How depression has affected me
As long as I can remember
I´ve suffered with depression for as long as I can remember. It wasn´t full-blown depression the entire time, but there were the bad days and the not-so-bad days.
Depression for me is like an overwhelming feeling that nothing is going to go right; you feel negative about everything. It crushes any hope you may feel that something good is going to happen – a voice in my head saying it won´t; stopping you from being able to cope with day to day things.
School work suffered
With my school work, there were some days it was so bad, I couldn´t get out of bed in the morning and so I ended up missing quite a few lessons. Exam times, GCSEs and A-levels, was probably the point where it got completely unbearable. I didn´t get the grades I wanted.
Some suicidal thoughts
At some points, I found myself thinking maybe everyone would be better off if I wasn´t here, thinking `I´m completely useless and not doing anything to help anybody, what´s the point in trying to go on?´
There were a lot of arguments that I probably triggered just because I was feeling depressed or angry at the time and because it was my fault, I just felt that if I wasn´t there people wouldn´t be upset and angry.
I didn´t have any plans as such, but I guess I kind of fantasised about it. I used to fantasise that I cut so deep that I´d bleed out. I wanted to feel all my blood draining from my body. Just becoming very cold.
Diagnosed with depression and OCD
Finally, it reached a point where my mother couldn´t cope with me anymore, and she took me to a doctor, where I was officially diagnosed with `depression´. For a while, I saw a private counsellor for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), as I also have slight OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).
Bad counselling experience
Unfortunately, we couldn´t afford the cost for very long, so it was only a short-term thing. As soon as I was starting to feel comfortable with this counsellor and making progress I got bounced to an NHS counsellor. I had such a bad experience with this new counsellor that I lost my trust in them completely.
Made things worse
I´d go into the hospital feeling pretty good about how the day had been going, and leave feeling like my world would end. On a couple of occasions I found myself stranded at the hospital for most of my session, as the counsellor cut the session short without warning beforehand.
I started crying a lot more and withdrawing. I felt completely cut off from people. No one seemed to be able to help me, so I stopped looking. I simply shut myself off emotionally from other people.
I hate being alone. Throughout my high school years I have not got along very well with people. I have always been in a group of friends but I am always the one who gets kicked out of the group, or there will be conflicts and it is always my fault and I just feel angry with people that they are not there for me when I need them.
I lost quite a few friends because as far as they were concerned I got upset over nothing but to me there was something that was wrong – the depression was saying something was wrong or my OCD thoughts were really affecting me. They couldn´t understand why I got so upset about it.
Hoping for a new start at uni
Just before my move to university, I got together with my boyfriend and things seemed to be picking up again. I went to university, hoping to get away from all the bad times I was having at home.
OCD triggered in shared house
Although I was expecting my flatmates to be untidy and a little noisy, they were a lot worse than I had expected. I couldn´t cope without sleep, and my contamination fears went into overdrive to the point that I had panic attacks just thinking about going into the kitchen area, which had reached a point of being considered a biohazard.
A couple of months after going to uni, I received news that my grandfather had died. As he lives overseas, and the recession was hitting my parents´ business pretty hard, we weren´t in a financial position to go over for the funeral. It was incredibly heartbreaking, and meant no one could get the closure that we really needed.
This started fuelling my worries about my father´s health again. I had exams soon after and I was struggling with my work any way. I felt completely hopeless because I failed some exams that I felt I should have been able to pass.
The thing that finally pushed me over the edge was that I had a miscarriage in the March of my first year. Although I didn´t know I was pregnant until after losing the baby, I was still overwhelmed with feelings of emptiness and loss.
The worst part was the guilt. I constantly blamed myself for the miscarriage, and had no idea how to cope with it. I was too scared to talk to anyone. I felt I should be punished for killing it, and even thought about killing myself too. I couldn´t cope with anything, least of all life.
I first started self-harming when I was 15. I end up feeling like I am keeping everything bottled up inside and it eventually destroys me completely and I need to get rid of the negative energy that builds up inside me and I end up taking it out on myself physically.
Taking it out on myself
I suppose I need to do something destructive. I need to hit something or someone or cause pain or start screaming hysterically but where I am living, it is just not possible to scream hysterically or hit the walls and so I end up taking it out on myself because at least that contains it to one person.
I feel like depression has always been there; maybe not quite as severe as it has been but definitely since I was young, I´ve never been able to cope well with emotions and general frustrations and things. I used to cry a lot when I was younger.
I suppose when I was a lot younger, I wasn´t properly depressed. I just didn´t know how to communicate with other people other than by crying when something was wrong. It developed into depression.
I´ve never really felt like I fit in, due to the fact I´m mixed race – my mum is Japanese and my dad is English. When I was younger we lived in a Japanese community, but I don´t speak Japanese because my mum never bothered to teach me and my dad didn´t speak it round the house. When everybody was talking in Japanese I thought `I am supposed to understand this and I don´t know what´s going on´.
So I thought I wasn´t Japanese and then when I was 6 we moved to an area where 99.9% were white. Everyone had lived there for generations and people would yell racist things at me and my sister and brother.
That was quite a shock because I´d also felt I looked really English and people would yell “You´re a Chink” and stuff like that. I was born and raised in England; I speak only English. The yelling confused me so much. I thought “What am I and who am I?”
Being hard on myself
I am the oldest child, with a sister close in age and a much younger brother. My sister gets away with everything and I get the blame for everything and so I feel like maybe I should keep blaming myself instead of other people because it must be my fault.
Worse at high school
It probably got a lot more severe when I hit high school – the change from primary school to high school affected me quite a lot and I just shut down and couldn´t cope. I found it difficult to make friends or just talking to people.
