How depression has affected me
Keeping problems to myself
I first suffered with depression when I was about 14. I was struggling with my life at home greatly and it impacted upon my school work, and friendships. I became a very insular person and kept a great deal of things to myself. My main issue was I didn’t want people to think I was ‘moaning’ or ‘whining’ so I tried to pretend everything was OK when in reality, it wasn’t, it really wasn’t.
Difficult home life
I should probably explain a bit about my home life first. My relationship with my mother was not an easy one when I was growing up – she suffered with really bad depression and this was one of the hardest things any child should have to deal with. My dad left when I was 2 and my mum never remarried. I have two older brothers but we weren’t and still aren’t close. In fact I think the word strangers would better suit us.
So when I was 14 and struggling with my mum I would act out in all kinds of ways, whether it be saying things that were totally out of character to those that were close to me, or lying about things to my friends in order to make my life seem more exciting and happy then it actually was. I did this to make myself feel better about my life more than anything.
I would lock myself in my bedroom for hours and stay away from people. I became totally addicted to the internet and social networking sites such as myspace etc. I spent more time talking to my online friends then I did my real life friends. I was incredibly lonely due to my life at home and the problems we were having and I didn’t want to burden any of my friends so I just boiled it all up.
As I didn’t have a dad around I constantly found myself looking for a boyfriend to replace the male figure a really needed in my life. This constant need to have a man around was incredibly detrimental to my well being for the next few years. I found myself going from one bad relationship to another and putting myself in terrible situations, putting up with abuse, cheating, stealing, and many other things that I should never have had to deal with purely because I wanted a man in my life and was so terrified that everyone was going to leave me.
When I was 18 I got into a really bad relationship and moved away from my entire family and all my friends. This was a huge mistake, whilst I learned a great deal about how strong I am, I will always be sad I went through it at such a young age. I got involved with a man who lied, cheated, stole from me, constantly put me down and basically made my life miserable.
I was so terrified of going home because I thought everyone would say the inevitable ‘I told you so’, so I let my pride take over and I forced myself to stick it out. I became more and more depressed each day, I would wake up with this sinking feeling each morning and simply didn’t want to get out of bed. I felt I had no one to turn to because I had shut everyone out.
Eating and weight gain
I would eat a great deal and was constantly cooking for people in order to distract myself. It was affecting my work, my home, and my relationship with myself. I gained a lot of weight and was suffering huge amounts of stress which eventually lead to me being signed off ill from work.
Anger and violent behaviour
During the two months I was off work, I acted out violently towards my boyfriend and got a horrendous temper, all my frustrations with the situation, with him, with my father and myself were coming out and ending up in shatters all over my home, literally.
Back home but still not right
I knew I had to do something. So I left. I spoke to my mum, which was a terrifying prospect but ended up being the best thing I did. She was mortified I hadn’t told her sooner and instantly sorted everything out so I could come home. I worked for a further two years before becoming a student and in this time I had a long line of boyfriends and partners.
Pregnancy and termination
As a result of this I fell pregnant and suffered an induced miscarriage. This was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through in my life. Nothing can prepare you for the ramifications of something like that. It took over my whole world physically and emotionally. I was a mess.
Shame and denial
I was so ashamed of myself for getting into this situation in the first place that I didn’t talk to anyone apart from my one closest friend. I had no idea what to do. It was all I could think about from the second I woke up to the minute I went to sleep and as a result I simply stayed in bed and therefore wouldn’t have to deal with it. I could just pretend it wasn’t happening.
Blocked it out
It didn’t work. I had an induced miscarriage alone in hospital. Afterwards the nurses told me I would need counselling, but the whole experience had been so horrific I mentally blocked it. It was too much to deal with. I simply did what I normally did and got on with things, acted like nothing had happened and I was strong and could do anything.
Heavy substance use
I fooled everyone, even myself, for a while at least. I got into yet another horrendous relationship with a man who was all wrong for me. During this relationship I drank and smoked very heavily and was constantly low because I knew I was in a bad situation and I was being held back. There is nothing more frustrating and soul destroying when you know you are being held back. At this point I realised I had been through way too much to go through this all over again, I had university to look forward to and too much at stake. So I ended it with him.
Still low at uni
Three months later I was at university living in halls of residence with my friends and it was supposed to be the most exciting time of my life. It wasn’t though, for the first time in my life I was by myself, able to do whatever I wanted, answerable to no one but me – getting to uni was something I had achieved all by myself and I was so proud of myself but it also meant I had a lot of time on my hands to think about everything I had gone through. It was exhausting…
Having a depressed parent
Growing up with a parent who is depressed is obviously going to affect a child. It made me a very nervous person, I was so unsure of what mood my mum was going to be in from one day to the next, whether she would be crying, shouting, be sat in silence, or if she would be happy for once. I remember how happy my brother and I would be when she was in a good mood, we knew to make the most of it because it wouldn’t last.
‘Parenting’ the parent
I was used as a counsellor for my mother for years, she would use me as a sounding board for all her problems, her relationships, her relationship with my nan, my uncle, how lonely she was and how awful my dad was etc. It was so hard, how was I supposed to help? I was her daughter!
