How depression has affected me
I started feeling sad and angry when I was about 14. I didn’t really realise for about a year; thought it was teenage mood swings type of thing, but I seemed to feel lower than everyone else seemed to feel and that went on for a while.
Lonely and isolated
It was really lonely. There was a definite ‘I am different’, but I don’t know whether that was because I was gay or because I was depressed. I knew I felt very alone a lot of the time. All of my close friends were girls, I have always got on better with girls. At school it was quite difficult because it was a sports college and I wasn’t very sporty and I felt out of the loop and isolated. It didn’t make me keep myself to myself, but I was more introverted than I felt I should have been.
I started cutting quite a lot as well. I don’t remember exactly how or why but that seemed to work for quite a while. It was like the power almost; like being able to take control of something. I did that for about four or five years, til I was about 18. It was a strange feeling when I did it. Afterwards I felt better but when I was doing it I was more curious; I felt distant from it, like it wasn’t specifically happening to me. When it hurts, you know that it hurts but it doesn’t feel like pain pain. But I think that’s differentiating between mental pain and physical pain and playing with the boundaries.
Needing others to like me
I have this strange personality where everyone has to love me so if I have a row with someone or fall out with someone or if I find out that someone’s pissed off with something I’ve done, it brings me crashing down very quickly. It makes me feel completely worthless if I know someone doesn’t like me and I still struggle with that now, but that was something that would really trigger off the self harm.
Depression coming and going suddenly
For a week or two I’d feel fine and then I’d suddenly realise that I wasn’t fine; I was actually quite sad and hadn’t noticed. It wouldn’t so much come in waves, it was like a crest where I’d suddenly drop and then I’d go back up a bit and then drop straight off. It was quite shocking how fast it would come on. Occasionally I’d go through periods of weeks and months where I felt fine and then other times I’d be really low for weeks at a time.
Internet not helpful
I really didn’t feel I could talk to my family about it at all and where I lived was quite far away from anyone else, so I’d spent eight to ten hours a day on the internet, talking to people. The internet’s not the best place. It makes you depressed. Well, it can go either way. You can look for help, but I would get more informed about it, but still not do anything about it. I’d end up on really morbid sites about death and suicide. The number of times I found different ways to kill myself that I’d never thought about before. You can spend hours researching the next way to kill yourself, which was very strange.
I ended up moving at eighteen years old to a big city where I met a guy I spent over a year and a half with. At first I thought I had found the answers to my problems. I was actually gay, and hadn’t been able to deal with it. For the first few months it was all good because it was the first proper relationship I’d had that hadn’t been kind of childish and adolescent and just about sex.
It was an actual relationship, sharing the bits I wouldn’t normally share with other people. Talking about myself, explaining how I feel, which is something I find quite difficult to do. Once we’d got into it, we were quite good at being open, but we weren’t good at the intimacy as in I could tell him how I felt, but he was never allowed to mention it again. It was letting him know, almost as if to say it; to get it out but I didn’t really want to talk about it again.
Stress of university
University is very stressful. My course is not like a three-hour a week course, it’s like fifteen hours a day, every day and it does get really stressful. In a way that’s good because it keeps my mind off things but then if something else isn’t going right and if I am feeling depressed, it just takes over and it is a place where there is no room for taking the day off because I can’t be bothered to get out of bed.
Self loathing returns
I was still enjoying myself in the relationship aspect, but after about six or seven months I just started getting really depressed again. All the self loathing feelings came back worse than ever. In that state I just don’t like myself as a person. There are bits about me that I don’t like and I can’t understand why other people don’t look at me and despise me because that’s how I feel so they should feel the same.
Other depressed feelings
I liked it when people were nice to me and stuff like that, but I didn’t feel like I deserved it. I would feel guilty quite a lot, but then that’s how it felt. I can get very angry at my physical appearance; that stresses me out quite a lot; can make me quite depressed. I had realised by this point that the feelings weren’t that I was unhappy with the people around me, as I loved most of my close friends dearly, but that the problem definitely lay within. I realised that in six months of sex with my boyfriend I had never taken off all of my clothes. I would see happy people and feel intense hatred toward them.
