How depression has affected me
The disabilities I was left with after having meningitis as a baby have made life difficult for me in several ways. My parents were told that I might never be able to walk properly and would probably never go to a mainstream school. Although both of those predictions turned out to be wrong, academics has been a big struggle for me. The bullying I experienced made it all a lot harder still.
Although it isn’t obvious to people who first meet me now, in the early years of my life my condition was easy for everyone to see. When I went to school at age 4 it made me different from everyone else, and this left me open to bullying. It started in infant school with name calling and continued into junior school and became physical.
I was upset and cried a lot. My family has always supported me, but it’s hard to tell them – especially at that age, because you don’t really understand it yourself. I was pretty much a loner and just felt worthless, like everyone was better than me. A lot of the feelings got bottled up, and eventually as I got a bit older I would lash out.
Struggled with school work
I had always struggled with school work, mainly because my eyesight was very bad, and that probably added to the bullying. When I was 10 it was decided that I should sit near the front of the class and they got me some special equipment to write with. This just made me even more different.
Bullied by teacher
What made it worse was that the teacher I had that year himself went out of his way to bully me. He’d question everything I did in front of the whole class. He was the football coach and I obviously wasn’t any good at sport, and he would make snide comments in PE class. Once when I was feeling pretty bad I told the teacher that I was going to kill myself. He responded, “You should not be big-headed enough to think that anyone would care.”
Teacher supported other bullies
Once this teacher heard a classmate, Mike, calling me names and threatening me but did nothing to stop it. Sure enough, at dinnertime this Mike started fighting with me, and as always I retaliated and started winning the fight. We both then got dragged to the teacher, who gave me a whole lot of detentions. He said that the names Mike had called me were true anyway, and when I wouldn’t apologise to Mike he allowed him to hit me until I did. After that, everyone wanted a pop at me because they knew they wouldn’t be punished.
The bullying continued as I got older, but I feel that my time as a ten year old was when I was at my lowest ebb. I felt so alone, like there was no one that I could turn to. There were times when I felt like screaming, but no one would have cared even if I had done. I was very much on my own, and cried myself to sleep most nights.
My self-esteem was non-existent, and as such I felt worthless. It felt no one, outside my immediate family, would ever want to be my friend, or care about me. I considered suicide on more than one occasion, but was too scared to do it. In a world where everyone else seemed to be so ‘together’ I was torn apart in my own little world.
Had to worker harder than others
I’ve always had to work harder than other people academically. That’s just the way it is and the way it’s always been. Other people would do next to no work and get really good grades; I’d work really hard and get average at best. It’s disheartening really and sometimes you just wonder what the point is.
Low mood all my life
As a result of all these experiences, I have suffered from low moods my whole life. I used to wake up in a morning wishing that I hadn’t. When I did get up it was always ‘me against the world’. I kept a lot of things bottled up for many years, which not only put me in a low mood but also saw my aggression constantly at boiling point.
High school still difficult
I did have a teacher at high school who was supportive and encouraging, and that is when my schoolwork started improving. At that stage, I did make a bit of an effort socially, but mainly I continued to isolate myself. I put myself in a shell, so people couldn’t hurt me. But that ends up being damaging to you – I just bottled everything up.
Getting into fights
Then at college my hard work academically started paying off and I did well on my course. I did a second two-year course and started socialising more. By this stage, I had such a lot of anger bottled up inside me. If I went out for a drink and someone started on me, offering me a fight, then I made a habit of taking them up. I got hurt a few times and I hurt a few people.
At the time it felt good to be more popular, and I was happy when I was drunk. But deep down I knew it was all superficial. I was socialising more with girls, but it was always just a quick kiss and a grope, never a relationship. I’ve been rejected by many girls, and dumped by others, because of my condition. When one found out she called me all sorts of things. When I was fighting the aggression was coming from bottled up emotions, but it didn’t feel like I was getting rid of those emotions – it was like an endless supply.
University was tough
It felt like a big achievement to get to university, but I was petrified. The work was six times harder than anything I’d done before. Not only was I struggling with the work, but also moving hundreds of miles away from home proved difficult. I was homesick for a few weeks and having a different accent to the large majority also made it pretty difficult fitting in at my university. It was as if I’d spent my whole life trying to fit in, and now through choice I was alone again.
