How depression has affected me
Low self esteem
I am not sure how long I’ve suffered from depression, but I was diagnosed around the age of 15. I used to have feelings of uselessness, that no one cared about me, that I was a hindrance and better off dead.
Problems with education
To this day I find it difficult to motivate myself, but now I know it is the depression and that I have to push myself whereas before I would bury my head under my duvet instead. This caused my bad attendance at school and eventually led to me being asked to leave after I had turned 16. The bad attendance continued when I went to college the first time.
Various forms of self harm
I have always had low self-esteem and the depression did nothing to help. I used to use alcohol, self-harming, drugs and sex to boost my confidence to try and try to get rid of the overwhelming emotions. It may have worked in the short term, but all eventually left me feeling even worse.
I was in a lot of trouble at that time and did not get on with my family at all. I was basically on a path to self-destruction and everything I was doing at the time only made me feel worse, it was a vicious circle and I did not know how to get out of it.
When I was 16 everything came to a head and I couldn’t and didn’t know how to cope anymore so I attempted to kill myself. I took a load of paracetomol and slashed my arms again. I lay in my bed ill for 3 nights and 2 days before I realised it hadn’t worked. I was still very ill though and was being sick every time I ate. So I phoned my youth action worker who contacted my mum who then came and took me to hospital. My liver was that deteriorated that I had to be flown to hospital straight away. I was put on a drip for about a week, it was only after my failed attempt that I began to receive the help I needed.
Difficult family life
Life as a teenager was hard for me. My parents divorced when I was 9 and my mum, my sister and I left England to move nearer family in Wales. I am not sure if that played a part in my depression, but from then things just got worse. My mum suffered from manic depression which I was never really aware of – her mood swings etc were normal to me.
Bullying and rebellion
I was always a clever child, but when I got to secondary school I was bullied for the way I looked, dressed and because I was a ‘geek’, so in second year I attempted to try and fit in. I became the complete opposite of a geek, I rebelled in every class and was suspended frequently. I began smoking, drinking, and getting involved with guys and drugs. This only gave the bullies more ammo.
After being sent to live in London with my dad for 3 months I came back to Wales only to be told we were moving to North Wales because my mum had a boyfriend up there. I was devastated!
Serious car accident
After only two months in North Wales I was involved in a serious car accident. I broke my neck, one of my friends died and another girl broke her back. I was only 14 at this point. After 10 days in traction I had an operation and was in hospital for a further 2 weeks, but it felt like an eternity.
Guilt and anger
I was basically house bound for a further 3 months, but after that I was back to myself, but worse – alcohol seemed like the only escape from myself so I would get drunk every weekend and end up in some sort of trouble and when the police turned up I would assault them. I was very angry and I could take it out on them and not care. The crash not only hurt me physically, but mentally too. I emotionally battered myself daily for surviving and still feel guilty at times now.
Emotional and sexual abuse
My first ‘love’ was at 15. He was 20 and I was at my most vulnerable. At the start he made me feel like the most special person in the world. I ended up falling head over heels for him and completely wound round his finger. I think that’s why I put up with the rape, because we were in a relationship I didn’t see it as that. He also used to emotionally blackmail me and beat me down so much that I never thought I would be good enough for anyone and that I was lucky to have him. It took me years to get him out of my life, but once I did it was like a giant weight off of my shoulders.
Youth action worker
Before I turned 16 I had a youth action worker and she helped a lot as I could talk to her about anything. She was a helping hand onto my road of recovery.
After the suicide attempt I began to get the help that I needed. I was referred to psychologists and CPNs (Community Psychiatric Nurse). I also attended a psychiatric hospital as an outpatient and the lady I spoke to there was lovely. She introduced me to self helping techniques, was always willing to listen, helped me get my own accommodation and introduced me to an occupational therapist who tried to get me interested in some hobbies and activities. The accommodation came with support in the form of a project worker, she was great and helped me with just about anything I needed, filling in forms, budgeting etc.
Helpful therapy – CBT and DBT
Although this initial help was only temporary it helped a lot and I felt it was a great stepping stone before doing CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) with my psychologist. One of the techniques that really helps is the ‘Stop, look and listen’ technique, which taught me to stop, take a step back and look at my emotions and rationalize them.
Finding the right GP
I moved GPs to get one closer to where I lived and they have helped enormously. They realised the medication I was on was not having much of an effect and we worked together to find one that did work for me. She was also very easy to talk to and I felt like she cared.
Talking to people who understand
I think having people to talk to who understand what I was going through was the main thing.
Sorting out my sleeping pattern and keeping a mood diary are the main self help things that have helped, as well as learning relaxing techniques and coping mechanisms.
Sorting out sleep
I set a certain time to go to bed and a time to wake up and forced myself to stick to these. I was also given amitriptyline to help me sleep at nights and told by the doctor to not drink anything with caffeine or do anything that will stimulate my mind before bed.
I had diary that I filled in at the end of the day. I had to fill in what I was doing every hour, how I felt and how much I felt that emotion/feeling on a scale out of 1 – 10 e.g. 7am – 8am: getting up, having breakfast, getting ready. Happy – 6
My psychologist recommended the progressive muscle relaxation technique (also known as Jacobson’s Technique) and it really helped me relax and calm down.
(1) You intentionally tighten and apply tension to various muscle groups throughout the entire body – one at a time.
(2) You release and let go of the tension and focus on how the muscles relax and feel as tension flows away.
What I’ve learnt
I have now learnt that the overwhelming emotions I got when I felt down were not normal and that I should not ignore them, but take positive steps to sorting them out and finding the reasons behind them. I have stopped the self-harming – the scars are constant reminders of what I went through but they also act as a deterrent, I know I will never go back to cutting again.
Healthy relationships with self and others
I now try to put myself and my health before other people. I am no use to anyone else if I am not stable myself. I know now that people do love me and try to surround myself with these people instead of the ones that try to take advantage of me.
I have also stopped blaming my circumstances and instead of wallowing in self-pity I try to get up and do something about the situation. My experiences have made me the person I am today, but if I can, I would like to help people avoid the pain I went through.