I’ve wanted to write about my ‘condition’ for a while now, I don’t claim to be any form of writer, this is whole blog is likely to come across as unorthodox. I’ve been as honest as I can which may make me appear to seem selfish. I don’t know what to call what I have. Is it a condition I will get ever get rid of? Is it just my state of mind? I feel very uncomfortable objectifying my ‘condition’ because I don’t even trust my own judgement. The general consensus of numerous conversations I have had is that people don’t know what hidden implications with depression. It is widely assumed that you cannot possibly have depression because there always people ‘worse off’ then you. That is true but it isn’t some sort of binary choice and it’s not as if I have made a choice either. I wish I could be content but something in my make up gets in the way. It has been an incremental process, chipping away at my personality bit by bit. People often portray it as someone who is a ‘miserable’ and that’s all but there are so many physical symptoms as it takes its toll. Depression breeds more depression, as it causes more and more self-loathsomeness and loneliness. Of course, it’s not unusual for people to feel down for time to time but when it’s a daily occurrence and it affects how you function it can be debilitating, destabilising and most damaging of all it can make you feel alone.
I cannot pinpoint the exact moment I realised that I had very severe depression, I can remember I was a very anxious child.
I used to lock myself away in the summer holidays, I do remember not leaving the house for three weeks but to be honest I didn’t see anything unusual back then. It’s what I wanted, to be a solitary recluse; happy to shy away from conversation or any other kind of interaction. However, this was to my detriment, I developed the widely known ‘OCD’ (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) by the age of 13. I used to have a regimented routine everyday of writing things down, these notes could be anything from things I have learnt at school to footballers names. Everyday, I would get in from school and sit religiously at my desk writing until it was time for bed. At that point, another routine kicked in. I was incredibly paranoid that someone or something was going to hurt me, I checked underneath my bed and wardrobe several times in the night. Looking back on it I seem possessed, this was maybe because I didn’t really have any friends back then, I didn’t have anyone I could really relate to so they could snap me out of it. A years Cognitive Behavioural Therapy followed and counselling from my school. The anxiety and condition miraculously dissipated when I started to make friends, it was a big moment for me back then and I thought I would never have to live through this captivity again. However, it was naive of me to think that was the end of it.
It wasn’t until I went to University at the age of 19 when it became more uncompromising. I decided to move far away from home as I felt I had a point to prove to my family that ‘I can do this on my own’ and that I could stand the endurance of independence. However, the University ‘culture’ was alien to me, I had not had much experience of going out and getting explicitly drunk most nights a week. Nor did I really want to. As you can imagine, this isolated me and found it very hard to form any kind of friendship with. Before I could really process what was going on, I was back in a counselling room again. I remember sitting there with a trainee physiatrist who recently moved from Germany, like all health professionals I have come across they carry a demena of apathy. Which of course, is understandable because if your job to talk to people with depression and anxiety all day it would drive you crazy if you felt their pain. She really did help me see what I was doing wrong and where I should focus my mind on. I would explain the guilt I was feeling, I felt under pressure to lose weight at the time as I had seen a recent unflattering photos of myself. She constantly made the point I was being too hard on myself. I had purchased some weighing scales and stepped on them several times a day to justify eating food and constantly looking at myself in the mirror. It seemed the OCD was back.
I was prescribed onto my first anti-depressants, I didn’t really notice them at the time if I’m honest but in retrospect I think they helped motivate me. Over the summer after the first year of University, I lost a stone and a half. I went to the gym everyday for a month and reducing my intake of food. I felt great. I felt a buzz I hadn’t felt before, people were complimenting me for how much weight at lost. I was and still am extremely body conscious, I constantly monitor my weight as I hated the way I used to look and the bullying I received when I was overweight. I felt a lot more confident and felt the burden of sadness in the backdrop easier to deal with. I soon after managed to get a temporary job which was extremely difficult at that time. I enjoyed it because it gave me the routine that I longed for, I search endlessly for a job because University only took around five hours of my week. Three months in my temporary contract expired. I found out that my employer would not be renewing, it was totally unexpected to me and I sunk like a stone.
