January 21, 2012 5 Comments
This is a post I really didn’t think I would need or want to have to write. I’ve been trying to keep things mainly under wraps, because, you know, that’s how British people deal with stuff. From the outset, though, I’ve always wanted to be totally honest about things on this blog – especially where I think I can help other people. Maybe I won’t be able to. But I kind of hope so.
I’m susceptible to having depression. I briefly mentioned it here, actually. I’ve had it twice in my life. Once, undiagnosed at 14 or 15 – my closest friend died. He was a grandfather figure to me. I wasn’t able to go to the funeral, so I never said goodbye. For months I heard his voice in my head. For weeks I came back from school and thought his car was parked outside my house; that it was all a huge mix-up. I spent a lot of my time crying, unable to concentrate at school, torn up by feelings of guilt that I never visited him in hospital. That my last words to him were probably “I don’t want you here anyway” – how do you live with yourself after that? It was a dreadful, lonely experience and a forced repression of valid grief. I actually made a point of going to see his ashes at the local crematorium in January 2010 – around seven years later. You never really understand how grief can affect people in strange ways until someone close to you dies. Then you find yourself years later, standing in a crematorium, crying, saying sorry to a box of ashes surrounded by family photos. I left the crematorium feeling a huge sense of closure and a weight off my shoulders: Funny how things work like that.
At the time, I didn’t really realise what was wrong with me. I just felt broken. I now know it was depression, because I was later diagnosed (second time) with clinical depression aged 18 when I was at my first university – and my feelings were exactly the same. I stopped going to lectures. I stopped eating. I became a recluse. I hallucinated. I fantasised about how best to kill myself. I cried myself to sleep every night. I lashed out at other people and had so many arguments with loved ones. I went to my doctor’s surgery at home – unfortunately not my actual family doctor, as she was busy. I explained to him I was crying every night, that I felt like I couldn’t cope. He said: “You’re being too hard on yourself.” “You’ll be fine once you settle into uni.” “Just give it time.” I had already been at university for about two months. I was sent home with nothing. I was angry and I went home crying, but I doubted myself at the same time. It felt different to me just being a little bit upset. This felt like more – a deep, soul-destroying sadness that didn’t really seem to be coming from any one place.
I know, more than anyone, that depression is different to just ‘having a bad day’.
I stayed there for a few more weeks, thinking “Maybe I am just being hard on myself!” But it didn’t get better, I just got much, much worse. The solution for me, at that time, was to leave uni. I came back home, much to the disappointment of my family – and myself – at having ‘failed’ at university. [You may then understand why it is a big deal for me to have attained a degree last year - I had been physically ill for most of my time there, and I suffered with smaller bouts of depression - at times, there were days where I just couldn't leave my bed, and I couldn't stop crying. For no real reason.]
Back to 2006: I was put on anti-depressants when I was at home, and I got a job, and worked, and I applied to go to another uni to do a foundation course. It was a really long and difficult time. I finally was off the meds around two years later, in early 2009, when I was at my second university. I didn’t like my dependency on them, and I didn’t want to feel totally numb anymore. It was a relief to finally have control back, and I swore to myself that I would find better ways of coping, and I’d never go back on them.
It seems I might have to break my own promise to myself.
Since I graduated I’ve been trying to get a job, and trying to get some kind of stability that I felt I lacked at uni. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve spent the last three years in suspended animation, waiting for my chance to go and do the things I really want to do. And since June last year the situation has been massively exacerbated by not being employed. I’m actually surprised that I have lasted this long, and been relatively okay, but I think now is the time to admit defeat.
It’s really hard to explain how I feel, because I am having days or small moments where I am okay – or even happy – but it’s all really superficial because there’s a rumbling undercurrent of sincere unhappiness and dis-ease. I think depression is different for everyone. It’s taken me a while to reach the conclusion that it is indeed depression, mainly because this time it’s not characterised by sadness, but by exhaustive, unrelenting anger. It seems to take on a different form each time. In me, depression generally brings out ridiculous mood swings, making me more unpredictable than I am usually. I feel like I am permanently one tiny event away from having a huge breakdown. I’m alarmingly highly strung right now: Like everything is dangling very delicately on a string and I am desperately trying to find some glue to hold myself together.
Case in point… I never cry! But now, before I even know it, I realise my eyes are stinging and there’s a trail of warm and wet tears running down my face. I’ve cried more in the last three weeks than I can remember crying in the six months previous. I am more-or-less constantly furious, consumed by rage. At myself. The world. Everything. I am arguing with people more often than I usually do. I am crying a lot. I am not going out, because I don’t want to just spontaneously burst out crying in front of anyone, or be seen to ‘lose’ it in public. It’s all so horribly familiar.
To fellow sufferers: Please take heart that somebody knows how you feel. I really do. I hope you have a good support network around you, and I hope you recover soon. No one deserves to feel like this.
It’s really draining. It sounds so silly, because it’s nothing really, but I can’t keep putting my everything into the things I write or talk about. I am too invested, too passionate about things, and the emotional turmoil is just not worth it right now. The slightest things are triggering panic attacks, ‘blind rage’ episodes and helpless sobbing. I am of no use to anyone right now. So I’m withdrawing from this sort of stuff for the time being, and I’m going to go to my GP when I can and ask to go back onto anti-depressants. I said I wouldn’t, but I don’t really know what else I am supposed to do.
The time for talking is over: Dose me up.