One day sticks in my mind as the turning point in these 2 months. I’d been taking my tablet everyday as I was told; I hadn’t really noticed much apart from my stints of depression were less frequent and less intense. But then one day I was on the bus back from University (I had actually been in!) and I got stuck in one of those stares where everything around you is a blur of irrelevance. I started to think; in the last two months I had actually done quite a lot. I had been out a few times, I started to miss football, I started to go to University again and I started to enjoy the things I found little enjoyment in before. I sat there on that bus and for the first time in such a long time I felt happy - I actually felt happy with my life. I had found that place in my heart where I could love again; I loved my girlfriend, my family, my friends, and at that point, surprisingly, a little bit of myself. I loved the little bit of me that had won – I felt like a winner. I spent 15 minutes on that bus smiling to myself; the cloud had gone. I felt fixed. I was back to normal. I was me.
I know for the last blog entry it is incredibly short, but I didn’t want to over elaborate that bus journey. I have told it how it was and hopefully you appreciate that. Hopefully if you are suffering it will give you hope that if you continue with the meds or counseling that one day that day will come. It will just hit you – and you will feel so much better. Since then I have started to play football again, I have been successfully completing my University work and I have started to appreciate. I look at my girlfriend and see a beautiful girl who would do anything for me, and stand by my side no matter what. I look at my family and see people who would walk to the end of the Earth to help me. I look at my friends and see people who will be there when I’m bored, and always be available to talk. I look at myself and see a boy who for the last 12 months was a ghost of his former self. I see a boy with a smile on his face. I see a boy who is happy with his life.
I will take this last opportunity to thank the people that have read the blog all the way through. It’s helped me immensely writing it and sharing my experience with the Internet. A lot of the things in the blog I hadn’t told anyone before, and as the final part in my recovery I felt it needed to be done. I also hope by doing this I have proved that this illness can affect anyone, and it isn’t a sign of weakness. And in turn I hope that has helped sufferers and given them the boost they might need to go and get the help they deserve.
I also want to thank my friends, family (especially Mum of course) and girlfriend who have all helped and supported me in the last 12 months. I will be eternally grateful for what you have done and hopefully I will have chance to repay each and every one of you now that this battle is over.
I sat waiting for these pills I’d been taking to work. It didn’t happen in this month. I think I felt slightly better due to admitting I was depressed, if anything. I still felt the lethargy; I didn’t want to go out and face the world in this month. However, on the flip side, I didn’t stay in bed for days. Maybe I would have an ‘episode of depression’ around once or twice a week - I was definitely improving.
I started to feel hungry again. It doesn’t sound like a big improvement worthy of it’s own paragraph, but when you have lost 2 stone of muscle in 9 months it is a big deal. I hadn’t been to the gym, nor had I ben eating. I was skinny and frail, but I was hungry. At last, my appetite was beginning to re-emerge.
My relationship started to improve. My girlfriend understood what had been happening in the last 9 months, and she could now help me. This was a God send; someone to make me food when they ate, to check on me when I seemed low, and to keep inviting me out eventhough the likelihood was that I would decline the request. One day I would say yes, but not yet.
That’s about it for this month - subtle improvements. Miniature steps in the right direction, but it was something. I kept thinking positive, which was a massive improvement in its own right. I kept believing I was going to get better, that the tablets would work eventually. Having that mindset is a huge factor into recovery - stay positive. Use your loved ones for reassurance and comfort when you can’t find it on your own. By doing this I felt like a 100kg weight had been lifted off my shoulders - I could breathe again.
It was just a normal day for anyone else. I got up, got dressed, brushed my teeth and had some food - pretty standard behaviour. But this wasn’t a normal day; this was the day a massive weight I had been carrying for countless months was to be lifted. After this day I’d feel free. After this day I will have started to shape and mould my life into everything I wanted it to be, instead of what it had become.
I wasn’t so much reluctant to step into the Doctor’s - I was more anxious. Were they going to believe me? Am I just being stupid? I know first hand that these thoughts are the 2 most dominant concerns a sufferer will have. But I forced myself to temporarily stamp them out; that day I had to prove I could get the help I needed. I had done the hard bit, I had admitted it to myself and my girlfriend; I had to see the next bit as coming out of that last corner and getting on to the final straight.
