How depression has affected me
Depression started in 6th form
I have experienced a persistent low mood since the age of 16. I didn´t identify it as depression at first, although I was quite aware that I wasn´t as happy as other people around me. I didn´t enjoy things as much as other people, or couldn´t let go and relax. I was always more tense than others.
Worse at university
At university it became more acute and exaggerated, and affected my life more. I was very unhappy and tearful. I´d feel stressed and anxious all the time about little, every day things.
Just getting out of the house and doing things; meeting people; having to talk to people and socialising in general. I found myself quite anxious just considering I had to do it.
I felt quite embarrassed that I wasn´t coping and wasn´t enjoying myself because after all it was university and everyone always says it should be the time of your life and everyone else seemed to be getting it, but I wasn´t getting it at all.
I shut myself off. I had joined quite a few societies but I didn´t go to any of them. I didn´t do any sport or anything outside of the academic side at all. So I cut myself off which makes it worse.
I was worried about appearing silly or foolish in front of people, or giving the wrong impression or that they´d think badly of me in some way. That I´d appear silly and that they´d laugh at me, as they did at school
It really frustrated me that I couldn´t let go, or make friends easily. I beat myself up about it later when I got home, thinking about what I should have done. I was observing myself all the time and pointing out all my mistakes to myself.
I have felt very much alone with my problems, and this loneliness also helped to exacerbate my negative thinking patterns and depression. It was very difficult to tell anyone, even my closest friends, and parents.
It was really impacting on my academic life as well. I wasn´t doing very badly but I was very, very stressed about it. It became difficult to function effectively even just doing little tasks.
I am very much a perfectionist, and there seems to always be something to improve – nothing ever quite reaches my high standards that I set myself. I often feel disappointed about my performance, even when I do very well. I put a lot of pressure on myself.
Fear of failure
I do fear failing, wondering what would people think if I didn´t get the A grade. I feel if I failed it would be really, really terrible – more for me than anyone else. I´d be disappointed in myself.
I did well at school, but at university there´s more pressure and everything feels very important. I feel I have to work doubly hard to get anywhere because my concentration is quite bad.
Darker and lighter days
I have days of depression and hopelessness, and other days which feel very positive and I can forget about the harder days. On darker days, I feel hopeless and desperate and, coupled with loneliness, this can be very distressing and affect all parts of life – work, socialising and making friends.
Some days, I wake up feeling this way; on others, there may be small seemingly insignificant triggers, like stress, that help to lower my mood. There is never a feeling of being ‘great’, always ‘ok’ or ‘bad’.
I was very good at faking happiness in front of people but in private I´d be so unhappy and not thinking very much of myself. I have feelings of self-doubt and low self-confidence. I feel unworthy of friendships, that I am inadequate as a person, and also of being at university.
All or nothing
I´d see pitfalls as utter failures; they weren´t just little things; they were utter failures and that was further evidence that I wasn´t really a worthy person.
I was very often sobbing uncontrollably – getting up in the morning and thinking I have to do this again; do life again. It felt very monotonous, like I had no direction. I didn´t know what I was doing at university.
Sense of pointlessness
Some thoughts I have had include: what is the point of life?, why bother?, and the feeling that living through life is a bother and an effort, although I have never considered committing suicide, only that if I died, I would easily accept it.
Not knowing why
I was quite frustrated that I didn´t understand why I felt depressed, because I couldn´t justify my feelings. I felt that I should be happy; there´s no reason not to be. It was quite upsetting for me feeling that low and not knowing why.
Bullied at school
I was bullied quite heavily every year of my school life and the worst episodes were around 15 and 16. Although I talked to my parents about it, the school didn´t really do anything. It was emotional bullying and taunting, not physical.
Target of taunting
The fact I worked hard was something to be bullied about. I was naturally quiet and I think that makes you an easier target. I wasn´t popular and every time I found I was good at something, if the teacher pointed it out, I´d be bullied for that.
Bitchiness and rumours
I was at an all girls´ school so it was very bitchy and lots of rumours got spread around. When I was 14 or 15 the bullies spread some silly rumour and my friends turned against me, so I became isolated and didn´t have anyone to back me up. It is one thing being bullied, but having your best friends stabbing you in the back hurts more.
I had a friend who I´d been friends with for nine or ten years, and another girl came and we all became friends in a three. Then out of the blue, and I still don´t know why, they turned on me and said I wasn´t their friend; that it was all in my head, saying `Do you really think we´d want to be friends with you?´
Bullied by former friends
They started lots of hurtful rumours. For a few years, they bullied me on a daily basis. They´d follow me onto the bus and would be laughing at me the whole bus ride; things like that.
Still has an effect
Having had friends who let me down quite badly, or abandoned me, I do think is part of my depression because I have a real problem with making friends very easily – it´s the stress from having been hurt before. I take years to really trust a friend; tell them personal things.
Unhappiness turning to depression
I was obviously unhappy all those years, but after 16 I would call it depression. I perceived myself as being quite alone. Although I wasn´t really alone because I did have good friends and a supportive family, I felt very isolated and lonely and I found it very hard to take pleasure in things. After 16 I don´t remember feeling truly, truly happy, even in situations where you might expect me to.
University a further trigger
It steeply got worse at university. Being away from the home setting and friends isolated me more and therefore I guess my depression came out more. I think I had it in my head that they bullied me at school because I was somehow ridiculous and silly and embarrassed myself in front of people, which led to my social anxiety at university.
