How depression has affected me
Lost patience with the world
During the summer term in my second year, I felt like I lost my patience with the world. I felt like everything in my life was negative, and lost my ability to see anything as positive. I felt like all of my friends were against me, and doing things intentionally to hurt me, when looking back that just wasn’t the case.
Not sleeping and being snappy
Because it was really warm, I thought that was the reason I wasn’t sleeping through the nights. I was getting tired and was really snappy at everyone, rude to the people where I was working and horrible to friends and family.
Taking things the wrong way
I was looking at things in the wrong light, not taking into account other people’s perspectives. Like a friend of mine hadn’t called for a few weeks and I was thinking “Oh, she must hate me”, instead of recognising that she had just started a full-time job in a new place and was really busy.
Not caring about hurting others
I temporarily became a person who would say what I thought in spite of how it might hurt other people, including my friends and family. This person was nowhere near my normal self. I could see what an unnecessarily argumentative, selfish person I had become, and this made me feel even worse.
Angry, frustrated and hating myself
I hated myself even more and thought that other people would hate me even more than I thought they already did. It was just that I was going through so much and I didn’t know how else to vent all the frustration and anger I was feeling.
One of the main feelings I had was of guilt. If something went wrong and I was involved in some way I felt guilty and responsible, even if I was not the cause. When I was upset I felt really guilty for feeling upset.
Feeling totally alone
Because I hadn’t felt like all of this before I thought I was so totally alone. I didn’t know any of the facts, so wasn’t sure if I was depressed or just being over the top. I felt so alone and unhappy, and began to feel like I wanted to run away and start off somewhere new, being a new person with a new life.
Suicide crossed my mind
It was an extremely low period and at the time I felt like I had no way to escape or get out of it. The idea of suicide crossed my mind a couple of times, though for me it was never more than a fleeting moment. Every time I thought of it I would think of people in my family and knew I could never leave them, I loved them too much.
In my own bubble
Looking back at that time, it was like I was living in a bubble – life just passed me by. I can’t remember doing anything constructive or fun. I just felt like I wasn’t affected by anything going on around me, living in my own world and my own unpleasant thoughts.
Although I knew that I had had some negative experiences which were affecting me, at the time I just felt so ungrateful. You see things on the news, where there is so much suffering in the world. It felt like there was so much worse going on in the world than me being treated badly. I didn’t know at the time how to feel that it was okay for me to feel upset and angry sometimes.
I’d had an on-off relationship where the guy basically just treated me like rubbish. It was at the end of that that I just got really depressed. I felt so worthless and fed up with everything that had gone on.
Abuse in the past
I think some of my feelings also stemmed from abuse I experienced in the past. When I was 12 or 13, my grandfather touched me one time when my mum had gone out. He only did it once, which I know doesn’t make it okay, but I was scared and confused and didn’t know what to do about it.
Didn’t want to split the family
I didn’t want to say anything because you read about things, how it splits families up. I didn’t know how our family would survive if my grandfather wasn’t there, he was like a father figure; we lived with him and we would have been out on the streets. So I kind of forgot about it.
He did it to others
Then one day the police arrived at my house took him away and we didn’t know why. When he came back later nothing was said, and I only found out later he’d been arrested for indecent assault. He went to court but got let off, and then a few years later he was arrested again. This time we didn’t know about it until we got a phone call that he was in prison.
Couldn’t talk to mum
At the time I didn’t cry and my mum didn’t cry. It wasn’t until I was alone that night that I cried. My mum is a very strong person and she’s not very willing to open up. So I found it quite difficult to open up and go to her. This was all just before I came to uni.
Confused and guilty
When I got to uni I was doing lots of new things and it helped take my mind off it. I was very up and down, uncertain about what to feel. Part of me hated him because of what he’d done to me and part of me hated myself because I hadn’t done anything about it. I felt really, really guilty, thinking if I’d said something it might have stopped him doing it again.
Ambivalent about him
When I was depressed, I also felt confused because part of me really, really dislikes the person my grandfather is, but I still love him because he’s my grandfather. That really sort of played on my mind because I was questioning what kind of person I was for liking him at all.
All piled up
So all of that was in the background, and then when that guy treated me so badly it just made everything go negative. It got to the stage where I was crying practically every day, mostly on my own. By the end of the summer I really didn’t want to go back to uni, where all the girls I knew had their wonderful boyfriends and everyone seemed all happy and cheerful.
Had to do something about it
Finally one day when I cried for about three hours after dropping and breaking a mug, I thought, “This is so silly!” I sat there and thought, “Right, I need to get my head around this”.