To be honest once I actually sat down in front of the Doctor the next 10 minutes are kind of fuzzy in my memory. I remember just telling him how much hatred I had for myself and how my behaviour was affecting the people I love. I remember just saying the words ‘I am depressed’ and not feeling one single strand of shame or embarrassment. I remember how difficult it was to tell him I had self harmed; up to that point it was the darkest of my secrets. I remember him giving me a questionnaire and telling me that I must not swallow all of my tablets. I remember him saying ‘all the best’, and then I was out - prescription in hand. And that was it…it was over.
I am not going to flower it up and say for the next 3 weeks of that month my life was amazing. The Doctor didn’t give me happy pills; the pills should be given the slang name ‘normal pills’ if anything. They didn’t make me happy. For those 3 weeks they didn’t necessarily make me normal. They just made my episodes of sadness, helplessness and despair that little more bearable. But I knew deep down that they took at least 3 months to work properly, and I was determined to stick it out. The support I received from everybody I had informed at this point was crucial; they kept me going - they were that determination.
If I was glad for anything in this month it was for the fact I made the most difficult decision of my life to admit I was depressed in month 8. By doing this I opened up a whole new support network that I didn’t feel was available to me beforehand. For me that is the most important step in the recovery process. It’s not something a sufferer wants to do, but it is necessary. You cannot force them; you just have to sit, be supportive, and continue to hope that one day they will be ready to admit it. One day the recovery process will be set in to motion. It could take weeks, months or years for that day to come, but it will. And it will be the best thing they have ever done.
By this point my illness had really started to have a damaging effect on my life. I was so skinny from not eating, I was so mentally tired from trying to fight the negative thoughts in my head, I had become nothing. I spent the days in bed, literally eating as little as 2 pieces of toast. I had no desire to do anything, not even talk.
My relationships were being affected, especially with my girlfriend. I couldn’t feel love for her anymore, I felt like she would be better off without me. I knew she wanted me to go out with her, but I just couldn’t face all the people and the effort, so I told her to go out without me. But when I was on my own I would get so angry that I wasn’t able to go out. I should have been there dancing with her and holding her hand and showing her how much she meant to me. Instead I was sat in my little cave wasting away. This is when I would cut myself.
I started to get paranoid. I started trying to scapegoat for what was happening. I blamed her for going out and leaving me on my own, how unfair is that? I don’t think I will ever forgive myself for that. It must have been so hard to put up with me, and I am sincerely sorry for that. We started to argue more, but I didn’t have the energy to argue which would understandably frustrate her even more.
One night we were arguing and I flipped out. I threw a chair across the room and screamed that I was depressed and I couldn’t do anything about it. It had beaten me, broken me down, but I had finally said it. I spent the rest of the night sobbing, but I knew that finally, after months, I had admitted it. Not only to myself, but to my soul mate. To the one person I so desperately wanted to explain my feelings to. I had told her.
She was absolutely brilliant after this. I was still a broken man, but she booked me in at the Doctors. She knew to do this as my mum had spent months researching the illness ready for the day I admitted I needed help. I was finally going to get that help. Finally, a weight had ever so slightly been lifted. I still didn’t believe I could get better, but I had to try something. Without my family and my girlfriend I wouldn’t have got the help I needed; I wouldn’t have been marched to the Doctors. And now I can feel emotion again I realise how eternally grateful I am for them, and how much of my love they deserve. I will spend every day making sure I obtain their forgiveness for putting them through a horrendous few months. I spent months wondering if I would ever love my girlfriend again, but I honestly don’t believe I can ever explain how important she was in the recovery process. My family will always be there for me no matter what, but she could have easily upped and left and she didn’t. I will never forget that.
This was most definitely the low point of my illness.
I stopped attending my classes at University, I didn’t want anyone to see me in this state. I spent the month lying in bed, doing absolutely nothing. I felt like I was wasting away, and was absolutely helpless.
