How depression has affected me
Very unwell during first year in the UK
I’ve been going through periods of slight or more severe depression regularly since I was 10 or so. I had been better for a while, but then when I first came to the UK from Spain I was really, really unwell for a year or so. I stayed in my room all day and felt really alone.
Felt like I’d lost everyone
I was in love with someone, but he was back in Spain. I didn’t want to meet anyone else. I just stayed in my room all day and made no friends. I didn’t speak to anyone. It felt like I’d lost everyone and my life was miserable.
Wanted to go home
I just wanted to quit and go home. But I couldn’t go home because my parents weren’t happy with that. Instead of trying to be outside and meet people and feel better, I just stayed in and thought about the worst thoughts I could. I just created my own misery.
Missed lectures and social events
Things were really bad for a year. I went to no lectures. I smoked a lot. I didn’t go to any parties or any place at all. I didn’t even go to the supermarket for weeks – I just ate pasta.
Even worse when home
When I went home for the holidays I was even worse, because there was a desperate feeling of wanting to be there, but knowing that I’d have to leave again.
Reached rock bottom
Things got worse and worse, until I reached the bottom again when things started going badly with my boyfriend. It felt like the only good thing in my life was gone. Yet again I was having to start everything from the beginning, but now there was no-one I could call to say I was sad. I felt really alone yet again.
Fine as a child
It’s hard to tell exactly when things started. I think I was about 13 when I realised that I didn’t feel right, but looking back I can see that it was probably building up before then. I was an unusual child, when I was small. I liked reading very much – I liked the idea of escaping from everything. So I lived a bit in my own world, but I was fine.
There was a real situation in my house because my father came to stay with us when I was about 7. That was when I first learnt that he was my father. By the time I was 10 or so, I started fighting with my parents – fighting with my mum who I loved very much.
I started feeling really alone and writing really sad poems and things like that. Looking back, I think that I felt like my whole reality was collapsing. But I was only a kid and didn’t realise it.
Feeling I was strange
When I went to high school my other reality collapsed as well – I started to feel that I was strange. I thought that other people looked at me in a really bad way. I felt really ugly and really fat. I thought I didn’t have any proper friends, because I wasn’t myself with them. I felt no-one liked me.
Unable to communicate
I felt like I was locked somewhere in a room and there was no way to communicate with anyone. I was obsessed with being alone. I could not communicate with my parents any more, nor with my friends at school. I started spending time with people my parents didn’t like and the teachers wanted to kick us out of school.
Thinking no one could understand me
I fought with my parents even more. I felt no one could understand me. My parents loved me, but I felt that they loved someone else than who I was. I felt they loved what I could be and not what I was.
Wanting to die
I started thinking that I wanted to die, but I never really had the courage to do it. Feeling that I wasn’t brave enough made things even worse. I just thought that there was no reason why I should go on living because everything was black.
I wanted to escape or reach for something higher, but I couldn’t find any meaning at all. I couldn’t find anyone to talk to or share my feelings with. Looking back, I think I mixed my existential questions with my real life questions, in a way.
Suicide – a cry for attention?
I made lots of plans about leaving home to go where no one knew me. I spent a lot of time looking on the internet for ways to die. I felt the worst thing that could happen to me would be to try to kill myself and not die, because then everyone would think that I just did it as a cry for attention. Then I felt that I was doing it for just that reason. So I was confused and questioning myself all the time.
Making sense of suicide
Sometimes I walked to the edge of the balcony and just stood on the edge and looked down. Then I think I realised something really important – that the moment when you decide to kill yourself and you’re ready to do it, then you are so strong that there is no reason why you should die because you have all the strength in the world. So why not just start from the beginning? So that was a good thing.
Focusing on sadness
I think in a way I felt in love with my sadness because I felt that it was the deepest feeling in the world. I thought that being happy was completely superficial. I was obsessed with words like ‘desperation’, ‘escape’ and ‘no way out’.
A depression habit spiral
I liked to switch off the lights when I was alone in the house and put the saddest music on. It was like I just liked being sad, and then I was so sad because I was so sad. Sometimes I feel that everything that happens to me is my fault – it’s not something that comes from outside; it’s me creating all of my failings.
One long dark day
I remember my life then as if one long dark day. Things got worse and worse with my parents, and I even left home once. I started feeling really desperate. It wasn’t only sadness now – it was anger and it was more intense. I felt like I wanted to go out and kill someone or kill myself, to leave and go where no one knew me.
Although things briefly got better when I changed schools, it got bad again and I started cutting and burning myself. My friends at school used to cut themselves, but I had always thought it was sick – they did it mainly to show off. Then I started doing it at home and showing no one. I think in a way I was trying to punish my parents, because I felt that they would feel more pain than I would. I would feel the physical pain, but they would feel the mental pain.
A sign to others
In the beginning I felt a bit ashamed but I also wanted people to see. It was a way of showing people – yeah, I do feel so sad; I do feel so bad. Maybe it was a way of getting over my fear too, because I always felt it was a sign of weakness to be afraid. Cutting myself made me feel that I was strong.