Spoke to a friend
I spoke to my best friend, Joe, just about the boyfriend and feeling low, not about my grandfather. Joe’s mother has had depression and he asked if I thought I needed to see someone, because that had helped her. I said “No, no, I’m a strong person, I can deal with this”.
Too proud at first
It had been the same when some of my friends asked me what was wrong when I was being so snappy and irritable. Part of was just waiting for someone to turn around and ask what was wrong, but then I’d just say, “I’m fine; what are you on about?” I was too proud to say, “Actually, I want some help, I need someone to talk to.”
Thought a doctor wouldn’t take me seriously
I didn’t really think about going to a doctor, because I just thought he’d laugh at me – not take me seriously. It didn’t seem to me that I had a good enough reason, a serious problem, to be feeling that way. I felt like the only young person who felt like that, because for me depression is something perhaps you associate with slightly older people, who have got serious problems.
Got some leaflets
I did pick up some free leaflets from the university campus nurse’s office when I was waiting for a friend who’d gone in to see the nurse. I put them straight in my bag so no one would see, and read them at home. They made a lot of sense.
Knowing it’s different for everybody
The leaflet explained that depression is different for everybody and it can happen to anyone for any reason. I learnt that I certainly was not alone, which made me feel less stupid about it. I’ve still got them for if I ever feel that way again. There are phone numbers and things on there, if I’m not at uni or something.
Then I happened to be on my uni website, just looking at my timetable or something, and there was something on there about e-counselling. It’s counselling done by email rather than face to face. That sounded really good for me because I love writing anyway and I used to be very reluctant to let people in when I was feeling upset. I felt it would be easier to be completely honest, rather than ashamed, writing my feelings down instead of talking face to face.
Could do it any time
Once you’d filled in the forms to register, then you could email the counsellor as many times as you liked throughout the week just talking about whatever you felt necessary. Then on your designated day, she would reply to them. I found that really good because I could say what I wanted when I wanted, and could do it at home or at uni or wherever.
The first couple of weeks doing it I was still being very irrational – angry about my friends being against me, and so on. The counsellor never said, “This is how you should be feeling or what you should be doing.” She just gave suggestions for things to think about, and she would bring together things I had said over several emails and pinpoint things. As the weeks went by I felt my head was becoming a bit clearer.
Exercises and things to keep
She said it might be an idea to keep the emails she sent, so I could look back if I ever felt upset or down again. She also gave me exercises to do at the time – a kind of evaluation of how you’re feeling using tick boxes. I know how the scores work now, so I can go through them myself if I ever need to.
Able to be more positive
For me, that kind of counselling was really, really useful. It went on for about 8 weeks, and towards the end the majority of things I was writing were fairly positive, saying what I felt I’d achieved. It only took about 4 or 5 weeks for me to start seeing things very differently.
Changed my way of thinking
What the counsellor pointed out helped me realise the mistakes I’d been making – how irrational I was being. Like about my grandfather I realised that I shouldn’t feel guilty because he’s obviously that kind of person and unfortunately may still have gone on to do it to someone else, even if I’d said something.
Write down 5 positive things a day
My counsellor reinforced a little strategy I read in a magazine about beating depression – at the end of each day to write down five positive things about your day. It doesn’t have to be anything big like winning £10 on the lottery; it could be that someone nice stopped and spoke to me on the street. I still do that now to appreciate what I have.
What I’ve learnt
More positive and less guilty
These days I tend to look at the positive things, rather than to dwell on the negative. At the same time I recognise that sometimes the negative things have got to be dealt with. But also I now understand better that certain things are totally out of my control, so feel less irrationally guilty.
Now I am able to talk to friends about things when I’m upset, whereas I didn’t use to do that. I’ve recognised it’s not wrong to have down days – I no longer have to pretend to everybody that everything is fine. If something is hurting you, then it’s hurting you no matter how big or small it is.
Encourage people to talk
I think it’s also taught me a lot as a person about how to treat other people, to encourage them to be open about things too. I have suggested counselling to a couple of friends who’ve been going through a particularly bad period. I’ve told them that I’ve had it and I’ve said it’s a useful tool.
Work for more awareness
I think in general there needs to be more openness about depression, taking away the stigma. I just felt like I was the only person my age suffering from it. If there was more awareness of other young people, then it would be so much more comforting for people. I would have had more understanding of what was going on for me.
Proud of myself
It did take willpower and self understanding to climb my way back out of the hole, but I got there in the end and although it was tough at times, afterwards you can really appreciate and congratulate yourself on doing so well. I was in such a dark place, and am proud of myself that I worked so hard on getting myself back on top.