On Thursday 1st March 2018, at the age of 21, I finally opened up to the Doctors. Only a week earlier, after a pretty heartbreaking break up, I admitted to my parent’s that I was depressed and I needed help.
From the age of 15 I’ve had depressive episodes, but none as bad as the one I’ve experienced recently. Maybe it’s because of my life situation right now – you could say I had it easier back then, but it’s still equally as debilitating each time you relapse. Life can help you and lift you up and yes, you are truly the only person who can help yourself but sometimes, you need help from the professionals.
When I was 15, I had low self confidence. I went to an all girls grammar school – everything was so competitive and I was never good enough. I was the “dumb girl”, “fat girl”, “four eyes”, “absolute weirdo”. I was bullied and the runt of the litter. I had basically no friends and whilst learning was a joy, school was absolute hell. In sixth form, I confided in a few close friends and with two amazing teachers, but when I reached out to a professional, I got laughed at and turned away. It made me scared to talk about it again.
Since being at uni, I have had several breakdowns. I’ve managed to keep them well hidden – however this just resulted in things escalating in different ways. I entered into a few self destructive relationships purely because I didn’t want to be the ‘single loner’ anymore and I’d just grasp anyone who remotely liked me. I had lots of people surrounding me and lots of groups and activities. I kept busy so even on my dark days, I could mask it up with work or going out with friends. I opened up to a flatmate within the first month where I was just told ‘he felt sorry for me’ and I needed to ‘grow up’. I was just 18. Those words still echo.
I’ve done a lot of growing up in the last year. Reality has hit but I haven’t been able to hide my depression anymore. I entered into my first proper relationship and whilst some things were wonderful, we were on different pages and my mental health issues completely pushed everything away. I’m still getting over this. It’s still raw and it still hurts a fucking lot. But it’s made me seek help. It’s made me realise I can’t rely on another person solely for my happiness. I create my happiness for me and then that will radiate to those around me too. I’ve also struggled with uni, finances and friendships in the last year, which has really dragged me down. I’ve been working SO much but have been getting nothing from it – I’m stressed, I’m poor and most of the time I’m alone. It sounds like a whiny first world problem but when you’ve got depression, these problems just feel like SO much worse.
The thing that has shocked me most since opening up about my depression is not the stigma on the condition itself, but the use of antidepressants. Because of my family and long personal history, I was recommended to take SSRIs for the foreseeable future. No, I don’t want to be reliant on a pill and no, I don’t want to take away my efforts to leave the drugs to do it all. But one thing people don’t understand is that I was completely not myself at my lowest. Getting out of bed, making a meal, even taking a shower is SO HARD. Antidepressants aren’t such magic happy pill to take you to cloud 9, but they do give you a massive helping hand getting out that dark hole and into a medium place where you feel able to be human again. Absolute happiness is down to you, but they give you your basic life back which you thought would be lost for ever.
I have had comments. “Other people have it worse”. “It’s just hormones”. “Why’ve you had a breakdown over a break up”. It’s a lot deeper than people realise. I’ve become quite an open person in the last few years, but I know what to keep private. I’m fully aware than other people have it worse. I know I’m extremely privileged and lucky to have what I have. But no amount of goods or rewards can mask the fact I have a mental illness. It doesn’t work like that. A lot of people still aren’t aware. But yes, I completely understand how hard something is to understand unless you’ve been through it yourself.
This week it’s mental health awareness week, so I decided to write a post about my depression on my personal insta. This was such a big thing for me. I’ve barely spoke to anyone over the last few years about depression, but since admitting it, I’ve had SO much help and so many people talk to me about their mental illnesses too. Even one of the old ladies at work was comparing meds with me and asking how everything is! I didn’t want it as a cry for attention, but to get more people talking. If just one person messaged me asking for help, it would be amazing. Going to the GP is a big thing. Telling your parents is a big thing. It took me six years. I wouldn’t want someone to suffer for six years without speaking out like I did. Just for someone to know that they’re not alone is important – loneliness has been an awful part of my depression and I’m so grateful for the people who stuck by me when I felt so isolated and abandoned.
What I absolutely have LOVED recently is the coverage of male mental health. Women are so much more open about their health compared to men, but most death’s in males under the age of 40 are due to suicide. Coronation Street has covered this issue beautifully but heartbreakingly raw in a recent storyline and I’ve seen much social media coverage on men speaking out, with celebs stepping forward and telling their stories. Even the amazing beer mats for the pubs can reach SO many people.
I know it’s so hard to do little things when you’re relapsing. I’ve made a list of little tips to help you make AMAZING progress. One little step is brilliant. Reward yourself and be kind to yourself!
- Water! Honestly hydration is key and you’d be amazed how much it can reduce your fatigue and perk your mood. Drink a litre. Aim for a bit more.
- Exercise. This is SO hard when you’re struggling to even get out of bed, but I can’t emphasise how amazing it is for your body and improving your mood. I started out small: a walk round the block or to the shops, then walking to work, going to the gym. Dancing. Swimming. Anything you love to keep you moving. Yoga is also amazing for headspace.
- Shower. Freshening up is so soothing for the soul. Even if you simply got out of bed, showered, then got back in – go you! You achieved something today.
- Finding outlets – put efforts into something you love. Be creative. Be adventorous. For me, this was starting writing and photography again. I simply stopped them last summer. My insta was dead (and I am an absolute insta hoe). Yeah, I splash photos on the internet each day but you know what, it’s my creative outlet and a diary of how far I’ve come. Let the girl be an insta hoe if she wants.
- Change scenes! Whether this be where you live, where you gym, where you walk, where you shop. For me, I got a new job! Whilst it’s a stress, it’s reduced my feelings of loneliness- I get to talk to people all day long and I’ve made new friends (which two months ago I didn’t think was possible). Stop being repetitive and shake it up a little.
- Eat well – listen to your body. What does it crave? Whilst eating healthy with plenty of fresh fruits and veggies is best, don’t be totally restrictive either. You want to treat yourself to chips? You go to that chippy. As long as it’s in moderation and it’s what your body wants, do it.
It’s okay not to be okay. Remember that.
Mental illness is just as valid as physical illness. We have to be kind to ourselves and to others, and support and raise awareness where we can. Speak out about your issues. They’re normal and shouldn’t be made to think like they aren’t.
Below are some contacts and charities who you can speak too. Don’t forget, if you’re a uni student, use the services! They professional and free, whilst being right on your doorstep.