When I saw Michaela posting about mental health stories on her blog, I jumped at the opportunity to help out. I am somebody who has been through depression and came out the other side in a life changing way, and I want to share my story. I want to remain anonymous because I don’t want to run the risk of people in my school finding out. Although it is something that I shouldn’t be ashamed of, I don’t want it to shape the way people see me. I hope this gives you an insight into life with depression and assures you, you will recover from this.
First of all, I think a lot of people believe you are born with a mental illness, and that it will stick with you for life. However, I don’t for one minute believe this. I believe it’s all shaped by life experiences and although it is an awful thing to live through, you will emerge on the other side much happier and stronger.
As a child, I was quiet. I went to a small primary school and didn’t have a lot of friends as there was only 8 in my class, but we were all close in a way. All the way through primary school I was bullied for different reasons, such as my appearance, weight and voice. I took no notice of it as it was just what I was used to, and I was told I was looking for attention when I looked for help in school. I didn’t play that much sport as a child only Irish dancing, I did it for 7 years and really enjoyed it. It was a way of relieving stress I guess, and helped my mental health in that sense.
However moving to secondary school was much harder. I had a choice of two secondary schools and I chose the one my older brother had went to, just because he had such a good experience there. Mine was not the same. Going in I knew one girl. She was the one who ended up bullying me. After the first week it started, and every day she would mock me, in person and online, and ended up physically attacking me a few times. My home life was getting worse as my parents’ marriage was breaking down, and it was getting all too hard to cope. I made out a plan to kill myself in the local river one day after school, and wrote a note to my mother explaining what I was doing. Luckily, she found it and the school then got me in contact with CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services). I started going to counselling there that summer. My parents split up and my mam, brother and I moved town, and I moved school hoping for a fresh start. I was in counselling, just a talk therapy and I guess that was the first time I ever felt like maybe something was wrong.
When I started second year I was hoping things would be different. However, I thought wrong. All through second year and third year I was alone and bullied by my best friend. She taunted me about my weight (I was 7 and a half stone and 5’5” so I was underweight) but she was convincing me I was overweight so I started to starve myself. I didn’t tell my counsellor this, but it was the start of me feeling awful about myself and I had zero self-confidence left. This was the beginning of my downward spiral into depression.
From there I started to self-harm a bit and thought about killing myself a lot. One night in November of third year I tried to kill myself while taking a bath. My mam found me and rushed me to the out-of-hours doctor. They were going to send me to hospital but I insisted I was fine, so they just gave me a referral back to my counsellor the next day. After a gruelling and daunting four hours in the room with the head psychiatrist the following day, it was decided I would be put on anti-depressants (Prozac). I felt awful and it was one of the worst things in my mind that could happen, but it had to be done. For two and a half years following that, I upped and lowered my dose, until finally coming off it this week which was the happiest day I had in a long time. In this time I did my junior cert, and came out with pretty good grades after missing a load of school due to just not feeling up to it. I achieved a lot during my recovery and I am now a much better person.
Before I talk about my recovery process I just want to say a general few words on dealing with depression.
For everyone it’s different. I became anorexic and self-harmed a bit during my time with depression, but it is different depending on the person. It is so difficult to actually explain what it is like to live with depression, but I am going to try. It’s like being stuck in a black hole, and not knowing how to get out. It is seeing everyone happy around you and you know you should be too but you just can’t bring yourself to. It’s like somebody has locked you up and thrown away the key and you cannot get out. It is like you’re drowning in a huge river and instead of helping you people are bringing you down. It is a battle inside your head that everybody hates you and you would be better off dead. It’s the fear of the unknown and fear of what you may end up doing to yourself. It’s the staying in bed and blocking yourself off from everybody because you just can’t face the world. It’s being stuck in this horrible rut, wanting to get out, but you keep being led back here. It feels like it will last forever. But it won’t. I promise.
My recovery from my official diagnosis took two and a half years. However I was attending CAMHS for four years. I was very quiet and had no friends, and was convinced that I would be dead after my junior cert, as a result of killing myself. Thankfully, I’m still here to tell the tale. Lots of things aided my recovery. I started TY (Transition Year) and threw myself completely into it seizing EVERY opportunity. I auditioned for my school musical and played a minor role in it. I joined gymnastics which always fascinated me and am quite successful in it now. I started learning to drive. I went to an adventure centre for a week which was my first ever time staying away from home. I participated in the Gaisce awards. I passed my theory test. I did very enjoyable work experience. I got a babysitting job. I had a boyfriend for 6 months. I made loads of new friends. I joined the gym. I fundraised for different charities.
So as you can see there is lots of things you can do to aid your recovery. If you are stuck for ideas, here are some- Start a new sport, start a blog, join the gym, join a club, volunteer in your local charity shop, try to find a job, make new friends, treat yourself every once in a while.
It is a long and painful process recovering from depression but it is possible. There are many websites and helplines out there if you need help which I will put at the end of this article. If you feel you need help from a professional, visit your GP who can then refer you to CAMHS if you are under 18 or an adult service if you are over 18. Talk therapy may help you or you may have to take anti-depressants for a while. Either way, you will recover.
I am 16 now (17 next week!) and I feel I am a much stronger person. Yes, I suffered from mental health issues in the past, but I am still a human being, with hopes, dreams and aspirations. I have successfully recovered and you will too. Depression is often shaped by life experiences, but the illness itself is a life experience which will change you for the better. You are not any less of a human because you suffer from depression. 1 out of every 4 people will experience issues with their mental health in their life. It is important that we are able to talk about it just like we can if we broke a bone for example. Depression is not something to be ashamed of. If you take nothing else from reading this I want you to know you are special and unique, and you WILL get better. Just keep going. “Don’t look back. You’re not going that way”. Onwards and upwards from here on out my friend. I am proud of you and you can keep going!
Thank you for reading this and I hope this helped your insight into life with depression.
Helplines- Samaritans, Childline, Pieta House, reachout.com, spunout.com, AWARE, headsup.ie (all numbers can be found online and are free of charge