So I have depression, and have had it for the majority of my life. When at school, our year received a talk from “Aware” and I couldn’t believe it. It was like they were talking about me. I had the majority of the ‘symptoms’ of depression. I still have the booklet they gave out. I was so sure that I had found out what was wrong with me. However, I was terrified. I felt that having depression meant I was weak. I felt I couldn’t tell or let anyone see that was struggling, that things weren’t ok. As far as I was concerned it wasn’t serious.
So what did I do? I buried my head in the sand. I told myself to get over it. How could I be depressed when I had it pretty good (a lot better than many others). I threw myself even further into school work. I tried to ignore it.
At the time I don’t think that I realised that it was escalating. My anxiety was getting worse. I was hurting myself. I used it as a punishment. I was (and am) obsessed with being perfect (get 60% in a test – not good enough). Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn’t keep up the act. Things were getting worse and worse. I was pulled out of my secondary school and begun attending an alternative educational setting.
I wish I could say that things started to improve after changing schools, don’t get me wrong they didn’t get worse, for a while. I was still pushing and punishing myself. On top of the usual I began using food as a ‘weapon’. Growing up I used to eat away my feelings. Every time I would feel I would eat. Food became something that had to be earned.
When I came to The Centre (my new school) I found someone I ‘trusted’, her name was Paula*, she was one of my teachers. She helped me and listened to me. When she left I began going downhill again, this time at a much quicker rate. I had let her into the fortress which is me, then she was gone so I built the walls stronger and higher again. I honestly believed that everything was my fault. I had to be perfect.
Around this time my mother’s health also began deteriorating slightly faster. I pushed myself as hard as I could to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student. I wanted to please everyone. I hated and still do hate myself for not being perfect, for everything. I was really struggling to keep up academically but I refused to tell or let anyone see that I wasn’t fine. I had to be fine. I always have had to be fine.
Over time I became less and less able to pretend or to keep up academically. I also began self-harming more, eating less and caring less. If I couldn’t be perfect, then I didn’t want to be here. I have made myself be good academically and I was losing it. I was losing the only thing I was anywhere near good at.
Then in approximately February/March 2015, Jane approached me. Jane had been one of my teachers for a year or so and she explained that she was training to be a counsellor and asked whether I would be interested in meeting her. At the time I was in quite a bad place and I agreed. It was the first real time that I verbally admitted to myself, let alone anyone else that I thought that I might be depressed. I knew that things were getting worse but I was too scared and stubborn to ask for help. In around April I began meeting with Jane. At first it was kind of get to know each other, breathing techniques, etc. Things rapidly but steadily got worse and worse. It took a while for me to tell Jane about my self harming and even longer to tell her about the thoughts.
I finally went to my GP and told him that I wasn’t fine. He prescribed medication and also referred me to a mental health resource centre. After a few months I met with the psychiatrist. The following day I told my mother that I was on medication. She wasn’t that surprised. It took a long time to tell her about the self harm, I eventually told her at the end of October. Since going to my GP that first time my medication has been changed and the dosage altered a lot. It will probably change again shortly. Today is my 34th day clean free from self-harm. I guess that is my story so far…
I am not going to pretend that depression is easy to fight. It consumes you. It is really hard to describe what depression feels like to someone. It is like a constant numbness, a constant emptiness, a constant exhaustion. You can’t think, can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t function. Without a doubt it is one of the hardest things I have ever done.
I have a pair of dog tags that were originally obtained with “Battlefield 4” a few years ago, that I wear around my neck. One of the dog tags has the phrase “Prepare 4 Battle” inscribed on it. Every night I take them off and every morning I put them back on. I find that phrase to be highly accurate and applicable. The only way I can effectively describe depression is to compare it to war. There is a war going on inside my head. Every day is a battle, a fight.
I wouldn’t wish depression on my worst enemy. Depression is far too common for my liking and is romanticised in society. People say “I’m depressed” as a joke or an exaggeration that they are sad. However, depression is not being sad for an hour, or a day, or even a week. Depression is a constant numbness, an exhaustion, an emptiness. I am the prisoner and depression is the warden. Depression is awful; it can easily be fatal. It kills you slowly, agonisingly, from the inside until you are nothing but an empty shell, unable to think or to feel, barely existing.
*Names changed to protect identities of the author.