How depression has affected me
What depression means to me
Feeling isolated, alone and different to everyone – that´s what I mean by depressed, and the feeling that I couldn´t connect with people.
I become anxious when deadlines come up or things like that. I get anxious because I feel I need to do everything really well. I compare my grades to everyone else´s. I can´t just relax and imagine it´ll all be fine. I get stressed out and anxious and then in that situation I become quite paralysed.
Cut myself off
In that moment I get panicky and stressed. But as soon as something is over, I almost obliterate the memory of how stressful it really was. I never learn from things, because I´d keep repeating the same patterns over and over.
Depression at uni
For my first degree, I found the whole university experience really horrible. I knew before I even started that it was the wrong course but I thought I´d better give it a go because my parents were so in to it – they wanted me to be a doctor, but I wasn´t interested in it.
I hated the course; hated the university and I started missing a lot of lectures and got behind a lot. The way the course was structured, you could be away for ages and no one would really notice. The more I missed, the less I wanted to go in.
Lack of social connection
I had a few friends on the course, people in my tutor group but I really wasn´t part of the whole social university scene. In hindsight I wasn´t trying to be a part of it; I was kind of removing myself from it.
That first year I failed my exams and so I had to re-take the year. I didn´t tell my parents because they would have had a fit about the whole thing. So I was kind of pretending to be in the second year, when really I was still in the first.
Then I did pass, but I ended up disliking the course even more. I decided to do biomedical sciences instead. I didn´t really want to do it but I didn´t want to leave with nothing – I´d be a failure and it would be really embarrassing.
Others coping better
If I hadn´t been concerned about that, I would have just left and got onto a different course much earlier. A lot of people were talking about how much they hated their course which is how I felt about it, and yet they´d go in and do well and pass everything and turn up every day which I found so difficult and couldn´t do at all.
So I was afraid of throwing away what I´d done already and I wasn´t mixing with many people at all so I didn´t have anyone to talk to in a way they´d understand. I felt isolated and I felt I was the only one who was finding things difficult.
A few of my friends knew I wasn´t that into the course, but I didn´t make a big deal of it because I didn´t want people to know too much about it. People have told me that I can seem quite distant and don´t give away too much of myself, which I don´t really mean to do but I guess I am a bit like that.
Avoidance and panic
I had this big pressure of this thing I had to do because if I didn´t, it would be a disaster. There was no one to talk about it with, so the way I dealt with it was by not going into classes and avoiding the whole situation. I´d miss one week, then two and then three and then panic because I´d be thinking `God, how am I going to catch up now?´
I found it really difficult to do any work. I´d say to myself `I have to do some work today´ and so I´d go to the library and sit down and get my books out but I couldn´t bring myself to do anything; it was almost as if I was paralysed. I kept putting everything off.
Avoiding thinking about it
Even when exams came around, I knew I wasn´t going to do well, but I just thought I´d do re-sits and work over the summer. I wasn´t thinking about it in a very in-depth way. I was avoiding thinking about how I felt. I knew I wasn´t feeling too good but I blamed it all on the university or the course.
Instead of going into lectures, I´d wander round town and go into stores by myself. I became quite insular. I had books and magazines that I´d read and I made my own little dream-world in a way. I was removing myself from what was going on around me.
Tried to talk to tutor
I tried to talk to my tutor once or twice but I think he thought I was just being lazy and that I should go away and do some work. He didn´t grasp why I wanted to leave. I´d done the first year again and passed and he couldn´t see why I wouldn´t want to continue.
Got through it
Looking back at that first degree now, I don´t feel it was such a mistake because it is useful to have a degree and I can always use it for something. I ended up passing with good grades – I got a 2:1 and so it wasn´t a total waste even though I didn´t like it at all.
I took a year out to work and then started on my masters, which is arts based. Although it is more what I want to do, when I started I still felt like I was coming from a different background and different to the other students.
I felt detached from what was happening around me. I was keeping myself to myself, doing my projects. I hated the group stuff. Although the people were quite nice, somehow I never felt comfortable having to schedule meetings with other people to do group work.
