My Experience with… Depression
As some of you are aware from previous posts of mine; I’ve had depression from a very young age. I showed signs of having it from when I about 10 but was only officially diagnosed with having it at 19 when I was no longer considered being of school age. I think I have mentioned before that my doctor didn’t want to formally diagnose me until I was out of school and I think that it’s because it is not really recommended to give anti-depressants to children/teenagers. Initially it was put down to “being a teenager”, “hormones” and “rebellion” – which I resented as I wasn’t intentionally being rebellious; I felt like I was drowning and bullying at school made me not want to go (it made me so anxious and down) so, if I could get out of going to school, I would. In my post about anxiety I wrote that I would call up the school myself and tell them that I wasn’t going back (if it was after lunch) or that I just wasn’t going in at all that day. Being depressed and anxious made me physically ill (on top of dealing with horrendous periods but I’ll skip that for now) so I often felt too sick to even get out of bed and didn’t want to go to school for fear of being sick in class and not being able to get to a toilet in time. I would constantly have breakdowns – particularly the night before homework was due in or tests – and I regularly battled between not sleeping most nights (Sunday nights – Thursday), getting an hour or so of sleep, waking up every 20-30 mins or even sleeping too much (Fri nights – Sunday daytime. I was so low, physically & mentally ill and tired, and no matter how many times I went to the doctors or told my teachers; no one seemed to want to help. The bullying made me suicidal, as I stated in my anxiety post. I didn’t want to go to school where I had to be with those people and I didn’t want to have my home life invaded by them either as by the time I was in my final year of Primary School, the bullies had literally brought their insults and taunts to my front door. It was a really miserable time.
I thought things would be different when I went to college but it wasn’t. I was still being bullied, this time by new people who I had no connection with, and I was having a really difficult time with coping. It was during college that I had such a massive breakdown that I was signed off sick for weeks at a time until I eventually had to leave about 2 months before the end of my course due to being so unwell, not being able to go to college and not wanting or having the energy to do my coursework. I felt like such a failure for having to leave and sometimes I still do when I’m reminded of it with each new school year and “back to school” post. However, I remind myself that I made the decision to leave because I couldn’t cope and that it wasn’t worth my mental health suffering any more than it already had.
Another thing that affected my depression was the lack of sunlight. Here in Scotland schools start in August and finish in June so a lot of our schooling done in the autumn & winter months but even our springs can be quite dark as well. At college, we started in September so it was already getting darker at night. I left my house at 6:50 in the morning when it was still dark and would return after 6pm, sometimes after 8, when it would be dark again. The only times I saw daylight were walking from the bus to my college and if I happened to look out of the window during lectures. I’d wake up, get ready, go to college, be in lectures from 9-4, get home for 6, have dinner, shower and go straight to bed. My time was either spent in theory classes, at the schools where I did my practical work or in bed crying. I wasn’t living. I merely existed. And I didn’t want to.
I spent the next two years on benefits because I couldn’t work due to my depression and anxiety but, as doctors wouldn’t diagnose me or give me treatment other than medication which I didn’t want to take, I had to sign on every two weeks. Going to the job centre every two weeks would drive anyone insane. It made me feel worse to be made to apply for jobs (otherwise you get sanctioned and your money gets stopped) that I knew either wouldn’t get or wouldn’t keep due to my illnesses. I felt pressured into getting a job every time I went in and was made to feel as though my efforts weren’t enough despite applying for more than 2 jobs a day and going to interviews. They could clearly see that I was in distress but, again, no one wanted to help. It was only after I got my first “proper” (translation: paid) job and lost it due to being ill that my adviser suggested that I apply to get ESA (Employment & Support Allowance). I didn’t even know that that was choice. It seems to be that to be considered a “valuable member of society” you have to get a job and you can’t have illnesses that make you unable to do so as it then automatically makes you a “scrounger”. I’m far from being a scrounger and I’m not lazy; I am mentally unable to cope with having a job due to crippling social anxiety and can’t keep one because most days I can’t even get out of bed due to my depression and severe anxiety. I felt bad even being on benefits but I had my share of bills to pay and no means of being able to live without it and now I feel bad about being on ESA. I didn’t choose to become ill. I didn’t choose to be unable to cope with what goes on in my head and what happens around/to me. It just happened.
I don’t know how to get over these feelings of depression and anxiety or to stop feeling guilty for being on benefits/not being able to work so I do what I feel I do best; I write. Before it was writing fictional pieces loosely based on what I was going through and now I write these blog posts. I still get nervous sharing them, though, as there are people who simply just don’t understand. That makes me scared. It makes me scared that, like when I shared my thoughts and feelings on the internet when I was of school age, that my comments section will be filled with vicious trolls who get a kick out of making people miserable because they know they are susceptible to being tormented by it. Unlike back then, today I can just delete any negative comments and there are ways of banning people so please keep that in mind.