I was pretty low, sometimes wanting to give in. I somehow dragged myself through the year, but then ended up failing the exams and having re-sits in the summer. Even though I passed the re-sits, I still felt low and apprehensive about managing the next year. It was a sort of heaviness, and I was angry I suppose. It was like I had a load of energy burning me up and I didn’t know how to release it. I’d snap at the smallest thing and be worked up all the time.
Me against the world
I felt like I was going to either damage myself, or someone or something else. I’d always felt it was me against the world. I’d always felt my story was my own and it was me that had to deal with it. I felt that there was no one else who could deal with it or would want to deal with it. I felt ashamed of the things I had done wrong.
Better social experiences
I suppose some of my experiences back at college had started things getting better from the low point when I was young. The socialising helped, even though it was superficial. Much more helpful was being part of a small class group on my second college course. You had to work in teams, and there was a kind of respect that we built up. Everybody had their part to play within the conversation and the atmosphere, including me. Being part of that helped me see that I wasn’t that worthless after all.
Something to prove
All my academic struggles also built something up. It takes something from inside you to hang on, to get up each day and keep on working when it’s twice as hard as for people sitting next to you. Other people said I wouldn’t be able to do things but I learnt not to give up until I proved to myself that I couldn’t do them.
Breaking things into manageable amounts
In the second year, I vowed I wouldn’t have any re-sits and I didn’t. I’d always sort of broken things down – like when I was a ten year old the only way I could survive was to do it a day at a time. At university I learnt to plan my work carefully and give myself smaller goals and deadlines to get things done.
It’s only looking back that I really recognise these things about myself, though. When I was still so low after passing my re-sits, I decided to listen to self-hypnosis tapes. These tapes helped with sleeping and helped me believe in my own abilities as a person. They also gave me the confidence to seek help from a trained counsellor.
I’d never really thought of seeing a counsellor before, but I’m glad I did. It was the first time I’d ever told my story in full. The counsellor had to drag it out of me. It felt like pulling teeth at times. I knew I wanted to go there and tell him, but I didn’t know how to go about it. He helped me through it.
Seeing myself differently
The counsellor helped me piece together the experiences that I had been through. He made me realise it was understandable that I suffered from an inferiority complex, and that it was nothing to be ashamed of.
Using aggression constructively
My counsellor helped me to see how to use all my bottled up anger in constructive ways. I control it now by going out for a run or to the gym. Even, God forbid, doing some work! I cleaned our flat from top to bottom the other week, and my flat mate asked me what the **** I was doing!
I’ve told more of my story to my mum and dad, as well as my brother now. I’ve also written a letter to the school board to try and get justice for that teacher, who’s still teaching in the same school. He was going to be headmaster this year, but my letter stopped him. It’s out in the open now.
What I’ve learnt
Knowing what I want out of my life
Once the counselling finished I had a time to reflect I suppose, and I just decided what I wanted out of my own life. I realised that I had always had this mindset of trying to prove people wrong, but now I’d got to the stage where the only person I need to prove anything to is myself. I think everybody’s got something to offer and you’ve just got to find what it is you have to offer.
Not so much of a loner
At university I went from thinking I was on my own, to learning that everyone was in the same situation and it was beneficial for everybody to help everybody else, as opposed to everybody doing it on their own. I gradually made friends and stopped being so much of a loner, even though I am still happy in my own company.
Don’t bottle up feelings
I learnt that my bottled up emotions and anger were hurting me and nobody else really. You just need to find a way to get rid of bottled up feelings for yourself. Somebody else might find knitting or playing computer games helpful. I get rid of mine through physical exercise.
Take things as they come
I’m much more relaxed now. I just take things as they come as opposed to trying to prepare for everything and expecting the worst. I’ve grown in confidence. I even got nominated and voted in as a student representative, and I’ve stuck with it because it says to me that people respect me.
How to get the most out of counselling
You have to have a definite idea of what you want to get out of counselling. If you do want to get the maximum help then you have to be willing to really open up, and you have to trust your counsellor really I suppose. I found that hard at first.
The best thing I ever did
I always used to think that if you needed to talk about your problems you were weak or something. But talking over my problems was the best thing that I ever did. It helped me see my true worth, and now I walk tall with my head held high.