I’m about as far from ok as it is possible to be, but thanks for asking

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.

Supporting OMBH

I’ve been alerted to this by my friend Steve – his post on ME is here – and thought I should really add my two pence as someone who is classified as ‘disabled’. To explain: The consultation on the reform of the Disabled Living Allowance ends on Valentine’s Day, so One Month Before Heartbreak has been set up to collate blogs from disabled people talking about their experiences, whether they have received DLA or not.

I’ll keep it short, I promise. I just couldn’t not say anything.

I’m classified as ‘disabled’ at University in a couple of ways.
1) I am high-frequency deaf, and have been all my life. I can’t hear bus bells, birds singing, most alarm clocks, fire bells… I also have a slight speech impediment that developed because I couldn’t hear the difference between certain letters.
2) I was diagnosed with clinical depression in late 2006 (incredibly long story but the short version is I was on medication on and off until January 2010)
3) I contracted glandular fever in May 2008 and spent the next 2 years constantly ill. Glandular Fever, also known as mononucleosis, or the ‘kissing disease’ (though I personally didn’t contract it through kissing anyone! Mine was much less pleasant – I almost certainly caught it through travelling on the Tube across London every day…) It has affected my life at University to a great extent – though thankfully, this has not developed into ME as is sometimes the case.

I feel like a fraud discussing Glandular Fever or depression as disabilities (contentious issue, I know), so I’ll stick with something I won’t get flack for – deafness. A lot of people who know me will say “Wow, I never knew she was deaf!” – I get told that all the time. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it or label myself as deaf, because I feel that it detracts from me as a person and I don’t want it to get in the way really.

I am not profoundly deaf but it has affected me as I’ve grown up – it made me very reclusive as a person and made me shy away from group situations. At primary school, I was forced to wear hearing-aids at school by a well-intentioned teacher, and bullied relentlessly for it. I will always remember being chased around the playground by the school bully, who caught up with me, yanked them out of my ears and threw them on the floor. Not much of a surprise that I absolutely loathe them and I do everything to avoid actually explaining my deafness to people (though oddly enough i find that people just think I am stupid). I just get on with life, and if I miss things, or people think I’m stupid… It’s their loss, I guess.

It’s an ‘invisible’ thing – in fact, everything I suffer from or have suffered from is ‘invisible’ – it’s not like having a broken leg. It’s not like being in a wheelchair. People can see wheelchairs and casts, and they treat you differently for it – whether positively or negatively. Does this make it harder for me? I can’t really decide.

On the one hand people don’t judge me immediately. In fact, people are often horrified that they don’t know “Oh, I’m so sorry! I had no idea!” (Well, I didn’t expect you to be a mind reader!), and then shock turns into admiration at the fact that I have “coped so well”.. And whilst I appreciate the sentiment, I am hardly going to give up on my dreams because I’m deaf – being classed as ‘disabled’ doesn’t mean I am stupid, thankyouverymuch.
On the other hand, others not knowing means I spend a lot of time putting up with people who don’t believe me, or explaining it to people. “How can you be deaf if you don’t wear hearing aids?” Ohh, bless you, you only understand stereotypes. SURELY I can’t be deaf because I don’t have hearing aids. I clearly must be a compulsive liar! Throughout school if I missed registers, substitute teachers would shout “Are you deaf or something?!” – Um, yes… I am actually. You can go and fetch my school record and it will show you exactly what I can’t hear..

There is still a stigma surrounding disabilities, especially the more invisible ones like mental illness. They’re rarely talked about, though so many people suffer from one form of mental illness at some point in their lives… What worries me is that those discussing and making decisions are so far removed from reality and real people that they can’t even begin to understand what being disabled is like. To me, disability doesn’t mean you are UNable to do things. It just takes you longer, takes more effort – and more importantly, requires more patience and understanding from other people.
How can they make a decision on DLA reform when they have never had to fight twice as hard to achieve the same as those who aren’t disabled?

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