Drugs and alcohol
This bitter jealously consumed my life until I started taking cocaine on a regular basis. The drug (or so I thought) made me feel good about who I was. The fact that it made me feel ten times worse about who I was hours later never crossed my mind every time I took it. The hour or so when I was the king of world was the best time of my life. Though I was a student, and thus never had enough money to maintain a cocaine habit worthy of a king. I started drinking more and doing a lot more drugs and just self-destructing completely. I’d like to say I turned to alcohol, but honestly, I had always drunk far too much.
Coming out to family
Spending time around my family really stresses me out. They can bring me down quite a lot. Back home that December, the hiding things and keeping everything inside myself eventually built up to the point where at 2am on Christmas day I flipped out and told my dad that I was gay. My mother came down stairs and he told my mum while I was there and it ended up in a massive fight with me then storming out and then the most awkward Christmas dinner ever. It was horrific. We didn’t make eye contact for days and I left as soon as I could to come back to London.
I used to meet up with my dad about once a week and the next time I didn’t want to face him so I got rat-arsed before I went. He just looked really disappointed and sad and it was like “Talk to you later; I can’t be bothered”. It’s the worst feeling in the world this feeling that your parents are disappointed in you. So for them to see me being a drunken mess and for them to know I’m gay and just the disappointment that they felt in me was like ten-fold what I felt in myself.
That’s when I spiralled out of control and ended up completely crashing. I had a blowout of a month, where I abused coke and alcohol so much, that I had to commit myself to a mental institute. It was the hardest decision of my life, but I realised if I didn’t stop the drink and drugs, that I would die, and soon, and hardly anyone knew this but me.
My family has this big history of mental illness, so I kind of realised that was where it was from. I don’t know what she has but my grandmother has been completely insane since my mother was about three years old so she’s never got to know my mum. She’s kind of coherent; she knows who I am most of the time, but she still lives with my granddad who is her full time carer.
My mum is depressed as well. She’s never gone for professional help; has always refused to saying “I’ll deal with it myself.” And on the other side, my other grandmother, who I am very close to, is wheelchair-bound now and has always been very active and the frustration of it has really brought her down. I think it is something in the genes. We are predisposed to overreact to things and get tremendously depressed.
My parents are pretty difficult people. They are both pretty homophobic, so I’d obviously never told them I was gay. I hid my entire life from them. They never knew that I was depressed or that I was gay. They didn’t know anything about me. As far as they were concerned I was a nice, well-educated young lad who was going up to London to get some education, but they pretty much knew nothing about me.
I remember one time I was in the car with my dad and they were talking on the radio about someone liking maps and he turned round and said “You like maps don’t you?” And I was shocked that he knew something about me, about my personality. They were very much in the “We raise you til you’re about 11 years old and then it’s time to go out on your own and start building your own person” mould, and that was quite difficult.
On reflection, if I chart my mental history, I have avoided analysing myself for most of my entire life. From when I was thirteen years old I knew I was gay, and true enough, the fear of coming out to my family fucked me up, but in no way can I blame them. I have spent a lot of time, and therapy, on trying to work out who the fuck I am. I’m a difficult person. True, my sexuality influenced my teenage years, as well as my adult, but they are not the reason I felt the way I did, and still sometimes do. I have spent a lot of time trying to work out why I thought that severe self harm as a teenager was the way forward. I still do not understand it now, but at that point it worked.
When I was younger, I spoke to friends and that kind of helped and we had a strange friendship group where it seemed like a lot of my friends were pretty crazy. It helped being around them because I knew the way that they were dealing with things and we’d talk about the best ways to get over things and stuff and help each other when we were feeling really low. We researched into it quite a lot as well and found out the best things to do to bring yourself out of it, but I found it difficult to engage with.
Although I’ve said the internet sites on death and suicide weren’t helpful, I think it did help in one way because it reminded me that at that point I wasn’t that bad. I thought about it all the time; killing myself, death or destruction, but at that point I wouldn’t have been able to follow through, I don’t think. So it was a kind of victory knowing that I wasn’t that bad and to know that there are others who are much worse.
For some reason when there is a dramatic change in situation, I feel much better. It triggers something off, like new beginnings. They make me feel a lot better as a person and take my mind off things, so trying to change something big always helps, but when you are a teenager, just doing repetitive school things, you can’t just leave, move to a different city or go on holiday just like that.
