This is the big one isn’t it?! This is the one everyone takes really seriously… And I can’t think of a single thing to write! Well that’s not strictly true I can think of something but I’m not sure I have the energy or inclination to write about it in this post. I have no problem writing about it, I just feel like it might be worth interpreting this brief a bit differently…
What the heck… My important lesson in life is this:
It’s ok to ask for help.
Several years ago I reached the unenviable conclusion that I was suffering from depression. I had never really been confident growing up, at least once I hit double digits, and went from a skinny youth to an overweight teenager. I never thought of myself as attractive, certainly by the time I reached the age it really mattered to me, and I was never as good as I wanted to be at all the things I did. I was pretty popular to be fair. I felt adequately liked by most everyone, but not really enough for them to be that fussed about seeing me outside of school. Sort of a jack of all trades, master of none in the popularity stakes. At least that’s how I felt. I’m sure there were some people who cared about me more than I thought, and some who cared less…
I did well at school when I applied myself, but didn’t apply myself enough when it came to the important parts so came through pretty average. I learnt to play the electric guitar pretty well (something I have shameful slacked off on the past few years), was ok at drawing yadda yadda yadda. They were my school years. I didn’t think you we’re really supposed to go through them full of joy so I didn’t think all that much of it. I have fond memories still so I’m sure it wasn’t all that bad, but some of it was pretty bad. Perhaps no worse than anyone else, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t bad.
I was a pretty lonely teenager when I think about it and as I never seemed to have any luck with the girls I spent a great many years becoming less and less confident, and suffering from ever decreasing self esteem. A vicious cycle really.
It worsened significantly in sixth form, which is at the point I think I actually started suffering from depression, rather than just being an overweight, awkward teenager. I still had great friends who I’m happy to call my friends to this day, but they couldn’t help me and I didn’t want or ask them to (with the exception of one unlucky soul who got too close and suffered endless whining and woe-is-me’s until she finally snapped and we had to take a break. Today though she is my best friend and knows me as well as almost anyone could, so here’s to her for sticking with me!) I would occasionally go entire days without speaking, which at school is quite something. I don’t remember a whole lot else about those days. It probably wasn’t as bad as I think… Memory is a funny thing and wholly unreliable really. Also you’ll have to allow for me focussing on the negative what with this being a tale of my depression!
Then came Uni, or for me a year working whilst most of my friends went to Uni. It was a fairly uneventful year, one of my friendships broke down, partly due to me confessing feelings of more than friendship and party from them consequently avoiding me, haha. Then it was my turn to go to Uni. I didn’t love it, but made some good friends and spent 2 weeks that summer visiting one of them in Hong Kong, giving me my first taste of travel. The next year a bunch of us rented a house together and my depression took a turn for the worse. I ended up confiding in a friend and subsequently started to see a counsellor at Uni. It was nice to talk to someone once a week without having to worry about what they thought. The sessions were much more just me talking and being asked what I thought about everything, rather than any kind of analysis and I continued with them until the end of the year. Unfortunately though it was useful, it didn’t help me all that much and by then I was extremely depressed as I felt like I was the outcast of the house, frequently excluded from things etc. During that year though I had joined an online forum and made lots of friends through that. I quickly became a popular member and would often travel to some of the meets we would have dotted around the country to see my friends and get far too drunk. For the most part I had a great time with them.
The following year all of us from Uni were doing our ‘year in industry’ and I ended up getting a placement (and little did I know starting my career) in my home town. I much preferred working to studying, and kept up with my oldest friends from school as well as those from the forum. Unfortunately my condition continued to worsen until it all came to a bit of a head at the last meet I attended. I had let a friend down and was upset by that, but my best friend who had travelled a long way and was meant to stay with me that weekend, at the end of the night told me she was not coming. It was that moment that I felt it all slip away. She had claimed to be in love with me up to that point and on that evening, unluckily for me I finally realised I felt the same way. As such everything fell to pieces.
I remember that night vividly. Of course I was drunk and therefore not in a fit state at all, but as I realised how late it was and only just managed to catch the train home I lost it and became borderline suicidal. Fortunately for me I ended up speaking to a friend on the phone whilst on the train and blurted everything out (goodness only knows what anyone who could hear me on the train thought!!). Luckily for me he is one of the best people I have ever known. He talked me down and told me he would come to meet me at the station and we would have a chat. I don’t think I can’t ever really repay him for that night.
I spent the next day in bed under the guise of a terrible hangover. I was totally numb and pretty much cut myself off from the world. I think I stopped visiting the forum altogether and just stopped everything.
Even for months after that I just carried on. The guys from Uni nominated my closest friend to call me and tell me that they were all renting a house together next year and to let me know I wouldn’t be sharing with them. A blow for sure, but one I had expected. I think by that point I had already decided I preferred working to Uni, so I was in negotiations to stay on at work and attend Uni part time over two more years instead of full time for one. And so my life continued.
I carried on getting worse, though I confided in another friend at work who helped me (another poor girl I ended up developing a crush on and no doubt weirding out and ruining our friendship!), but it wasn’t until I started having severe panic attacks that I finally decided to do something about it. Bear in mind this is around 4 years after I most probably started suffering from depression.
I booked an appointment with my doctor and told him I was no longer able to manage my emotions. He prescribed me some anti-depressants and I started taking them immediately, and utterly in secret. I remember the initial side effects of the pills being crippling headaches, but other than that they did nothing. I returned to the doctor and he increased my dose. Finally a few months later I was on the highest dose, waiting to see what happened.
I was on the pills for a total of around a year if my memory serves and I came to realise that I felt better. Not just free from panic attacks, or suicidal thoughts, but fine. I actually felt fine. I was ok. Life was fine. It wasn’t amazing, I was working for a crappy company, I was still single etc. but I realised I could handle those things perfectly alright. I went on the Atkins diet and lost over 4 stone. I felt better about myself but more importantly I felt like I could manage. It didn’t matter than certain aspects of my life still left much to be desired, because I felt ok about it and that I could do something about it if I wanted to.
So I did. I finished my degree (though I hated almost every minute of it), quit my job to coincide with summer and started planning a round the world trip, something my brother had undertaken not too long before and which had inspired me. I said goodbye to my friends and family and travelled for just under a year. It was a truly unforgettable experience (although I kept a journal just in case!)
That was seven years ago. Today I am engaged to a beautiful woman whom I do not even come close to deserving. We live in a lovely big house with our two dogs in my home town, where I get to see my best friends regularly. Life is good, and since my recovery I’ve never looked back. I’ve had bad days, maybe even bad weeks, but I’ve not come close to how I felt when I was in the grip of that depression.
And so that was my inordinately long way of saying that it’s ok to ask for help when you need it, because sometimes we’re not able to take on everything by ourselves, especially when it comes to illness. And Depression is truly a crippling illness. I’m only sorry it took me so long to really do something about it, but I understand why it did. I often felt like it was my fault I felt the way I did. That I deserved it. Now I know that no one deserves to feel that way, and I hope anyone who reads this who might be suffering from depression in any way can take something positive away from it.
Thanks for reading.