I’ve struggled seriously with depression for around 4 years now. I first had counselling when I was 18, not long after I started University and it definitely helped, at least for a little while. After around 6 months, I started to feel myself slip into that hole again, and I’ve been slipping in and out of it ever since.
Since 2018 started, I’ve been stuck in that dark place in my brain. I started the year extremely stressed about my exams, to the point I was making myself ill, crying in the library, being sick before exams, barely sleeping. I thought when exams were over it would get better, and it did for a couple of weeks as I enjoyed being exam free. But then it rolled around again, as it always does.
This time I found it harder to deal with. I had a lot of things going on in my personal life and home life that made it harder to get out of the mental hole I had buried myself in. For months I would sit in my room, I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to eat, or watch tv, or play video games, or read, or do anything I normally enjoyed doing. I stopped going to lectures completely. I didn’t take care of myself. I wouldn’t sleep for days and then sleep 18 hours at a time. When a family member very close to me got sick, it felt like everything was spiralling out of control. I had so much pressure on me, so many people relying on me, and I felt like I didn’t have anyone I could rely on in the same way. I felt like my life was spiralling out beyond my control and that everything was going wrong, and I was too exhausted to stop it. I was in the darkest place I have ever been in my life.
I sought out support from Student Support and Wellbeing for counselling, and I had a lovely counsellor who listened to me talk about how I felt. Despite what the nature of some of my blogs may suggest, I’m quite a private person so I didn’t feel comfortable sharing everything, but for half an hour or so it was nice to have someone to talk to who I felt wouldn’t judge me, and judge the state of my life.
With her help I started on Anti-depressants, and they were a struggle in themselves. She helped me get a DSSR and defer my exams until August, so I could have a couple of months to get better. But I didn’t get better, I stayed the same. I was run down with stress and negative mental health to the point I was always ill.
Eventually, hope started to creep in in the smallest, most unexpected ways. A nice few hours with friends, or a good laugh at my favourite TV show. One day out of the blue my Mam texted me. (it’s worth pointing out she’s definitely not much of a texter and is still the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy S3. No not an 8, a 3.) She has no idea how much I was struggling and still am, but she was also struggling with her own stress. The text read “I know no matter how bad things get, I will always have you. Xxxxxxxxxxx” and I started crying. Partly because she had finally moved away from 2008 text talk and was now using ‘you’ instead of ‘u’, but mostly because I remembered for the first time In a long time that people needed me. I realised that that doesn’t have to be a burden, but can give you a purpose and hope instead of just stress.
By the times my exams rolled around in August I decided for logistical reasons I couldn’t do them, and that I wanted to resit the year.
I was extremely ashamed to admit I had deferred my exams and that I was going to resit the year. I felt a sense of shame, like I had failed.
I did not fail.
I am still here.
In 20 years time, an extra year of university is nothing. But good mental health is everything. Your happiness and health is more important than what degree you get or how much your job pays, or what people might thing of you for struggling.
Do not let your ‘failures’ define you. You are not a sum of your mistakes.
It took me a long time to accept this. To accept that it’s okay to move backwards for once, instead of constantly forwards. For the first time In a long long time, I now look forward to waking up. I feel joy and happiness and peace where I once only felt numb inside. I appreciate the small things that now bring me joy, like my first cup of coffee in the morning and laughing at Gemma Collins on Masterchef.
People don’t live their life at the same speed, it’s okay to stop if everyone around you is still moving forward.
The point is, it does actually get better, no matter how much you might hate hearing that when you’re going through a bad MH period. But if you know it in your heart and believe it, you can make it through the next 60 seconds. Then if you can make it through that 60 seconds, you can make it through the next.
I am not that person who woke up that day in March and said “I cant do it anymore. Todays the day.” I might be again, but for now I am not. I made it through that and so can you. You will wake up one day and you will not feel like that anymore. I promise that day will come.
As the incomparable Kelly Clarkson once said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I know that I’ll be in that bad place again, and I’m okay with that. There is no cure for depression. I will always be like this. Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am. My depression gives me empathy and drive to help those who also suffer with negative mental health, my horrible experiences shape me as a person, and yes Kelly Clarkson they do make me stronger.
Finally I will leave you with a song of hope. It’s called Rainbow by Kesha. When I’m feeling low these song lyrics provide me with countless lessons such as “Yeah, maybe my head's fucked up, but I'm falling right back in love with being alive” and “Daring, our scars make us who we are.”
Have a listen. Have a cry. Emotion is Power.
Please, if you are struggling, talk to someone. You can contact Samaritans on 116 123 their lines are open 24/7 and the number is free to call. It does not show up on phone bills, so members of your household will not know you called. A burden shared it a burden halved.