The shame and guilt consumed me to the point where I took an overdose of anti depressants, to this day I still do not know how many I took and what I saying when I shoved them down my throat. My girlfriend at the time called the emergency services, strangely two police officers arrived first. They questioned how many I had taken, I remember saying “I don’t know, I’ll be alright. You’ve got more important work to be doing”. Two paramedics then arrived and one of the officers said: “If you don’t go to hospital with them we will have to force you”. I reluctantly complied. At the hospital, I made myself vomit, partly thanks to the hell the medication created in my stomach but also due to fear, I couldn’t believe what I had done and the trouble I had caused for the staff at the hospital. I signed a declaration form to get myself out of hospital. I then proceeded to lying in bed for days, the pain in my stomach was torturous, accompanied by paralysing drowsiness. It was my fault it happened but I felt like it wasn’t really me who did it, sounds ridiculous but like there is another person controlling me.
Since this point the physical symptoms of depression have hit: the sleepless nights, the tremors, the hand trembling, the lack of desire to eat, the constant shivering, the excessive perspiration, the nausea, the huge bags under my eyes, the digestive problems to name a few. All of these make what should easy tasks very challenging. At this point, I am exhausted. The by-products of depression aren’t really highlighted too often, it is more than just feeling down. I have developed crippling social anxiety, a lot of people are scared about death, spiders, heights, ill-health etc. but for me that does not compare to walking into a room full of strangers. Although I really do want a large group of friends, I find the rather unlikely prospect very daunting. The anxiety often manifests itself in busy environments and I get the sudden craving to escape hence why it’s not unusual for me to go suddenly ‘missing’.
Probably because of how tired I look with the bags under my eyes and inevitable grimace on my face, people avoid contact with me.
I want to be seen as being a ‘nice person’ and I do care about lot of things going on in the world and people but portraying that can be bloody hard. I’ve been on several different anti-depressants, all with strong side effects along with seeing several psychiatrists and doctors. Arguably these symptoms of severe depression have bred more isolation because I find it even harder to discuss anything anymore. I have altered my diet drastically since last year, sometimes I fear eating when I feel like I have eaten too much recently.
There have been days, I have taken a lot more anti-depressants in a day then have been prescribed, not to kill myself but to sedate myself. It would knock me out for around 36 hours and it helped me survive as times when I felt impulsive. An addictive personality has developed as I’ve got older, I had been drinking alcohol every day as I felt that it helped me cope. I took more medication as a test to see if i would feel better from it, at times of pure desperation it can be hard to see through anything rational and see any light at the end. It sounds horrible and cynical but I’ve become to begrudge people who seem happy in their lives, not because I don’t want them to be but because I constantly force this question on myself “why can’t you be like them?”. I do blame myself for some things, I have isolated myself to a certain degree; simply because I don’t want to discuss this with people, especially people I know. If you haven’t been through it yourself then you can’t know for sure what awful state they are in. Even if you have been through it before, it’s easily forgettable what it felt like. For example, at times when I have felt better, I have sat back and thought: “shit, I can’t believe I felt that way”. Although I do appreciate when colleagues, friends and family have said “if you ever need to talk, you know where I am” I find it all a bit hollow. I would not know where to start to strike up a conversation saying “hello, I feel shit” or whenever someone asks “how are you?” What would actually happen if I replied with “bloody terrible”? I would imagine a swift “goodbye then”. Therefore I have to keep putting on this whole “I’m alright” facade. I lock away how I am really feeling because I don’t think it benefits me or anyone in any way, it makes situations unnecessarily uncomfortable and I don’t want to waste anyone’s time with me droning on.
I’ve stopped with the medication and seeking counseling because the drugs have done more harm than good. A lot of medication was prescribed to me on a whim. “Why don’t you try one of these?” was the common theme of going to the doctors. I found exercise to be the biggest benefit to me, I used to run large distances and have ran a half marathon for a mental health charity. I want to be out there to help others, I just don’t know where to start. I’ve realised all I can do is manage it, I’ve accepted I’m going to have worse days than others.