Warning, some readers may find this blog triggering
As a child, I was always somewhat awkward. After making and subsequently losing friends at high school due to fairly bad social anxiety, I felt like the most useless person in the world. My parents absolutely could not get me to go and see a counsellor as I believed that requiring help rendered me even more of an outcast than I already felt that I was.
From this first experience of depression followed many more. Changing my persona various times throughout my teenage years, triggers would always bring me back to the same stage of hopeless depression. Thinking back to these moments later on, I would never understand why I had felt so utterly helpless and would consider how I had felt at the time to have been an over-reaction to whatever circumstances were happening at the time. I would either judge myself for being weak or pretend that it never happened. Blocking out the bad times - which often lasted for months - led me to believe that my problem was not as bad as it really was.
All I could think about was all the bad things I had ever done
By age 19, I felt contented with my life. After a bad couple of years, I felt that my life had transformed and I now had friends at university and work, as well as being in a happy relationship. This all changed in the blink of an eye one day. Whilst having a light-hearted conversation with a friend, a mistake I had made years before was jokingly mentioned. This triggered a major depressive episode for me. All I could remember or think about was all the bad things I had ever done, every minute of every day. I awoke to a throbbing emotional pain each day and tried desperately to put myself back to sleep to make it stop. In my desperate pursuit to become a mental health professional, I refused to see a doctor in denial of the fact that I could be the one in need of help. Additionally, I wholly believed that I deserved the pain I was in for all the awful things I believed myself to have done.
Unsure of how to express this pain to anyone, I would force myself to attend university. I felt unable to speak to anyone. I watched everyone go on with their every day lives as if from a different world, believing I would never feel normal again. As it happens, I did, although it took around 6 months. As a result, however, many friendships had faded away. In one instance I apologised to a close friend for my behaviour, claiming it resulted from a period of depression. The friend never responded, which further fuelled my misconception that it was taboo to speak about such things and I forced myself to forget once more.
I couldn't continue living in denial any longer
I experienced periods of depression thereafter, although not to the same extent. However, a few months before leaving university, I had my worst period of depression yet. Realising I had lost social contacts, was doing badly in classes and had managed to substantially isolate myself from university life overwhelmed me to the point of breakdown. I often wouldn't get up for days at a time and it was necessary to extend the period of time I was allowed to finish my degree. It is very hard to describe the extent of the agony I felt or the logic behind why I had such extreme feelings. I do know that I seriously considered taking my own life and I knew at this stage that I couldn't continue living in denial any longer.
Seeking out a counsellor, I was advised to see a doctor for clinical depression. Doing so has marked a very important step in my life. I realise that I sought out psychology and a helping profession in some way because I knew I needed help myself. Since acknowledging this, there has been a marked improvement in my quality of life. My fear of stigma and being considered an outcast seems trivial when contrasted with the benefits I have reaped from admitting that I have a problem and seeking help for it.
I now believe that no-one should suffer in silence
I am writing this blog because, since this point, I have found it beneficial for my own personal well-being to be very open and honest about my experiences. People's reactions have not been what I was expecting, with the majority of people reacting with compassion and support. I have experienced little to no stigma since opening up about my depression, in contrast to what I had been expecting from the social isolation. I now believe that no-one should suffer in silence. Doing so results in isolation and worsens the pain. I stress that people react much more positively than may be anticipated and that admitting you have a problem is the first step to understanding how it can be worked through and resolved. It may be incredibly difficult but taking that step will prove invaluable; it did for me.