When I was on my own in a dark room I would start to get really angry. I would get so angry at myself for just lying there, but I couldn’t offer any alternative. My body just wouldn’t move, and for every suggestion I had there were 3 or 4 negative thoughts - ‘why would you want to do that you’d be shit and everyone would laugh.’ My anger started to fester and bubble.
I also stopped eating. I lost about a stone this month. I would have eaten,but I just wasn’t hungry. Hardly surprising considering I did nothing but put myself down all day.
Eventually I just snapped at myself. I decided I had to be punished for all this negativity, it seemed so stupid. I couldn’t beat it with thoughts or words, I had to take action. I had to fight myself physically. I would bash myself in the head every time I had a negative thought. I would try to punch it out.
I felt numb, like nothing mattered to me. I felt no emotion. I wasn’t happy, or sad. I was just angry at myself; anger and hate towards myself were all I felt. And when I didn’t feel those emotions I felt nothing.
To counteract this numbness I decided I needed to make myself feel something again. When I was alone and feeling like a corpse I would try to evoke some sort of pain. I couldn’t feel love, kindness, gratitude, or any other positive feeling so I would punish myself for this. I would go to the kitchen and just grab a sharp knife.
The first time it took me a bit of time to force myself to do it. I didn’t know why I was doing it I just knew that I had to. I had to make myself feel pain; I had to show myself that lying in bed feeling sorry for myself was not right. So I would just slice, until my arm was a sea of red. I sliced until it started to hurt. And oddly, once it hurt I remembered that I was actually alive. I was human - I could feel.
I didn’t let anyone know I was doing this, obviously I was ashamed. It was the only way I felt in control of myself though; everything else I had tried hadn’t worked.
However, this only lasted for about 2 days until the cuts started to scab, and then the process would start again.
I now have physical, as well as emotional, scars for the rest of my life. In hindsight I know I shouldn’t have done it, but to be honest I didn’t know what to do - I was out of gas. If I had to say one thing to someone to avoid this happening to them I would tell them to take advantage of their loved ones. If you have to be blunt and ask for an ego boost just do it. Or do something you know you are good at, to feel pride again. I thought I was taking control doing what I did, the reality is I was more out of control in this month than any other month. As you will see in the next few blogs, self harming was only a temporary fix; the long term effects were definitely a lot more emotionally damaging than I thought they could be.
For me month 6 was spent feeling like a Failure. I recognised that I wasn’t right (but wouldn’t admit I was ‘depressed’), so tried to prove to myself that I was fine. I wasnt fine.
I spent a chunk of the month trying too hard to be back to my ‘normal’ self. I tried too hard to be funny, too hard to be happy; I wanted to prove to myself that I was fine - I was lying to myself. I was in denial.
Sometimes, I felt like I had to meet the expectations that I thought people had of me (it turns out these expectations had been set by myself), in order for me to appear ‘normal’. I was critical and unfair on myself when people asked ‘what’s wrong?’ - I then felt like I had failed in my task. I was insecure, I was out of ideas, I was scared.
The consequence of this was that I felt like a failure. I had failed in general; I had failed my family and girlfriend, who had moulded me into a nice person only for me to betray that and become a shell. In this specific instance I also felt that I had failed myself. I couldn’t fix whatever it was that was wrong; I was my biggest critic.
I knew I had a problem at the end of the month when I noticed that I had not been to bed happy for a very long time. I was so harsh on myself - I loathed myself. I should have grown up to be a sociable, friendly man; I was failing at life, badly. I am not at all an emotional person, yet I found myself with streams of tears down my face for several nights. I couldn’t fix this, but I couldn’t let anyone else fix it either. I still didn’t let the possibility of ‘depression’ enter my head.
In this month I was also given my less than acceptable exam grades and dumped from the first team. The one thing I thought I was good at was football, and I wasn’t selected. I didn’t care about my results, but football? Football hurt.
I was angry at myself. I should have been able to be ‘normal’, yet I was unhappier that month than I had been previously. The grey cloud had started to spit; my condition had seriously started to affect my life. It was a dark place and I wouldn’t let anyone in. How could I (‘stupid idiot’) have let it come to this? I was out of gas; I became engulfed by my illness, and I had stopped offering a single ounce of resistance.