Feeling like it was my fault
I tried my best to make her happy but when I constantly saw that it wasn’t working I became more and more depressed and upset myself. Wondering if it was my fault, wondering why my mum couldn’t just be happy with me and my brothers.
Lacking affection and support
She was never good at giving or showing affection either. Sometimes all a girl needs is a cuddle from her mum, but I had to ask for them. She wouldn’t know how to deal with tears, I would either get ignored or told to pull myself together, which as you can imagine only made my upset even worse and lead to me having to actively force myself not to cry so easily.
Things children shouldn’t have to deal with
This behaviour went on for years, horrendous mood swings, low moods, tantrums, it was an incredibly fragile environment. Whilst I appreciate absolutely everything my mum did for me when I was growing up it doesn’t change the fact that my brother and I went through things that children shouldn’t have to.
Growing up without a dad
Not having a dad around also had a huge impact on my life. Growing up without a father, this is without a doubt probably key in most of my issues with men and how I behaved. Girls dealing with abandonment issues often don’t even realise that is what they are going through – it’s the hardest thing in the world growing up without a dad as a girl and learning how to deal with men having never grown up with one around.
Writing down my feelings to my absent dad
I didn’t speak to my dad for 20 years, then I decided it was time to get in touch with him. I composed an email, in the email was every single thing I was angry with him for, how hurt I was he wasn’t there, the questions I wanted to ask him. I never intended on sending it, I thought it would be help enough to just write it.
Getting in touch with him
I sent it. He replied within the hour, and from then on we struck up an email relationship. I was under no illusions that we would have some wonderful father daughter relationship, but simply having him there to talk to was unbelievable. Instead of talking to everyone else about my issues with not having a dad around I could finally talk to him about it. It acted as a form of therapy I suppose, it was my own security that I had needed to know that he was there, in some way he was now in my life.
Making a counselling appointment
When I still wasn’t happy despite getting to uni was the point when I knew I had to go and see a counsellor. There was no way I was going to let ANYTHING ruin my life at uni, so I made an appointment, and it was the best thing I could have done.
Getting everything off my chest
I can’t even explain how freeing and wonderful it felt to talk to a total stranger about it all and get it all off my chest. I dealt with things I hadn’t actually realised bothered me. It was a tiring process at times, but my gosh it was worth it.
Understanding my vulnerability to depression
Through the counselling I realised that I was incredibly susceptible to depression from a young age due to my upbringing. Being around a parent with depression is really hard and is bound to have an effect on a child, as is growing up without a father. When I sat down and looked at everything and realised what I had been through, I realised that it was fairly obvious why I had suffered with depression – most people would have in my situation but now I had the tools to deal with it all and move on.
Being able to say ‘It’s not OK’
The first thing I realised is that it’s OK to say ‘I’m NOT OK’ or ‘It is NOT OK that this happened to me’. Keeping things bottled up is the worst thing we can do, everyone needs someone to talk to.
Acceptance through counselling
Personally I found the student counselling service to be an absolute godsend. I was able to talk through all the issues from my child hood, my abandonment issues to do with my father and my miscarriage and I acknowledged it accepted it and was then able to move forward. It was fantastic. It literally felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, and all I had to do was talk to someone! So easy!
Realising I can’t make my mother happy
By accepting the fact that my mother’s depression was not my fault and that nothing I said or did would make her feel better I was able to move forward. My mother has now dealt with a great deal of things with her own counsellor and this has had a great effect on our relationship. Now she sees me as an adult, an individual. We have a new found respect for one another.
Having something to look forward to
Some strategies I found helped me when I was dealing with depression were things like, always having something to look forward to, even if it’s something small like watching one of your favourite movies at the end of the day when you’ve got something stressful at work or uni out of the way.
The first thing I did was I decided I would take a walk every day, for about half an hour and go and sit somewhere pretty or around other people, not to talk to them, but just being around life I found made me feel happier, it got me out of my room, in the fresh air and into some hustle and bustle, I would go and get a coffee and sit with a book or my headphones and just people watch and day dream for a couple of hours a day. Even if this is all you do at first it helps.
Listen to music that makes you feel good, for all the girls out there who are like me, put a really cheesy happy song on really loud, dance around your room and sing along at the top of your voice, I am sure you think this sounds ridiculous but trust me it works, it gets your heart racing and gives you energy and makes you laugh at yourself! So Much Fun!!
Exercise is another one, I don’t mean 10 mile runs every day and millions of sit ups – no no no, just a simple half hour walk every day with your headphones in out in the fresh air. Exercise is a great way to clear your head, work through thoughts and worries and it gets your heart going which again makes people feel a lot more energised and happy.
Making my room a haven
Mess and untidiness is another cause of stress – I should know, I was one of the messiest people in the world, and then I realised how relaxed and calm I felt by simply making my room tidy and making it a gorgeous place for me to be.
Spending time with friends
Go out with your friends, I know that when we are down it is so tempting to just blow everyone off and be on our own, but this is not a good idea! Spending time with friends is important, even if it’s just going for a coffee, looking round the shops or having lunch etc.
