How depression has affected me
Wanting to be alone
My depression works in a way that when I wake up in the morning it can just appear, and the low feelings and emotions separate me from my friends and family. I tend to feel like I’ve lost my connections with people, and just want to be alone.
Stress can make it worse or better
It can be a lot worse when something bad happens in my life, but actually when I’m stressed with work at university it tends to settle down, as I’m more preoccupied with the work. I have managed to pass my university exams.
Affects family life
But I feel when it strikes it really affects my family life, although I refuse to let it show to my family, as to not upset them. I lost my connections and emotions for my friends and family for many many months, and it was extremely distressing. I questioned every little thing in life, and I feel it stole my life for far too long.
Triggered by stress
It all began when I moved into a new flat with my boyfriend, because we couldn’t afford the rent on our previous flat one. It was quite an old flat, and despite my best efforts it could never be fully cleaned. I am a complete clean freak, and when we had problems with gas leaking from old pipes, and mice and insects infestations I completely broke down. I found it impossible to keep up with all my university work, as I couldn’t work in that environment.
One day I woke up and just felt odd, everything was strange. I felt separated from my boyfriend, my family and my friends, as if they were complete strangers. I knew every fact about them, but could feel no emotion or connection. Nothing felt real to me anymore.
Lost all enjoyment
I lost connection with everything I used to enjoy: I couldn’t relax in a hot bath, or enjoy my favourite foods. I felt like I was just walking through life in a daze.
Thought I was going mad
I suddenly felt so afraid and confused, and would cry for hours on end, wishing more than anything I could feel again. This triggered my anxiety. I couldn’t accept I had severe depression; I was convinced I must have been going mad or losing it.
Unable to look after myself
Months went by like this. I had to be cooked for, and shopped for, I just couldn’t focus on anything. I took many weeks off university and had to return home to my family home. I could not believe in the space of a few months my life had crumbled to this.
I knew it must have been causing severe distress to my family, they just didn’t know what to do with me, and my poor boyfriend continued to be supportive and helped me through everything. I used to pray and beg to get better. I used to say: If I’m not better in so many weeks, I will kill myself. The only thing that stopped me is that I was afraid of what my boyfriend and family would do if I did. But I did pray that I would somehow die.
Triggered by stress over the flat
I think I have always had anxieties and worries over lots of things, and when I moved into my new flat, it went into overdrive. I also missed home terribly, and anything that wasn’t the same as home, I tried to change so that it was the same. I was constantly worrying and trying to ‘fix’ everything.
I was never happy in the flat, but I don’t believe this actually caused my depression, as I think it had been a long time coming. My constant need for perfection, with university work, as a girlfriend, and as a human being, would have eventually brought me down. I constantly compared myself and my life to a more perfect one and would constantly strive for something that was impossible. I felt useless, and below expectations.
Result of brain ‘overdrive’
I feel my depression happened because my brain was often in overdrive, and so it covered up my anxieties, and just switched off my emotions and feelings, so that I couldn’t worry anymore.
Accepting I had depression
I think to tackle my depression, I had to accept it. I constantly wanted to know why. Why I was feeling these things. And in the end I had to just accept I was ill, just like any other illness.
Support from family
Also, I found my family and boyfriend to be a massive support and help. Just talking to them, telling them about what I was feeling felt like I wasn’t alone. I moved back with my family and confided in them. They helped me through it all, from feeding me to talking to me.
Getting up in the morning
As much as I hated my life, I started to realise that I HAD to get up in the morning, because it was the only way forward. I stand by the phrase: Just because you can’t see past the mountains, doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything on the other side.
Accepting the need for medication
I also had to accept that I needed medication. For some this isn’t the answer, however I firmly believe it set me back on track, even if it only slightly improved things.
Acknowledging that I was ill
I constantly tried to reconnect with my older self, but I had to learn and accept I wasn’t that person at that moment. I was ill. So I had to learn to be how I felt at that moment in time, and to stop wanting for something. I made deals with myself, such as: If I go out tonight, and I don’t enjoy it (because I don’t feel I will) that’s ok, because I’m ill at the moment, but nothing bad is going to happen, so you might as well go.
Self help books and other people’s stories
I also found reading self-help books gave me something to focus on and achieve, and to read other peoples stories made me feel I wasn’t alone. It is important not to sit there all day focussing on how bad you feel, but those 15 minutes or so you spend reading your book can make a huge difference.
Increasing pleasurable activities
Whenever I felt a little better, I started to do things I used to enjoy again, like cooking meals, and walking round the park, and playing with my pets. Gradually, and very slowly, things started to improve a little, and over time they have continued to stay that way.
Training my mind not to ruminate
I trained my mind not to focus and think repeatedly over things that didn’t matter. I have trained my mind to think about other things, or even just do crosswords to get my mind occupied. I think everyone can have a strategy to put in place when they feel themselves getting low.
Using strategies every day
Gradually, over many many months, I gained some coping mechanisms, and although I am much much better, not a day goes by where I don’t put my strategies into use. Sometimes I wake up feeling a bit low and think that I have to get up today, and focus on the good things.
What I’ve learnt
You can get better!
I never believed I could feel better, but I did. I was at the lowest you can ever be, and I got better. I am not 100%, some days I wake up and think I’ve got to try a bit harder today, but I am 99.9. The world is such a wonderful place to me now, and I don’t take anything for granted.
Find a good doctor
Firstly, I think it is very important to see your doctor, and if possible one that has a good knowledge of mental health. I saw several doctors and many of them just didn’t seem interested or seem to understand, but in the end I found a brilliant doctor who saw me through it. Some cases of depression may not need medication, but it is always best to get some acknowledgement of what you’re going through, and possibly some counselling.
Getting out does help even if you don’t enjoy it
I would say never, as much as you may feel like it, hide yourself away. Just going for a quick walk, or going shopping, or playing football can get your mind thinking about other things. Many people say: well I won’t enjoy it so there’s no point. I felt this way, and I didn’t necessarily enjoy it, but it would have been a lot worse if I had stayed in the house.
You are not alone
I want people to know that they are not alone, and they should never ever feel ashamed or embarrassed about feeling like they need help. I want to share to others that no matter how bad you feel, or how low you are, it can get better.
I am a stronger person now
Tackling depression has actually taught me a lot about life, and I feel that if I can overcome that, there isn’t anything that I can’t do. It has made me a much stronger person, and I know feel I am mentally and emotionally better off. I do wish it had never happened, but I realise you can’t think like that in life. You just have to deal with what life throws at you and tackle it as it comes. I have also learned not to worry about the small things in life, and to enjoy it. My advice is: If you ever face a problem in life, you have to deal with it, but until that day comes, don’t worry about it.