If there is one thing I have learnt from this month it is that I did not fail. The people I care about love me unconditionally. The only person who had a problem with me, was me.
January 2011 - New year, new start, new me. But unlike many people the ‘new me’ wasn’t me at all. He was a shell - a much quieter, uninterested, unsociable shell. A shell that soon after the turn of the year started to despise what he had become. He started to feel so guilty for ‘burdening’ people with his presence, and ultimately started to think of ways to punish himself - to feel something other than guilt, loneliness and confusion.
I think the ‘dark cloud’ people describe started to materialise around January. I returned to my flat at University; I didn’t return to football or the gym, and I didn’t go on a single night out. I stayed in the flat doing nothing; I ate and slept, that was about it.
It had started to cause a bit of friction in my relationship, but nothing too serious at this point. It was merely due to me not wanting to admit this presumed ‘weakness’ to my girlfriend, so I told her the most common lie of all - ‘I’m fine’.
The more I avoided admitting it and kept it from my girlfriend, the more frustrated she became (understandably). This left me feeling sad and isolated, I was just as frustrated at myself. I couldn’t stand what I was doing to her; I felt so guilty and started to hate myself - I hated how I couldn’t just tell her and admit it. Instead my lack of personality was making her life difficult. I started to believe that I had become a burden on her, as well as others.
As I stopped loving myself I found it hard to let others love me. I couldn’t let other people get too close, because I didn’t want them to see what I had become. It was a horrible time. I found it difficult to let my girlfriend show me affection - after all, how could she love me like this?
When I was on my own I started to consider ways that would make everybody’s life easier - most of these ways involved me not being here at all. I then started to think about punishing myself for considering these things and being so selfish; I was still rational in small doses at this stage.
I spent this month doing a lot of thinking, spiralling deeper and deeper into nothingness. By the end of the month my head was full of horrendous things - unfortunately in the next few months I carried out a few of these, but I’ll leave that for next time.
What I have learned in hindsight about the start of my demise is that if I had just let one person in, everything may have started to get better. I might not have spent the next 5 months in a dark place. It’s sad to think that something as simple as talking may have solved it, or writing my thoughts down and leaving them there. But people must realise how excruciatingly difficult it is to do that at the time. To be cliche, it is so much easier said than done.
NB. I wasn’t 100% sure whether to post these 2 months as for some it may seem a tad dull compared to the rest of the blog. However, I quickly realised that that is the point. If I wasn’t honest and dramatised my story it would be a completely unfair reflection of the illness. I hope you appreciate that.
These 2 months my depression seemed to plateau. I didn’t get any better, but more importantly, I didn’t get any worse.
I spent the 2 months just going through the motions. It was my 19th Birthday in November, and obviously Christmas in December. I saw family and friends, but it was like the lights were on and nobody was home. I just wasn’t quite the same somehow.
I wasn’t very talkative or proactive. I spent days asking myself what was wrong and why I’m not doing things I knew I should be doing. I had no answers. So for the time being I told myself to hold it together - ‘it’s Christmas, nobody wants to see you moping around’.
I got very frustrated at myself as well during this time. The negative thoughts and lack of self confidence were just so foreign, yet I couldn’t stamp them out. They were niggling away at me day in, day out; however for 2 months I think I did a pretty good job of hiding my worries from people.
I didn’t want to ruin anybody’s Christmas with what I saw as my stupid antics; I didn’t want to ‘burden’ anyone with my issues, they had their own lives.* So I just did what I was supposed to and hid behind a fake smile. Looking back this was probably the worst thing I could have done. As a result of me hiding my emotions, I had to deal with the build up of pressure and frustration alone. Cracks really started appearing after Christmas - I’ll leave that for Month 5.
So that’s all for those 2 months really - they weren’t very exciting. But, like I said, it would be totally unfair to pretend I spent every month sliding deeper into depression - it isn’t like that at all. Some months you can simply handle, in some way or another, your thoughts and feelings. I can see now that I spent these 2 months confused, questioning what was happening to me. In other months I didn’t really question anything, I simply just believed the thoughts and feelings, and that is when and why my condition got worse.
