Learning from others

The real student stories and blogs on this site show the many different ways that depression can affect people and the wide range of strategies that can be helpful. This page shows how reading them can help you understand depression better so that you can plan your own strategies.

Real student stories

This website was originally developed with students affected by low mood, depression and suicidal thinking. Every year a new cohort of students contributes their own stories and blogs to build up the bank of knowledge they offer. Comparing depression experiences and strategies in different stories can help you understand your own depression better as well as giving you ideas for strategies you can try out for yourself.

Anna’s story – an example

The ‘Framework for understanding depression’ page shows how understanding your own depression better can help you plan the best strategies for tackling it. We have used the framework here to show how a counsellor might help Anna understand her depression and move forward. Read Anna’s story and see if you agree:

1. Daily functioning

Anna describes a typical downward spiral of worsening mood, uncharacteristic behaviour and increasingly negative thinking – finding herself having paranoid thoughts about other relationships, behaving angrily with others, feeling guilty and disliking herself, and even briefly thinking about suicide. She also mentions sleep disruption and not engaging in anything constructive or fun. Her sense of being ‘nowhere near her normal self’ is a very common experience with depression.

2. Triggers

Anna mentions her recent experience of an on-off relationship where she was treated with disrespect. A counsellor might be aware that this experience may have touched a sensitive nerve in the context of her earlier experience of betrayal in a close relationship. For Anna it may have been that the negative feelings arising from this experience gave depression an opportunity to reinforce a typical downward spiral.

3. Vulnerability

It is impossible to identify all the factors which may have played a role in Anna’s vulnerability to depression just from this brief telling of her story. However, she does describe an example of the kind of difficult experience which often plays a role in vulnerability to depression – abuse or being badly treated as a child. Anna’s complicated relationship with her grandfather was clearly the source of a lot of stress and difficult emotion in her life. Without her realising why, it is likely to have negatively affected her habitual way of seeing herself and thinking patterns.

4. Useful immediate strategies

One of the key ways in which depression affected Anna was to disturb her relationships with her friends and family, through the paranoid depressed thoughts about them and angry behaviour towards them. Anna made the important first step of breaking this isolation and talking to her friend Joe about what she was feeling. This helped her to start to recognise that depression might be affecting her and was an important step towards seeking the kind of help which would suit her – in her case e-mail counselling.

5. Longer-term strategies for resisting depression

Anna describes how her e-mail counselling helped her to challenge some of the ‘irrational’ habits of thinking she’d been having. She was able to challenge the inappropriate guilt she felt about what had happened with her grandfather and also about other things which were out of her control. She learnt more positive ways of dealing with her relationships – becoming more accepting of her own feelings, and more able to be open with others. She also continues to practise a conscious daily technique for recognising and valuing the positive in her life. These longer-term strategies have helped Anna rid her life of depression.

Understanding depression differently

You can use this framework when reading the other student stories on this site.

You can also use it to help you understand your own depression better, which is an important part of finding what will work for you in moving forward from depression.
Reading the stories will show a wide variety of opinions about depression and what is helpful in overcoming it. The rest of this section expands on this critically evaluative perspective on depression.

Next: Seeing depression differently

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