Better but still there
My depression now is not what it was before, but I still suffer feelings of low self esteem and I still find myself engaging in self-destructive behaviour sometimes, which I am trying to combat. I still find it difficult to relax, feeling as though I should be doing something all the time, and can still often feel isolated and alone.
Pressure from an early age
I was told from an early age `You´ve got to become a doctor; you have to do this course; you have to have that,´ and I knew from an early age I didn´t want to do it. I went along with it because I didn´t know any different, but by A-levels I realised it wasn´t what I wanted to do, but I couldn´t think of a way to get out of it.
I lived in a community where everyone was quite conservative and had the same ideas about what people should do. In my background – Indian – a lot of parents want their kids to become doctors.
Because I was good at school, people expected more from me than my sister and brother, who weren´t so good at school. So there was the added pressure of being the only one who could become a doctor which is why my parents pushed me to do it.
The depression started at A-levels, when I was doing the science subjects I needed to get into medical school, but wasn´t interested in. I felt down about that.
Sense of isolation
There were a lot of kids from my background doing the same courses and not liking it, but they seemed to be dealing with it a lot better than I was. They were like a big gang, but I had only one or two friends, which was probably my own doing but I still felt quite isolated.
I think that habit of keeping my distance, not wanting others to know my personal business, started from quite a young age. There was an incident of sexual abuse with a family friend, when I was very young, which went on for a couple of years. I think I became quite secretive about that.
Building a façade
Years after, even when it was all over, I carried it on; kept detached from people. I could be superficially quite friendly and gregarious if I met people, but it was more of a front. Since then, I have always wanted to keep up the façade of being happy and successful.
My parents knew I wanted to do something in the arts, but they were really against it. They used all sorts of emotional blackmail like `You have to do it for us; you owe us; if you don´t do it, it will cause us embarrassment.´ Then when I did go to university it was `You can´t leave; if you leave what will we tell people; it´ll reflect badly on us.´
I felt quite alone and it was depressing to study the courses; I felt I was missing out on what I really wanted to do. I felt like I couldn´t just leave because it would be such a big deal, everyone I knew would be talking about it, it would be embarrassing and my parents would have a fit. I felt very trapped and I think that is what made me feel very depressed at that time.
Not letting people close
At college I don´t think anyone thought I had a problem, because I was going out and I was mixing with people, but I never really felt close to anyone which is the flip side of it. I´d never let anyone get that close to me.
Still affects me
I am presuming it is because of what happened to me when I was young. I convinced myself that I´d dealt with it, but I know it affects me even now. I find it difficult to get close to people at all.
When I failed the first year, I was forced into going to the GP at the university medical centre because I´d failed because I hadn´t turned up so much and they make you go in those circumstances. She was really nice and I told her briefly about what was going on. She advised me to go to the counselling service.
Unsure about counselling
I made an appointment but I played it all down and made it sound very insignificant. I kind of wanted to be there but I didn´t know what would happen or what we´d talk about and so I felt quite uncomfortable about it.
Couldn´t open up
She was nice, but I didn´t want to give the impression that I was having trouble, even though that´s what she was there for. I was very concerned about what people might think of me at that time. I didn´t mention the abuse because I´d convinced myself it had nothing to do with this, and didn´t want her to make a big deal of it.
A few good ideas
She did give me a few useful ideas – told me read some books from the library and at the time I´d just started to keep a diary and she advised me to keep that up because she thought I might find it easier to do that than to talk to a counsellor. They were pretty busy at the time and there didn´t seem to be many free appointments and so I didn´t actually go back.
Opening up to friends
I had a few good friends who I´d had for a few years, but I felt like I didn´t want to get into this kind of stuff with them. The counsellor told me it would be good to just mention my feelings about the course to them, and I did do that and they were surprised. I opened up a little bit and I think once I´d done that a little bit, then it became easier to do more.
Telling my parents
When I told my parents I wasn´t doing medicine they reacted better than I thought they would, because at least I had a degree. I am sure they´d still have preferred me to have done the medical degree, but my father didn´t really say anything and my mother was upset for a little while but then they got over it. All the things they´d threatened – none of it materialised. They seem to accept it.
Making more effort
Once I left uni I met a whole new bunch of people and made more of an effort to be open and less secretive. I made an effort to talk about what I was doing or where I was going; it was a small step. I didn´t suddenly become mega-friendly or anything.