*People who love you will always set aside their lives in order to help. I wish I could convince myself at the time that I wouldn’t be ‘burdening’ anybody by talking to them about what was on my mind.
I wouldn’t worry about it being the start of depression at all. A lot of people like to stay in their rooms, there is nothing wrong with it. And most people have negative thoughts, that’s normal. It is a complete overhaul of your personality and a disengagement from society that could suggest depression; it doesn’t mean you have it, it is just a possibility. Like bruising your toe could potentially mean it’s broken.
It seems to me that you just keep yourself to yourself and are mature for your age - there is nothing wrong with that at all so don’t worry.
One thing I would say is don’t waste your teenage years, trust me that when you do eventually get older you will wish you could go back a few years! (I know you won’t believe me but it’s true).
ps. You can be hard working at school & sporty!
The 2nd month brought about more subtle changes in my behaviour. Coupled with the changes in the 1st month I had my first person ask me if I was okay, in a serious manner. To this I replied ‘yes, why?’ with a rather confused expression on my face. -I hadn’t noticed anything. The person smiled and said ‘okay’, and that was that.
I stopped being asked out by people later on in the month, as they knew that I was inevitably going to politely say no. At first I did wonder why people weren’t asking me to go out with them any more, but as the month went on I started to care less, instead retreating to my room on my own. Sadly, I was content with that.
It was in this month that I moved into my University halls. This is supposed to be an exciting new part of your life. Or it could be the most nerve racking thing that you have ever done. For me, it was neither. I was disinterested in University; I wasn’t excited nor nervous – I was just going through the motions because that’s the way it was.
I didn’t embrace my time in halls over the month. I didn’t go out of my way to make friends – I just wasn’t interested. It wasn’t a reflection on the people, they could have been potential friends for life but I didn’t care less; I seemed to be adopting this negative attitude to everything and I had no idea why. I had absolutely no enthusiasm for anything; I went to my lectures, I went to the gym and I joined the football team.
However, I just wasn’t enjoying anything. This, 2 months earlier, would have had me trying to be the absolute best I could be. I would have been working hard in the gym and in practice to make sure I was on that football team. However, as it turned out I started to actually question whether I could make the team. I started to lose self confidence and question my abilities. I wasn’t initiating conversations with my team mates (or anyone for that matter); I spoke when spoken to. That wasn’t like me at all.
And even more worrying about this month was that I started to believe the negative thoughts a little bit. I didn’t whole heartedly believe them, I still shrugged them off as me being stupid – but they were always there, niggling away.
I still went out every night in Fresher’s week at the start of the month. In fact I started to recognise that instead of just going out enjoying myself, I was having to throw myself into every aspect of the night. Maybe I subconsciously knew that something was wrong, and overcompensated by drinking more to ensure that I was good company. I was still making the starting line up at football and attending all my classes, so I don’t believe by this point I had slipped too far into my depression. There were definitely more worrying signs in those 4 weeks when I look back on it.
I was lucky in that I did have my family and girlfriend always there, almost forcing me to do things I normally would have done, and questioning me when I didn’t. Some people haven’t got that support, and their illness can spiral a lot quicker than mine did.
That about sums the 2nd month up. Even I was still dismissing these worrying signs as stupidity on my part. I was ignorant and had no idea about depression;maybe if I knew I could have stopped myself getting as controlled and dominated by it as I was later on in the year.
At the time I wanted to be left alone. Nowadays I don’t mind talking about it - I think the more people talk about it the better they feel.
NB - This blog may make depression seem rational and methodical. I cannot stress enough how this isn’t the case - there is no way I could have written this in the present tense. More adequate adjectives to describe the illness would be irrational, intense and crippling.
I decided that the 1st month in my blog would be defined as the month I believe I started to show signs of depression. At the start most of these were subtle, but relevant.
I should probably take a moment to let you know about myself and my life 18 months ago. I was a healthy 18 (soon to be 19) year old. I had a loving family, a beautiful girlfriend and an excellent set of friends. I had a part time job, and was awaiting my A level results. My spare time was filled with playing and watching football, Xbox and socialising (aka clubbing/partying). As you can see, I was nothing special, just an ordinary 18 year old guy doing ordinary things.
