Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety are something that the public are hearing more and more about. A person may ask, well what is depression? Depression can be defined as feelings of severe despondency and dejection. However, if one has not experienced depression, I personally feel that they can never truly understand what depression is.
To me, I always thought it was just feeling sad about something for example if you didn’t get the grade you wanted on that college assignment. It is a word that is easily just thrown around by many and I myself was guilty of this. That was until I experienced depression myself. It accumulated itself inside my head, almost like it was chipping away at all the happiness that once oozed from inside me.
One way that I can describe it is to picture it as a black dot in your head. My dot started small, but eventually as the months passed, the dot got bigger, and bigger and bigger. Until my head was completely covered by this enormous, evil black dot. I suppose my depression may have been triggered by my anxiety. At around 17, I had slight anxiety tendencies. Restlessness, paranoia, over thinking, shaking etc. It was very mild, and this anxiety was something I could control.
Fast forward to age 19. I was in my 2nd year of University and the anxiety slowly started to manifest itself within me. I was in a long distance relationship at the time, but a long distance relationship and a girl who has anxiety is a big no no. Of course, I told myself It would be ok and I could deal with it.
Dealing with depression
I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. I should have been happy, I had tons of friends, a family that loved me, and I was in University. I was so lucky. So why were thoughts of suicide coming into my head? These thoughts absolutely petrified me. I found myself unable to get out of bed with these thoughts swarming my brain. I stopped eating, my weight dropped and I looked so poorly. I missed weeks of college on end. I never saw my friends. I felt so guilty as I was plagued with messages off them wondering why I didn’t want to hang out with them, which soon turned into angry messages.
In my twisted head, I felt that they didn’t deserve to be around someone as worthless as me. So, I continued to isolate myself, all whilst constantly worrying over my relationship. My head was going 90 miles an hour. I was getting around 2 hours of broken sleep a night, or less, because of this. Id sit in my room and drink alone, just to try block out these destructive thoughts. When I did have to leave my room, It was to go to work.
Whenever I left the house, I was faced with enormous panic attacks, which I did not know how to handle as I’d never experienced them through my anxiety before. I’d come home from work and put a happy face on so my family weren’t suspicious. This continued for months on end until one night I had a breakdown and told my parents that I thought there was “something wrong with me”. The next day my local doctor diagnosed me with severe clinical depression and anxiety. I was put on an antidepressant and sent on my way.
Coping with suicidal thoughts
In my head, these pills would make me normal again. And I did try to be normal. So why was I still having suicidal thoughts? I knew I was worthless, the voice inside my head constantly told me. I didn’t want to be here anymore. No one needed me and I didn’t need myself. I wanted out of these demonic thoughts. I started counselling with Pieta house. I realised I didn’t want to die. I really really did not. I wanted to fight this. This isn’t who I am and I desperately wanted to be me again. The bubbly girl who loved to have fun. Where did she go?
I realised it was time to tell my friends what had been going on with me the past few months, because a problem shared is a problem halved right? Well, indeed it was! My friends were so supportive and understanding, which I am, and was, so grateful for. I continued to see my counsellor from Pieta house. I was so sceptical at first of counselling, but it was the best decision I have ever made. Talking things out sounds so cliché but I’m learning that its an amazing thing to do.
I’ve always been the type of person to keep things to myself and never share my problems (I apparently get that trait from my Mam & Nanny), but slowly, I started telling my counsellor everything. Things I had kept inside for years were suddenly spluttering out of my mouth, and the best part was, that it felt so good. I could feel the huge dark dot inside my head, getting smaller, as each week passed. Granted, I had my good and bad days, and god, there was very bad days, but whenever I felt weak, or had suicidal thoughts, I managed to defeat them, by talking to someone (family, a friend, Samaritans!). The most important part, was that I just kept on fighting.
Learning to fight anxiety
My anxiety also started to calm down as the weeks went on. My amazing counsellor taught me tips on how to deal with panic attacks, and provided me with brilliant anxiety exercises, that will stay with me for life. After 14 sessions of counselling over the course of 5 months in Pieta house, I felt that I was ready to stop. Family members and friends had noticed a change in me. They said they could see the old me starting to reappear. I myself, was beginning to feel like the old me.
After my last counselling session, I cried and cried. I cried with happiness, proudness, joy! That feeling of “normality”, that I so craved throughout the months of my depression, was finally back. I started to believe in myself more and more, and realised for the first time in months, that I was worth it. LIFE was worth it. 4 months on from finishing counselling, I feel so like me again. I still continue to take anti-depressants, however I hope to be coming off them soon. My anxiety is still with me, and probably always will be, but thanks to my counsellor, I have learned how to handle it and I have learned to accept it. It is a part of me, so I may aswell embrace it!
So here I am today, writing this post, in order to raise awareness on mental illnesses and to stop the stigma that surrounds them. If anyone has gotten to the end of this long post (congrats!), I hope you have gotten something from it. No one in this world is ever alone, no matter how alone you may feel. No matter how small or big your problems are, talk to someone. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from a mental illness, take the help that is available. Take it from a girl who was so sceptical of counselling and receiving help, It was the BEST decision I’ve ever made. It literally saved my life.