May 24, 2013

HarrietThroughout school I was an A* student with aspirations of attending Cambridge University but 4 years on from my GCSE's I am working for my Mum and living with depression.

It wasn’t until about 6 months ago that things took a turn for the worse. I failed my first year of university and family deaths collided in the same week, which sent me further into this black hole than I had ever been before and it was at this point I was diagnosed.

Since I was 16 I’ve never felt entirely at ease with myself, whether it was down to stress or hormones or anything else is beside the point, the matter was not addressed then and had therefore spiralled. I did not recognise this feeling as anything more than being grumpy or being “welcomed to the real world”, only now do I realise that I have been living with depression for years unnecessarily.

I saw depression almost as an attention seeking condition

Before 6 months ago I saw depression just as self-loathing or almost as an attention seeking condition, not as an illness. As much as I, or anyone else, can try and explain the way it really is to my family, friends and most of all my boyfriend, they will never understand fully how the inside of my head feels and how I am the one who hates it most of all.

The first person I talk to about my diagnosis was my mum. I was nervous about how she’d react and even more nervous about how I was going to tell her. We don’t have the closest of relationships. It’s not bad but being one of 4 sisters I am possibly the least close to her out of my siblings. The only way I felt comfortable enough to tell her was by text. I felt weak and pathetic doing so but it stimulated a reasonably open conversation face to face.

My mum was sympathetic and caring

She was sympathetic and most of all caring. She asked no questions and just simply accepted it. This was exactly what I needed but not what I expected. I thought my Mum would try and understand or find out why I was the way I was but she didn’t and it was perfect. From time to time we will have these open conversations just so she is aware of what state I am in, other than that is not something we talk about. It’s too uncomfortable but just knowing she is accepting and sympathetic of the condition is plenty.

Each day is almost as though I am a fly on the wall watching myself and thinking how ridiculous I am being; getting hysterical over the tiniest dispute with my boyfriend, flipping out when my sister uses my conditioner. I never noticed something was wrong but I was lucky enough to have someone close enough to me that did and saw it get progressively worse. It is because of that reason I feel like I am able to tell them my darkest thoughts sometimes.

I thought I was just nervous when I left for University

I thought I was just nervous when I left for University a year and a half ago and that I would settle in soon enough. No one there was horrible to me, I made friends and got along fine. However, this was all disrupted by travelling to see my boyfriend every weekend because it was with him that I felt most comfortable and by doing this I stopped myself from ever feeling at home.

When it came to exams I used to sit there and stare at my work, read things but not even recognise them as words any more. My mind was somewhere else entirely and maybe still is. When at the end of the summer I was told I couldn’t return, I felt horribly relieved but also in pieces. I had always been the academic one, now what was I?

Why should I feel guilty or ashamed about depression?

Living back at home has its ups and downs, I feel more comfortable here, but having spent a year living on my own being back in the same house as my parents can really take its toll. I have tried to explain that I’m not ready for my failings to become joked about yet and that I am overly sensitive at the moment.

Writing this has taken me hours, every sentence I read back makes me feel guilty. But why should it? Why should I feel guilty or ashamed of the way I feel? I shouldn’t, and if I recognised and attended to these problems months, even years ago then I don’t think I would. So please pay attention to all those around you and any subtle change in behaviour or attitude, it could be something that will get much worse without anyone else realising, even themselves.

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You refer to having to drop

You refer to having to drop out of uni as "my failings" - there's some self-stigma right there because I don't think you would beat yourself up about leaving uni if it had been a physical illness! I felt much the same way when I had to drop out of uni due to depression. But i've learnt that it wasn't that I "failed" and it doesn't reflect anything about me and who I am. Stay strong and you will find this acceptance. I'm very glad your family are non-judgemental and adapting to dealing with your depression. Good luck. xx

Very interesting post, thank

Very interesting post, thank you for sharing! I too was a straight A student when depression stroke. Getting well took a long time but overall I am proud of what I have been able to achieve: two master's degrees, a happy marriage and I now run my own business. It would be a lie to say it's been easy but it can be done in spite of depression. I have faith in future treatments such as fast acting medication currently on trial, it may take a few years, maybe a decade but I believe scientists will bring us more tools to control depression and live life to the full!!

Very Interesting Post

I was in a similar situation, my long career in the printing industry come to an end because of my mental health issues manic depression and OCD. I really enjoyed working in the printing industry I miss it to this day, but parts of it were responsible for causing me severe stress which triggered my mental health problems.I took medical retirement, I basically thought my life was in tatters, no career prospects I was a burden on my wife and family. Until I started to do volunteer work for the state in environmental conservation, my hobbies have always been bird watching, walking and I have always taken a keen interest in the environment. I was lucky enough to be awarded funding by my printing union and a printing industry charity for people who need to retrain for a variety of of reasons, I have completed my Extended BTEC in Countryside Management and I have nearly completed the 1st year of my Foundation Degree in Environmental Conservation. I hope one day to gain paid work in this sector I'm better suited to it. I have found that academic life has taken a toll on my mental health, I have to see a CPN again, I was thinking of stopping studying, but I'm easing back a little and asking for extra time to complete assignments at college which seems to be working.I realize life isn't always plain sailing for people with mental health issues especially if you want to go to university and who want to develop a career for themselves. I have a huge amount of respect for Harriet and people like her who have found that university or academic life can take a toll on mental health.

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