A few years ago, I posted several posts on this website about suffering from Paranoid Schizophrenia. As it turns out, I was suffering from a depression related psychotic episode, and so was mis-diagnosed. This was also my fault, due to being young, stupid, and explaining it badly to my doctor. I (thankfully) got out of it, and have never experienced another psychotic episode. I have, however, been suffering from periods of depression ever since. Here is a post I recently made on my blog, as a way of coming out about my depression to try and remove the stigma, and to let people know they are not alone in this. I apologise before hand about the length.
"Right. Well. Where to begin? I guess it would seem right to start at the first time it happened, but I don't really remember much of it, to be honest, apart from the aftermath, such is the nature of it for me. Well, actually, that seems to highlight what I should start with. What is 'it'? I suffer from many things; migraines, social anxiety, a fear of using the telephone (it sounds strange I know, but it is true). The one thing that really stands out, 'it', is my depression. Not constant depression, or depression over specific events, but periods of depression, with nothing seeming to be needed to spark them, and no way of dealing with them bar waiting for them to finish of their own accord. Most last about a month, come out of nowhere, and then I just start feeling better.
So, I guess, with that covered, I can go back to the first time it happened. I was around 13 / 14 (as I say, I can't remember clearly). To this day, I can't think of any event that set it off, as is common with depression. I got asked many times at the time, and with my memory, there is now no chance whatsoever of finding that event. But that isn't really important. The key point is that it happened, and I fell into a depression. It was the longest solid depression I’ve had, with only short periods of feeling normal during it, a few days here and there, and, all in all, including the time for recovery, it lasted about a year, maybe a year and a half. Now, that depression was different from my later ones, in fact, different from any other one I’ve had, not just in length. First of all, in the whole year (and a half), I didn't once feel suicidal. That's not to say I’ve felt suicidal in all my later depressions, but at least in a few of my longer ones, and I’ve always felt down in such a way that I would feel suicidal if it lasted longer. But it's odd that in my longest one, I never once felt near to suicidal. The second difference is that I suffered from hallucinations at the peak of that first depression, auditory and visual, something that is now VERY rare to me. It wasn't exactly enjoyable.
Now, it took me way to long to get help. Stupidly long, and as it turned out, by the time I actually got anything nearing help, I no longer needed it. I have always been unable to tell my parents anything important. In fact, I will keep lying, and be unable to tell them the truth, even at the point where they flat out know I’m lying and tell me so. I don't know why. I wish I could tell them important things. A few theories have been put forward as to why I can't, but the crux of that matter is that I can't, and it doesn't seem I will ever be able to. The first few weeks and months of that first depression made me put on a smile at home, and pretend I was fine (and I must be a good actor, as they didn't notice a thing), and as time went on, it became automatic, and grew to the point where I couldn't stop it if I wanted to, something that still sticks with me today. So it meant that I never told my family, even when I needed them most. I'm sure at school, people noticed me acting stupidly, but that was me trying to get myself noticed, and helped. I wrote a diary (it hurts me to read through it now, I was so filled with sadness, hate and confusion then), and left it open in my room, hoping my mother would read it, but it seems that she respected my privacy, and so they never found out.
I (eventually) confided in the school counsellor, but only really when I’d started to feel better. She referred me to CAMHS, the child and adolescent mental health service, and, in doing so, had to inform my parents. Obviously, this lead to many awkward conversations, and I stonewalled them a bit, but there are some things you don't want your family to know, and how I was feeling at the time, some of the things I had thought, definitely fit into that category. But that awkward time soon passed, and I started visiting CAMHS. We talked, I was offered medication that I refused (for several reasons, including the risk of developing lactating breasts and my fear of growing dependant on the medication), and I got referred yet again. I had some EEGs, one awake, one asleep, that both came back inconclusive, and I got sent back to CAMHS. By this time, the depression had naturally worn off, and they sent me on my way, effectively saying, "Sometimes, this stuff happens, and we don't know why." I think it was assumed that that would be it.
Well, a good few months later, I went through another depression, that only lasted a month or two, and I didn't tell anyone for fear of going through the whole, useless process again. It wore off, and as far as I was concerned, that was that. Now, I can't remember if it happened again in the time between then and GCSEs. I'd say probably yes, at least once, but I can't really remember properly. It doesn't really matter anyways. The depression that I was going through while we were doing the GCSE exams was the first one, of two so far, where I actually felt suicidal. It wasn't that I felt life was too hard to live; it was just that I saw no point in living it.