My mother has depression and she´s a worrier. She worries a lot about me anyway and I didn´t want to worry her further by telling her. That was one of the major things. Telling my Dad would have been ok, whether or not he understood, because he wouldn´t show his worry.
When I did eventually tell my parents my mother was very, very upset and I felt quite guilty because she blamed herself and thought she´d done something to cause my depression, which of course she hadn´t. That was quite hard, worrying her.
Taking the first step in telling someone how I was feeling, even though I only told her certain details and not everything, was a big step for me. I could move forward from there more easily because I was no longer totally alone with my issues.
Recognising there was a problem
It was an episode where I missed all my lectures and didn´t leave the house. I was very distressed and called my friend, and the fact that she was worried about me showed me that I really may have been depressed and that it wasn´t a phase.
Realising I needed help
It took quite a while for me to accept that maybe I needed further help. Talking to my friend, and also being aware that it was really affecting me academically, made me realise that I needed help at that point.
Talking to a stranger, who has no preconceptions and therefore automatically is less likely to judge you, helped in me coming to terms with the fact that I had depression. I was able to begin to express my emotions and feelings unreservedly and therefore identify issues to myself and tackle them better.
Getting better tools
The counselling didn´t suddenly make me not depressed, but it helped me to cope with it. I knew what to look out for; could see the warning signs. I also understood that nothing necessarily bad would happen if I felt worse today than I did yesterday.
By the end of the six sessions, I was still feeling frustrated with not being able to justify my feelings and the counsellor suggested that I consider seeing my GP who could answer more of these questions. A few months after my counselling was over I went to my GP and I´ve been on medication ever since.
Overcoming previous bad experience
I haven´t had great experiences with GPs. I went to one when I was 17, telling him how I felt. I didn´t call it depression – I was going to let him tell me – and he was very dismissive. I went away from that consultation with nothing other than a diagnosis of being hormonal.
Persisting to find the right doctor
So the idea of going to a doctor was not good for me, but my GP on campus is really, really great. He was incredibly understanding and listened and didn´t judge me. He immediately said `Fill in this questionnaire; see how you feel.´
He gave me lots of information. He didn´t just tell me I was depressed. He gave me leaflet and I researched the different drugs he was offering me. So I felt quite comfortable going onto medication because I was informed.
Having ongoing support and strategies
The friend that I had confided in made it very clear that I could turn to her unconditionally. I felt less vulnerable as I had someone to share it with. Also, if the day was really bad, I just wrote down little sentences of exactly how I felt to try and understand what it was.
Keeping a diary
By writing down concretely how I felt, I forced myself to confront things. If I felt vulnerable and distressed, I would try to be as specific as possible as to what I felt and perhaps why. It became less scary, and was easier than voicing it to an actual person.
Talking to parents
Writing down what I felt made it easier to talk to my parents then, because I asked myself things before I could talk to them and it was easier. My parents are very supportive. Telling them was easier because I know them very well and I know how they might react.
Support from parents
Although I felt guilty about upsetting my mother, I am glad I told them as I couldn´t have hidden it from them forever; we´re very close. It also means, that now I am at home, when I am feeling a bit more depressed I am not alone with that, because they are aware and they can see the changes coming over me.
I think that talking to friends about it is a different matter. I still feel a sense of isolation, but less so. I feel, as I slowly become more comfortable with my friends, that I can be more open with them and feel less alone.
I think counselling helped me learn to be less anxious about every little thing. Just sharing it with people and the more I shared it the smaller it became and it wasn´t overwhelming anymore. I felt I had control because I shared it.
I´m a lot better than I was before. The tearfulness has really lessened and I only have it very occasionally when I feel quite distressed. I feel less grey and I do take more pleasure in things. I feel happier about living now and think less about death.
I haven´t overcome it, but I have made huge steps in a positive direction. Now I still have quite dark days, but it is ok to tell someone about them. Before, I´d have them and not say anything. I am still not quite convinced that I am a worthy person but I am getting there.
I have done a bit of blogging on another website when I felt particularly low, and definitely found that reading about others’ experiences helped me. It was tremendously reassuring hearing that some of the thoughts I was having others also reported, and that I wasn’t just ‘being silly’ or ‘weak’ – there were other people like me who understood.
What I´ve learnt
Don´t underestimate the effect of bullying
I think to an extent depression is biological because it runs in my family, but I don´t think you can underestimate how certain events can affect you. I just dismissed school things as a cause, because I just thought these things happen at school, but actually they can shape your world.
Learn to understand your own depression
I personally found that being in the dark with what I was feeling was quite scary and isolating because I didn´t understand why I felt this way. It helps to understand it better. Sometimes little things happen which make depression more acute, so if you work out what the triggers are then you know; you can understand the process and what happens better.
Write it down
I recommend writing down what you are feeling as a first step. Depression becomes less confusing and more manageable this way. I know that saying it out loud can be quite scary, so keep a log of how you are feeling and how it changes and what triggers certain things.
In my experience, certain people can think if it is depression, it´s not a physical illness and there is a stigma. People back away; I´ve a friend who just backed away and I haven´t spoken to her for a while, but generally people are quite supportive. If others see that you can be open about depression, I think that seeking help will seem easier and less stigmatising or embarrassing, as it can often be.