Moving to a big city
Moving to a big city was good. I loved it and that was when I made the decision to stop cutting because I wanted to change who I was. I just completely stopped and forced myself not to do it through sheer will power. Although I know now that I am cross-addicted. Once I stopped using cutting as a technique to feel better, I started drinking a lot more and doing drugs. So I was self-destructing in other ways but in less physically obvious ways.
Going to the doctor
When I got really stressed at university, I went to the doctor and said “I can’t cope with this any more; I’m so stressed out; depressed all the time and everything is really getting on top of me.” I felt like I was burning out and that I was going to crash and she put me on citalopram and I had to go back every month and when I went back at the end of the first month I was feeling great, but I think it was just a placebo effect because obviously it doesn’t effect you that quickly. I think just that I’d taken steps to try to sort myself out made me feel better.
Deciding I needed rehab
Soon after I had the big blowout and crashed, and felt I had to commit myself to a mental institute. My experience was extremely lucky in that I had the family financial backing to support a rehabilitation programme; however the most difficult decision was admitting to close friends that I was taking a year out of uni to put myself through rehab. I distinctly remember breaking down and sobbing outside my university, whilst friends came up and asked what was wrong. There was no way I could explain it to them, so I lied, and had to move on.
I originally went because I was really depressed and they gave me a session for about an hour where we talked about things. They looked at how much I was drinking and it was a lot so the put me into an addiction ward, because that’s their excuse for everything. I spent a month there and then I went there every day for another month. So I was there for a good two and half months. It meant that I had to take time out of university and start again. The university was really good about it actually.
The institution weren’t big on individual therapy; they were very much into the whole group therapy thing. The AA 12 step thing they do which is that alcohol is very much the root of all your problems and even when I wasn’t in an addictive state and drinking or doing drugs, I’d still get depressed and when I was depressed, I’d want to drink. It intertwines. I did so much therapy and it was difficult as therapy always is.
Therapy session with parents
We had a conjoint where my parents had to come in and we had to talk about me – they had this whole thing where they didn’t want any secrets and so they wanted me to tell my parents what I’d been doing, the drugs and being in a relationship. I pretty much laughed and said “Wait til you meet them.” We spent an hour just dealing with the fact I was gay and it was the most awkward hour of my life. I was fairly glad there were two trained therapists in the room because I wouldn’t have been able to do that on my own. It’s good because now they know. Now I don’t feel like I am leading a double life. We just don’t talk about it now. Everyone knows it’s there but we don’t talk about it.
They took me off the medication as soon as I went into the hospital and I never felt I needed to go back on it. When I went back to university for the start of the new academic year, within a couple of weeks I had feedback from my tutor and my friends which was overwhelmingly good. They said I was a much better person; the quality of my work had improved vastly. Speaking metaphorically, I’d say that after I came out of hospital it would be kind of like a summer’s day with clouds in the sky and then more recently it’s been still the occasional cloud in the sky but sometimes you can see a black rain cloud that never really hits you but passes by quite close. It’s been a year and a half since I felt I was in a rain storm!
Tools for dealing with down times
Sometimes it’ll be that same thing like when I was a kid; it sneaks up. Sometimes I’ll just think ‘Shit! I hate myself so much!’ But it’s easier to get out of it now, through tools I learnt in hospital: “I feel sad, I won’t feel sad forever; maybe tomorrow I’ll feel better so persevere; don’t dwell on it.” Because if I dwell on it and think about it, it wraps itself around me.
I’d already made a lot of close friends at university. It was a year before I really reacquainted myself with them. One of the most helpful things I discovered was finding out who my close friends truly were – the people that stuck by me, knowing what I was going through, and in most parts adapting their own lives to accommodate mine. I can’t thank my friends enough for what they did in the most difficult period of my life, but I thank god that they were there to help me through it.
Being with people
Being around people helps me so much and I think that’s a reason why they have people as inpatients. Obviously so they can’t go to the pub but being around people 24/7 helps. If I do feel low it’s often when I am on my own or when something hits me if I am out and about. It’s strange the things that can hit me like an advert with a pretty person on it can make me want to hang myself, but I know it’s irrational so I’ll call one of my friends.
