I used to be terrified of admitting I had a mental health problem. When my dad first mentioned to me that he thought I was depressed and I should go and see a GP my response was “I don’t want to see any men in white coats”.
At 21 I had quite a negative perception of depression, I didn’t know that 1 in 4 people experienced depression in any given year and I thought having this diagnosis would mean I was crazy.
Although I knew I was struggling to cope with work and I had cut off all my friends, I was still more scared about what people would think of me if they knew that I had depression. Looking back, I’m sure they all knew I was struggling anyway; I was getting into work at 10.30 when I used to arrive at 9.00, and leaving after 7pm every night. I hardly ever left my desk and spent all evening and weekend worrying about work.
I was hiding my depression
When I had to give a presentation my supervisor ended up having to make the slides with me, as I couldn’t function well enough to do it on my own. Looking back I don’t know how I thought that I was successfully hiding my depression and anxiety from everyone but I did manage to get to the end of my placement without admitting to anyone, even myself, that I had a mental health problem.
The next year things got better – I went back to complete my final year at university and I put my unhappy times behind me. I focused on all the reasons that I had been unhappy on my placement year, what I didn’t like about working in the lab and working for a large company, what I found difficult about my boss, and I never really addressed the fact that I had had depression. Looking back it’s not that surprising that my depression came back a few years later.
I didn't think people would understand
After I finished a university I decided to move to London and train as a dietitian. In September 2008 things were going well for me. I was settled in London, I had completed an MSc Nutrition and secured a place on the PGDip course at a prestigious university.
When I started to feel depressed again after the first term of the course, I didn’t think people would understand. I didn’t really understand what I had to be depressed about myself. I thought depression was something that happened to people who had been through some significant life event, such as the death of relative or a divorce. If I admitted I was struggling, I thought people would think I was weak or not good enough to be on the course and that I would be asked to leave.
I thought about going to see my GP
I thought about going to see my GP but I didn’t think that they would be able to help. When I finally saw a GP it was after the exams, which I didn’t turn up to because I couldn’t concentrate on revising and I was convinced I was going to fail. I went back to my parents’ house to stay for a bit and my dad practically had to force me to see the GP. Even after I had the diagnosis I didn’t want to accept it or take the medication I had been given. I told my parents that the doctor’s questionnaire was wrong and that I didn’t need medication.
Looking back I can see that my fear of talking about depression made things much more difficult for me. I was first diagnosed with depression in 2009 and since then I have got better about talking about it.
I talked to Samaritans initially and that was really helpful
I talked to Samaritans initially and that was really helpful, as was joining a depression support group. I’ve also seen counsellors through university. It wasn’t easy though and not everyone has been understanding along the way.
I once told my boss I couldn’t make work and I was honest about the reason I couldn’t come in. I got a phone call telling me that I still needed to come in and that everyone was feeling a bit off today. I found that upsetting. This kind of lack of understanding from people has been upsetting to me in the past but at other times my friends have been very understanding.
Not hiding my depression will make it a bit easier to deal with
I think I’m now at a place where I realise that the unhelpful responses reflects more on that person’s understanding and knowledge of depression rather than showing that my depression is “not real” and that I should “pull myself together”. I’ve not had an episode of depression for about 2 years, and I hope I never get depressed again but, if I do, I think not having to worry about hiding my depression from everyone will definitely make it a bit easier to deal with.