Bullying and self harm
When I was 15, the depression got so bad that I started to take it out on myself physically. I was being bullied at school, pushed out by my friends, and my father had recently become seriously ill with heart problems.
Worry about father
I was incredibly scared that I was going to lose my dad. It wasn´t as bad as we first thought, but a few years later they said they needed to operate, but then couldn´t because of other complications.
Mother busy and stressed
That was quite difficult for everybody – my parents run their own business so with my father in hospital my mother was having to run it by herself and she was getting stressed.
I felt I had nobody there and me and my sister and brother didn´t really know what to do. I can understand completely why she was so busy all the time but at that point I felt I needed help and support through what was a shocking and difficult time for everybody.
Difficult relationship with mother
I got into lots of arguments with my mother. The way she talks – because English isn´t her first language and she is quite blunt when she speaks anyway, she´ll say something but not mean it offensively, and I take things too personally, especially when it comes to talking with my mother.
My mother once said to me that I was going to end up killing my dad because I was stressing him out so much, so I felt I might as well give up then. I felt it was my fault and I hated feeling like that.
The main thing that helped in my teens was when I made some new friends who introduced me to something called `cosplay´, where you dress up as characters from anime, video games, or films. This really brought me out and I became a lot more confident.
The most important thing for me was knowing there were people I could talk to who were also going through or had gone through the same thing. I´d go onto forums to talk to people and get advice.
Talking things through
My first strategy is always to talk things through. When you start talking about things, it helps to put things into perspective and orders your thoughts on the situation.
Addressing the triggers
The next thing I do is to try and find what is causing these feelings. If it is something within my control, I will make a plan to change that thing.
If it is something that is not in my control, then I suggest using stress-relief techniques, such as simple breathing exercises, or counting exercises, to help bring down stress levels. In my experience, a lot of these feelings stem from stress. Once stress levels are a bit more in control, things seem a little bit easier to cope with.
I managed to stop hurting myself a lot by doing the breathing and re-focusing exercises. You need to keep practising them every day – I stopped for a while because I thought they were silly, but they did actually help when I was using them.
Building social connections
Pushing yourself to spend time around other people can help. Knowing that all my friends were there for me was really helpful. If my friends at uni could see that I was going into a downhill phase they´d say `Come and play racquet ball, come for a walk with us…´ And if I said no, they´d come to my house and drag me out.
Exercise makes you feel good anyway. Instead of just sitting in my room, I´ll go out for a walk. Or joining a sports club adds something new to the things you are doing.
Eating more healthy foods is another strategy. I like to try out food that has been shown to reduce depression. It also gives me a chance to try something different with cooking, and as I personally enjoy cooking, it helps me reduce stress levels.
Hobbies or distractions
Other strategies I like to use are things that make a break from routine – indulging in something you enjoy such as a hobby or watching a film you really like. Starting new hobbies – I´ve started collecting broken dolls that you have to paint…
Despite my bad experiences with counselling (I had two bad ones in a row), I have found counselling at the university helpful. When things were getting too much again recently, I felt I needed to talk things through and get a different perspective on things.
A neutral perspective
After the miscarriage, I knew I needed to talk to somebody who was neutral. My friends would all say one thing and I wanted to talk to someone neutral about the emotional stuff. I didn´t want to talk about the practicalities of it. I just wanted to talk about how I felt and how it was affecting me emotionally.
I´ve been put on antidepressants quite recently – after the miscarriage they increased the dosage.
Being kinder to myself
I am getting better at taking a step back and telling myself it´s not my fault, but it is the first thing that always pops into my head and it takes me a minute to realise I am doing it again.
Through the blogging I´ll meet other students who have also gone through depression, and I´m hoping to learn things from them, such as new coping techniques. I´d like to build up a strong support network, not only for myself, but for as many students as possible.
What I´ve learnt
Understand more about identity issues
Being from a mixed background it can be difficult to feel like you fit it anywhere because one part of your family is from one culture and the other side from another and you are stuck in the middle. It is easy to become lost in it all and it´s at that point that depression can start developing because you ask yourself “Who am I? What am I supposed to be? What am I going to be like?”
It´s human nature
I suppose it is human nature to want to belong to a group; to fit in. You don´t want to be an outsider. It´s programmed into us. As cavemen you´d have to be in a group to survive and if you were an outsider, you were not going to survive.
My experiences pushed me to my limits, but I believe that Fate never gives us more than we can handle. We have to take the bad things along with the good things so that we can appreciate the good times, and become stronger people through the bad times.
Young people need to be more aware of depression
I want more young people to be aware of depression and how it affects people, so that others don´t have to go through similar things to me, which is to feel completely isolated and as if there´s something horribly wrong with them. I really wish I had found something like this website when I was going through my bad periods.
Talk to someone
If you think you´re depressed, definitely to talk to someone you think you can trust. It doesn´t have to be a counsellor, just a good friend or parent or sibling. If you are in a situation where you´ve got a parent that´s ill, talking to a sibling is probably one of the best things you can do because they are in the same position as you.
You are not alone
The most important thing is realising you are not alone; what you are going through is not weird and you are not a freak for feeling you are sad all the time. It is perfectly natural and so many people in the world are suffering with depression.
Try online communities
If you don´t want to talk to someone face to face, there are so many on-line communities now. You can join one and you don´t have to tell them anything about yourself; you can just say `I feel depressed all the time´ and they can help you through it.
Keep trying to get the right help
A couple of the counsellors I saw didn´t help, but I think that was more to do with those particular counsellors rather than counsellors in general. It was my bad luck I got two in a row. If someone doesn´t seem to be listening properly then find someone else.