What I’ve learnt
With coming out, I’d say deal with before it gets too big to deal with. People don’t know that I am gay when they meet me so it’s not like one of those things where someone’s quite camp, so their family would know and then when they come out, it’s not a big shock, horror. But with me, it was a big thing and I think I made it much more difficult. I mean it came down to where my parents were the last people to know; everyone else in the family knew; all my friends knew; I was very open about it but my parents were the only people who didn’t know because they were the people who’d react the worst.
Find the right timing for you
I did it in a horrific way – I wish I hadn’t done it in that way, but it needed to be done and I am glad it has been done now. I wish I had done it sooner when it hadn’t all built up and I wish I had done it properly. But I know that one of the reasons I did it when I did it was because I had my own flat in London; I didn’t live in the same house. It was when I felt safe and when I was more comfortable with myself. I think that would be important. Once you’re safe; you don’t depend on them and you are comfortable with who you are, then that would be the time to tell someone else.
The effect of homophobia
That’s something I still have trouble with now – accepting who I am. I think that’s part of the reason I get depressed sometimes – not because I am gay but accepting that I am and liking it are very different things. I wouldn’t change that I am gay but growing up in a very homophobic environment it’s kind of been forced into my head that being gay is wrong so being gay I feel wrong a lot of the time.
Know your triggers
Very occasionally I will still self harm, but it is always when I have been drinking and feeling sorry for myself. The whole hospitalisation/ medicated experience taught me that alcohol does not bring out the truth in me, it is simply a catalyst for depression. It amplifies the fleeting, and mostly idiotic feelings that I feel. With every season, and every emotion, I will have a reaction.
Realise the long term effect of self harm
One reaction I know is not the one that a normal, stable person should feel: I resent all my pretty, attractive friends for being pretty and attractive, but come summer I resent them so much more because they are so happy running around taking off clothes that I simply do not feel comfortable taking off. Years of self abuse have left a marked experience on my body, which I am comfortable explaining to close friends, but it will be a long time before I take off my shirt in the local park.
Be in control of your own recovery
After a while with the 12 step thing, I ended up becoming more and more resentful towards it because I didn’t feel like it was helping me any more. I felt all this pressure to be the perfect recovery person and in the end I thought sod it, I’ll have a couple of drinks and see what happens. I wanted to lead a normal student life of going out and occasionally having a bit of a blow out or having a pint at the end of the day. Just that kind of fitting in thing, but I was worried that I’d go straight back to the addiction, because that’s all I’d been really told. But I’ve found that I still will occasionally drink but it’s not really having a negative affect on my life and that’s pretty much what I was aiming for…to be able to go out and enjoy myself but not to destroy myself while I was doing it.
Feelings do not have to make sense
It has taken me years to let friends in to my personal emotions. I understand that a lot of the time they don’t make perfect sense, but that is the nature of me. My emotions do not make sense. I feel what I feel, and I am learning to cope with that.
People can be more understanding than you expect
It took a long time to divulge my experiences to acquaintances from university, but I have found that most of them are far more understanding than school friends ever were, surprisingly, because a lot more people than I ever would have thought have been through a severe mental trauma, and in some respect, can relate to how I feel.
Be wary of internet use
I am not very good at advice, but I would suggest to people who spend hours on the internet to try not to be so introverted about it. Talk to people as opposed to a machine, even if it’s through the internet, at least getting feedback off another person is, I found, healthier than surfing sites completely alone.
Choose friends wisely
If I can offer advice, it is ditch the people who keep you fucked, and spend more time with the people that love you. Some may have been drinking mates before hand, but find the ones who truly care about you as a person, and not as a drinking/drug bunny, and they will keep you sane. It was people who came to see me in hospital that I am still friends with now. Work out who are the people who actually care about how you are feeling and who are the people just looking for a good time.
You are not alone
I have spent the last seven years, on and off, feeling sorry for myself. This website is a site for students who are feeling depressed and pressured, both of which I can relate to. If my experience helps another person feel that they aren’t alone then I would consider my submission a success. I know from experience that secretly taking a person’s experience and relating it to your own life helps. If what I do here and over the next twelve months helps someone, then my whole experience hasn’t been some selfish teenage melodrama.