But then I started doing it more and more. Suddenly I didn’t want people to see because they would think I was mad or something. Then it was getting too bad and I had to stop for a while. But I started again later on…
Hating my body
I hated myself. I hated my body and thought it was a burden. I wanted to only be a mind, because having a body only caused problems. I felt that I didn’t belong anywhere, and no one liked me. I only wanted to be in a place that was small and safe and dark.
Scared of being dependent
I had to visit my school counsellor a few times and I really liked her, but it made me feel bad that I was so alone that I had to have a professional to talk to. I also thought it would be addictive because it would make me feel well. I think I would just need someone my whole life for sure.
Resisting a depression label
My mum used to say that I was depressed, and the school counsellor used the word depression when speaking to my parents. I liked the word sadness more. I felt that naming it depression and doing something about it would just be too selfish or focusing too much on my own problems, wanting someone to spend time to save me. I saw it as self pity – you just think of yourself, your little sad self, locked in a room. So I questioned my feelings and questioned my questioning.
Still working on it
At the moment I feel almost all right. Or I’m in a state of apathy where nothing really matters. I don’t harm myself or wish for death anymore and that urge to escape from everything around me is almost gone. Yet I still have no idea what I want to do with my life or even why I am here. I rarely dream of the future or enjoy the present.
Recognising the beauty in life
Although I was so sad, facing suicidal thoughts was a good thing for realising things like how beautiful and how scary life is and how deep some things are. And I suppose for acknowledging that there was strength there in me.
Being forced to face things
At some point, when the self harm had got bad and I realised I had to stop, I actually realised that I didn’t hate my body any more. I can’t imagine now how I hated myself so much.
Getting better slowly
Things started getting better slowly. I started growing up. I think I started loving myself more.
Connecting with the love and care of others
Things got better with my parents too – not perfect, but I started trusting my mum a bit more. I also recognized I did have friends. Understanding that some people loved me and cared for me was the most important thing. Of course, I had to open myself to them, which was hard but worthwhile.
Recognising the depression habit spiral
I think that sometimes when something goes wrong, I have a tendency to make everything look wrong and then it goes wrong too. It’s like in a way I’m trying to be sadder because this is the only feeling I know I feel safe in.
Realising it was up to me to change my point of view
It also helped when I realised that it was up to me not to be depressed. Things are the way they are, what can change is your point of view. If you find the strength to smile to yourself in the mirror, you will most probably feel slightly better. Sometimes I even laugh at myself and at my tendency to see tragedies everywhere.
Being active is also very helpful. Starting a new course in cooking, going for walks -anything to keep your mind away from negative thoughts.
Being in the sun
Sitting in the sun for a while has miraculous effects – this is what I miss the most, living in this country!
What I’ve learnt
Talk to someone
I think that people should try to speak to those they trust and love, or even someone who doesn’t know them, about how they feel even if in the beginning they don’t seem to understand. When I was always sad, I never talked to people and remained alone and therefore depressed. In the moments when I got over my sadness or fears and talked to people then I felt proud of myself. When I feel good about myself in this way I don’t feel sad anymore.
How others can help
I think I just need someone to understand. If I’m sad and someone says – yeah, I understand you feel sad and it’s not your problem and you’re not just pitying yourself, which is probably what I’d say to myself – then suddenly everything’s fine.
Recognise the love and care available
I think the most important thing in life is to feel that you are loved and accepted. I can’t think of anything better than that – otherwise life is just a struggle. You have to recognise and accept the love that’s there, even if it’s not perfect.
Challenge negative thinking habits
What is there to lose by just trying to look at everything from a different angle? Sometimes it’s funny but when I’m really sad I say, “What’s really that bad about my situation?” I just look at myself in the mirror and I say “Okay, now you have to smile and you have to feel better!” Sometimes it doesn’t work, but sometimes it does.
Recognise your power to construct reality
It’s so strange, but we do construct our reality in a way. If I think that everything is sad, then the world is grey and there’s no meaning. If I just say yeah, it’s all good, then there are things that’ll happen that are nice and things that’ll happen that are bad, but I’ll survive and maybe there’s something to gain from all this.
I think it’s important to try and accept yourself, even your sad self, and try to love who you are. In the end we only have ourselves, so we have to accept ourselves – not just think that we have to be the best or something. We can change some things, but there are things we can’t change and we should accept the things we can’t change.
Know that you are not alone
For me depression was always about being lonely. Although of course you can’t really label people, and people experience depression (and happiness and sadness) in different ways, but it helps to know that other people feel this way and to feel part of a group.
Sustain hope for the future
This feeling of deep loneliness has never left me, not even during the happiest periods of my life, but I know I will survive and maybe one day find some sort of balance.
Challenge social norms
Sometimes I think maybe it’s not a bad thing that some people are ‘depressed’ and that we are just turning it into an issue. If you hear that everyone tells you that you have to try and feel good, then you start thinking – why am I not feeling good? A hundred years ago, people weren’t that obsessed with being depressed and then they weren’t really depressed.