Another great way I found for dealing with depression was writing. Write everything down, even if its crap, doesn’t make sense, or whatever – just write it down. Sometimes it helps get things in perspective. If you’re creative write some songs, poems, short stories anything, I found this so helpful, whilst I cringe at some of my terrible poetry now, at the time it was a wonderful release.
Eat well, this again is important, it can be so tempting to reach for the nearest tube of Pringles or bar of chocolate and whilst in moderation these things are ok, having a healthy diet also helps boost your mood, (I know I sound like Gillian Mckeith right now) but it’s true. Fruit and veg can help make you feel better without even realising!
What I’ve learnt
Don’t let depression control you
Depression affects everyone in different ways, it can be totally consuming and impact on every aspect of your life if you let it. I suppose in looking back at how I dealt with everything it is easy for me now to sit and give advice to others on how to deal with things, I of all people know how hard it is to actually apply these tips into your life when you’re actually dealing with depression. The key is to simply force yourself to do it, even if you can’t be bothered, finding a routine is key in making yourself feel better once you get into the habit of doing it you will notice the difference.
You are not alone
I would encourage anyone who is suffering with depression to realise, you are definitely NOT on your own, it feels like you are, but trust me you’re not, there are so many people that can help, that are going through the same thing or have been through what you’re going through and believe me, I know it sounds like a cliché but you will work it all out. You just need to make the decision that you will not let your depression take control of you and you need to decide to take control of it. It works.
Talk to someone
Do not sit alone and try and deal with everything by yourself, this will not help and will only make the situation worse. If you are at university then take full advantage of the free counselling services that we get! They are brilliant, confidential and did me the world of good.
Get out of your room and stay social
DO NOT sit in your room all day, especially not with the curtains closed, it is so important to get proper day light and see places other than the four walls of your room. You must stay social, it will do you good, and whilst it is so easy to think that your friends may not understand what your going through you never know, they might be struggling with similar issues and you could help each other!
Treat yourself well
Do something every day that is purely for you, to make you happy, to treat yourself, something that you love doing, something that relaxes you something that makes you feel great whatever this might be, it is important to make time for yourself and your wellbeing. Another thing is, make sure your room is like a haven, sort out the clutter and organise your stuff, make it a special beautiful place just for you, so if you do spend a lot of time there at least its a place of peace and calm.
Bottling things up is entirely detrimental
As someone who has always kicked into survival mode when things have got too hard and just tried to pretend everything is OK I have learnt that this is entirely detrimental to any form of recovery and that it is OK to accept that you aren’t ok, and that in order to get better and feel better about yourself and who you are you need to talk about it, acknowledge what has happened and allow people to help you.
Don’t ‘suffer in silence’
I am a very protective person and very strong, I don’t like to admit I have weakness, but after everything I have been through, the most powerful thing I have learnt is that to overcome depression and have any form of resolution about what you have been through, you need to accept what has happened and allow yourself to deal with it, I was afraid that if I started talking about it and crying I would never stop, this was wrong, it was the opposite, too many people ‘suffer in silence’ for want of a better phrase, but this is wrong and I have had a great deal of support from all kinds of people that have helped me feel refreshed, and accepting of what happened and has allowed me to move on.
Don’t underestimate the impact of a termination
I feel that girls in general underestimate how difficult dealing with an unexpected pregnancy is and that there is no such thing as a ‘quick fix’ to deal with something like that. After what I went through with the miscarriage it has made me a much stronger person, I have learnt things about myself and my perspective on everything has totally changed. I dealt with all of this by myself really but have also learned it’s ok to say, ‘I’m not ok’ and ‘this shouldn’t have happened’ and that it’s ok to be sad about it, everyone makes mistakes, and it’s important to deal with the guilt and the pain in order to move on.
It is okay to acknowledge what wasn’t okay in your childhood
If you are like me and have grown up with parents suffering with depression one of the most important things I have learned is that there is nothing I can do to make her happy. It is not my job to make her happy and fix things. I appreciate everything my mum did to raise me, she worked so hard and did everything she could and I love her for that. But, one thing I have learned and that it is ok to say is that it wasn’t OK what me and my brothers went through – we were just kids, we shouldn’t have had to deal with that and just because we did doesn’t make it right. In simply saying that it wasn’t OK and allowing myself to cry and say this out loud to someone I felt again like a weight had been lifted.
Deal with the issue of an absent parent
For anyone growing up without a parent, I cannot stress enough, if you feel the time is right to get in touch I would say do it. The reason it worked so well for me is because I was in charge of the situation, it was my decision and I could and still can walk away from it whenever I want, it won’t be me being abandoned. I am an adult now and I make my own decisions, there is something totally liberating about it. Even if you don’t get the response you want, you can use it as a form of closure on the situation. Simply write down everything you ever felt about it, how it made you mad, sad, angry, lonely, depressed etc, write it all down, and if you want to send it, send it. If they are even remotely worth being in your life they will respond. If not, you don’t need them and you can walk away from them with your head held high.