Talking to my partner
Four years ago, I met my partner and he has been a big help. He´s very interested in what´s going on; he´s a very sympathetic person; very non-judgemental and so I´ve told him a lot more things than I´ve told anyone else.
I know I´ve got one person I can talk to about absolutely anything, without being embarrassed that it is going to make me look bad or be humiliating. Talking to him made a really big difference. I never thought that telling anyone would be such a big deal.
Going to tutor with problems
On this current course, there was an assignment where I had more or less done the work but I didn´t feel it was as good as it should be, because there had been some issues at home I´d been dealing with, and I needed a few more days. I went to my tutor and told her and she was incredibly sympathetic and told me of course I could have more time.
Finding out about other support
I also found out from her that there are all these networks out there offering help and support. So from talking to my tutor, who it turned out had been through something similar with a member of her family, she told me about some charities that help families going through this.
Learning to ask for help
I felt so relieved and I thought why on earth didn´t I tell her at the beginning? It was all very helpful – suddenly all these services were available that I could have accessed a long time ago and saved myself a lot of worry, if I´d gone to her sooner.
I´d put on a façade of everything being fine, wanting to seem very respectable and as though everything in my life was just ticking along. I should have realised by now that it is always better to talk to people about these things. My boyfriend is very good at encouraging me to do it.
Actively managing myself
My depression is definitely a lot better than it was, I think because I am managing myself a lot better. I try to consciously avoid situations where I may behave in a self destructive way and possibly get myself in trouble.
Before I left everything to the last minute and then it would snowball, whereas now I have a planner so I know what´s happening month to month. It probably sounds really basic to most people but before I was losing track of time and didn´t know when things were due in. When I organise my time better I feel more on top of things.
Managing anxiety better
When I got anxious about my work this time I coped with it a lot better because I recognised what was going on and I told myself to calm down. I spoke to my boyfriend about it, and in the end to my tutor, and she understood and I felt a lot better and more relieved.
Working on self-pressure
I still feel I have to do really well. But if I put as much time into the work as worrying about the work, I think I´d be better off.
Actively challenging detachment
When I started this MA I knew I had to make myself not be so detached. I made the effort to get involved more – go out to events with people or to a museum – whereas my gut instinct would be NOT to go.
I made myself do it and the more I did it, the more I found I was enjoying doing those things and then I felt happier being part of a group and doing group activities. It felt quite nice to be involved in that, whereas before I felt uncomfortable.
Now I make a point of making sure I do things, whether it is with other people or by myself. I schedule a few things each week.
Reconnecting with old friends
I also joined Facebook and through that met up with a bunch of friends I used to know years ago. It was good to reconnect with people after so long and get to see them and that made me feel quite good. I am more connected to people now than I was before. That´s coming along quite well.
Making new connections
Joining the gay and lesbian group at college and making friends there has also been helpful.
Being more reflective
I am managing things a lot better and also I am more reflective now that I am a bit older. My depression is a lot less severe, and although I think I´ve got better over time I do still have that detached feeling and I want to keep trying to be conscious of it and working on combating it.
I have a tendency not to look at my feelings, so I am hoping that blogging will be a good way to keep a record of my feelings and development and help me monitor and analyse things.
What I´ve learnt
Wish I had changed things sooner
I ended up thinking I had to get the BSc because I´d spent so much time building up towards some kind of scientific degree whereas looking back now, to have walked away near the beginning when I realised how much I hated it, would have saved me all those years of being in a situation I really didn´t like.
Walk away if you know it´s not right
I would say to someone in the first year, if you really hate your subject, it is better to really think hard about whether it´s best to continue. Maybe you are much better off walking away, taking time out, but not doing something because you feel you are being forced to do it.
It´s okay not to feel part of a group
I hope my story can show other students that not everyone at college feels like part of the group, and that´s normal.
Taking small steps can help a lot
Taking small steps can make you feel a lot better – a lot of the problems I have are managed by me just being aware of them.
There is a lot of support available
I realise now that there are lots of people at college who can offer support- for example I feel behind with my projects and waited until the last second to tell anyone- in the end they were really supportive and I wish I had asked for help earlier.