules you.
This low point was also a turning point, though. I wasn’t using marijuana so much then, because I was away from all my contacts and couldn’t really get hold of it. I think I was also starting to face up to a lot of things. I was grieving for the termination and I was in a lot of pain and confusion.
It was like a slow death I think; almost like having your life flash before you, but slowly. I was looking over things and I kind of said, ‘I just don’t want to live like this any more. I don’t want to feel like this any more and I don’t want to be like this any more.’
That was when I accepted Christ. I’d heard things over the years about Christianity and I started to consider whether it was true. Was there anyone who could possibly help me? I previously wasn’t really interested in God or religions as such. But I believe that a big part of my problem was that I had that massive void that needed filling. For me personally, prayer has been the biggest outlet ever; talking to God.
Understanding more about my childhood
Around that time I had also started doing a course in child care and they really focused on the early years. During the classes, I realised that there were a lot of things they talked about that I’d actually gone through but didn’t know what it was. Like there was something called the frozen child which I realised was very much what I was.
Focusing on that early trauma probably contributed to the low point of the depression, but it also really made me look at my life. I think it needed to happen. I realised child care wasn’t for me but it did really start to unlock things inside, what had really been happening in my childhood. It was useful, but it was kind of an ouch.
Had tried counselling
In the past, I had spoken to my doctor a few times and he had prescribed me medication which I didn’t take and also set up something with a counsellor at the surgery. She was a lovely lady and I liked her, but I did come out of there saying ‘What did that achieve?’ She talked to me about victim pyramids and things, but what I needed was to solve my practical situation ‘ the debt, the relationship.
I haven’t used any drugs now for three years. Getting away to a different area and no longer having people around me who smoked really helped. It feels so good to wake up in the morning and be clear headed and focused. I am far more focused now than I ever was and that is a real achievement.
Checking out physical health
I also realised that some of my tiredness was because I was anaemic, but no one had really spotted that before. My body doesn’t absorb iron well, which means that at times I get very, very drained. This had been going on for years and I never knew. I also get really bad PMS. So now when I am feeling run down and tired I know I need to build up my iron again.
Still have bad days
Though I don’t take drugs anymore and I’ve paid off my debts, I still struggle with depression. At times I have days where it is hard to get out of bed or to cook, or even to think positive. Some days I don’t want to talk or interact. I hate loud places and find it hard to cope if things are going to fast and too furious.
Look after myself better
I look at ways of maintaining wellbeing now. I eat a lot better than I did and I try to sleep, but not too much. Sometimes I’m really good at balancing it and sometimes I’m not. I am more cautious in my relationships, more accountable about where and how I spend money. I try not to ignore what my body says. I really carefully examine my emotions about things
I believe the pace of life we’re living now demands a lot of people. People are expected to give so much and they’re given very little in return. I consider everything carefully now. I weigh up whether or not I’m taking on something that’ll be too much for me. I think about my priorities, my son, my home, my sanity and weigh up everything in terms of the values it promotes, like which companies to work for when I qualify.
I’m a course rep at uni and I find I now keep an eye out for people who are going through things. I think me taking the focus off myself and giving to other people allows me to be less self absorbed. I try not to get absorbed with my own problems and so weighed down.
Reading and identifying with others
It has been said that many famous and creative people have experienced depression. C.S Lewis is one person I can think of. His Chronicles of Narnia really help me understand that trials and tribulations can shape us and make us.
What I’ve learnt
The effect of early trauma
Now that I understand that depression can often be an issue when you’ve had trauma in your early years, I know that you’ve got to learn how to recognise the symptoms and deal with it. I struggled for a long time to remember things from my childhood and even identify what emotions I’d had. I was never taught about my emotions; but now, I teach my son about his emotions ‘ identifying them and how can you deal with a negative situation, yet remain positive throughout it.
Let yourself cry
I would say, allow yourself to cry. You have to allow yourself to go through those emotions; don’t block them out. I don’t think you should totally ignore it. A lot of people do that and end up having mental breakdowns.
Get help, and don’t take no for an answer
Never take no for an answer when you’re suffering from depression and you need help. Get a second opinion.
GPs are human too
One thing I realised is that GPs are human beings much like ourselves. They see countless people through their doors a day. Not all of them have taken me seriously, but if you feel you’re not being taken seriously, take someone with you to stress how you’re feeling.
Learn not to fear failure
I’ve said to so many people now, “I’ve failed at so many things, but I know that I’m not going to be a failure.” The fact I’ve failed at a lot of things, that maybe I’m not as well educated in some things, doesn’t mean I’m any less valued.
Talking to others does help
I used to want to keep everything to myself, but now when I’m finding it a bit hard or struggling with the reading or struggling to understand things, it does help to talk to people. It does help to talk to your tutors. It does help to also talk to friends that you’ve made.
Drugs are just self medication
You can start drugs naively, because it’s part of the hip scene or whatever, but it’s all really about comfort, soothing your pain. It’s self medication at the end of the day. I’ve seen it take over. I’ve met people who were dying from AIDS because of substance abuse. I really wouldn’t wish anyone else to go through some of the things I’ve seen, and it always goes back to the same issue ‘ there’s something inside you that needs to be dealt with. Don’t forget also that dealers they are just selling you death; it’s as simple as that.
The early years are vital
I think if my mum had had more time, I think that would have been a lot healthier. If our relationship had been a lot healthier, that would have combated a lot of things. It’s definitely in the early years that impressions of life are formed within a child. That age between 0 and 8 is a parent’s time to instil positive things in a child, because that child will always carry that around with them. That is the best thing I think someone can do.