I guess now is a good time to stop and actually explain what my depression feels like. I normally have a fairly low self-esteem. I feel everyone is better than me, and just take it as given. However, when I’m depressed, it feels that everyone is purposefully showing off that they are better than me, to mock me. That they are watching me, as I’m walking down the street, people are staring at me, as if I exude some sort of visible aura that displays all that is wrong with me. I realise this is nonsense, but I still feel it. Another key aspect of my depression is melancholia. I have no motivation to do anything, some days working hard to even get out of bed. I generally feel down about everything and am rather defeatist. I stop enjoying things I used to, and just wish each evening was over and I could just crawl into bed, without having my family worrying over me. This soon evolves into wishing each day itself is over, and the constant sense of a feeling of waiting for something to happen. Eventually, I just think, nothing ever happens, all I am doing is waiting for something to happen, and it doesn't. Why should I even bother waiting? Why not just end this horrible feeling now? And hence the suicidal feeling come out. Every day I keep up the smile, not wishing to burden others with my worries, and it becomes exceptionally hard to do. Yet I still do it. I am tired and fatigued constantly, my sleep pattern messed up. I also tend to comfort eat, a lot. There's a general sense of worthlessness too.
There's a lot more to it than that I’ve just described, but past that point I can no longer describe how I feel, and there are some things only others who have experienced depression can recognise, such as the strong sense of detachment, and unreality to the world. I am lucky, if you can call it that, to have someone in the family, who wishes to remain unnamed, who had been through something similar to what I have, although more the anxiety than the depression, whereas I am more depression than anxiety. They understand what I’m talking about, and make me feel that I can connect to someone else. One final point before I get back to my history of depressions; I find it unlikely that I will be able to form a proper relationship, given that I can, at random times, for sometimes long periods of time, become exceedingly depressive. Anyone who is in a relationship with a depressive, whatever you do, don't just give up on them. They need you more than anything, and luckily, most people, unlike me, will only go through 1 period of depression, or regular periods, not uncertain like me. Read about depression; try to understand what they're going through. Don't take it personally; treat it like any other illness or disability, as that is all it is.
Anyway, back to GCSEs. My mum found a scrap with some worrying notes made by me, in the general form of I don't want to go on living. This was, ironically, after a very close friend had talked me out of thinking that way. So more awkward conversations ensued and I eventually promised to tell her if I ever felt like that again. Well, to be perfectly honest, I did feel suicidal again at one point, but not as bad, and once again the close friend talked me out of it. I didn't tell my mum, as there was something else serious going on, and I didn't want to make the situation worse for them, and risk making the aforementioned family member fall into a depressive / anxious state of their own. Stupid, I know, but that was how I thought at the time.
I have been depressed on and off since then, with the occasional (very occasional) hallucination, usually at night, when I am more tired than my usual fatigued state, although they are likely down to my poor sleeping habits and sleep deprivation. I would say I’ve felt fine more than depressed on the whole since that first depression, but recently there's been less 'normal' time between each depression. Just coincidence, or the possibility if my becoming worse? I don't know. But I just see what happens and deal with it as it comes. The only thing that makes me consider the latter slightly more is the fact that I recently had a panic attack for the first time in my life. Once again, the same very close friend helped me out of it, and I would like to thank them for putting up with me all of this time, dealing with my whining, my angst, my petty issues, and helping and saving me on countless occasions. At the same time, I would like to apologise to my immediate family for not telling them all of this, when I promised I would tell them everything. I don't know why I didn't. I just can't. But I am telling you now, and even if you don't realise it, you have still been extremely helpful. Don't worry. I am learning to manage it better, and I will find a way to cope with it, even if I have to consider medication if it gets worse. I guess I want to be independent, and not become reliant on anyone else to get me out of my depressive states.
And finally, to everyone, just appreciate what you have, and make the best you can of your lives. And never, ever give up. I am so glad I didn't. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I hope you now have an inkling for what living with depression is like. Lets remove the stigma of mental health and talk about it, like I have done. Look into Time to Change if you think it’s time we were open about mental health."