Hindsight is a beautiful thing when it comes to depression. Obviously, at the time I wouldn’t have noticed changes that occurred, especially in the 1st month - they were so minimal; easily misread as mood swings in a lot of cases.
Looking back on that month I would say that the major sign of change was that I stopped talking. The month before I would have had (at least) weekly conversations with my mum, and I would find comfort in talking to my girlfriend everyday. I started to zone out; I found comfort much more accessible in my room, on my own. I started to enjoy my own uninterrupted company instead of other people’s. Looking back, you could say I started to cut the most important interactions out of my life.
I also recognise that in that month I stopped tweeting and updating my Facebook status as often as I used to. I never knew why I didn’t want to - if people asked me, my answer was ‘I don’t know I just can’t be bothered with it’. And that was my genuine, honest answer - I didn’t have a clue, I just wasn’t doing it. Maybe this was another way of subconsciously cutting myself off from the world.
I found myself not going out as often as I used to. I occasionally made excuses to my friends, and was much more content staying in either alone, or with my girlfriend and a film. I still went out, but where I would say yes 90% of the time, the percentage started to drop slightly. And the times I did go out started to become more of an effort than they used to be.
However, it is important to say that in this first month nothing changed drastically. My exams had gone well, as had my football season. The relationships I had were very much still normal, I still went clubbing and I would still have declared myself happy with my life. But looking back it is clear to me that beginning to cut myself off was unfortunately also me laying the foundation for the depression to manifest itself.
Maybe by recognising subtle changes we can avoid the potential problems that may occur later down the line. It is always a good idea to ask a friend to chat if they seem to be a bit down, or you notice a change in their behaviour/personality. I’m not suggesting that everyone feeling down will get depression of course, but we all need someone to talk to every now and again, right? You could be that someone.
After all, that person you just checked is okay may have spiralled into depression a few months down the line if you hadn’t showed them that you noticed and cared about them…
I thought I would take the opportunity to explain how I am planning on laying out the blog…
I will be writing a month by month ‘depression diary’ to highlight the changes in my behaviour and how I felt during this period. I was suffering with depression for around 12 months, before I acquired the strength to admit it to myself, and then others, and eventually a Doctor. For the last 6 months I have been on antidepressants and, slowly but surely, recovering. I will include these 6 months in the ‘diary’ too as I believe this stage of depression is equally as important.
Once I have compiled this diary I can then (hopefully with some feedback from you readers) start to draw up some general conclusions about the illness. I want to abolish the stigma on a worldwide scale, and increase the support networks for sufferers. This is no joke, I am deadly serious about this topic and will continue to blog until things start to change. I don’t want anyone else to go through depression the way I did, scared and alone.
The 2 main aims of this blog are:
1) Sufferers - I want people suffering to read this blog and realise that they are not alone. 1 in 4 people can be suffering with depression; it is a lot more common than people realise. Hopefully my story will inspire people and offer them the strength they need to seek help and support.
2) The General Public - I believe a massive overhaul of opinion is imperative when it comes to this unnecessarily taboo topic. I aim to inform on a massive scale through absolutely blunt personal experiences. Hopefully the stigma will begin to disappear - maybe people will learn not to berate someone and call them ‘weak’ when they are dealing with depression. After all, would you feed a diabetic sugar or flash lights at somebody with Epilepsy? People need to learn that it only takes one person to care when you are suffering with depression, and it only takes one person to say something to tip them over the edge - which person are you going to be? A samaritan or a murderer?
I believe at this stage it is necessary to let you know that I will be in no way fictionalising or heightening any of my story. If this makes it bland and boring to you I will happily accept that.
If my blog helps just one person suffering, or makes one person join me in removing the stigma I will have absolutely achieved what I set out to do.
So here goes, thanks for reading :)
I started to recognise it a year ago - could have been a long time before that though
In my case there was no reason, it’s called clinical depression. Other people suffer from circumstantial depression which is caused by an event