*I posted this on the new members forum, so if you've read it already just ignore it. Just wanted to get it on the blog X
Hi, my name is Meg. I am 18 years old, and I suffered from major depression for the past 4 months.
I've come to learn so much in the past four months, some of the most important things i've learned in my lifetime.
I want to share my story and the things that i've learned from this experience in the hopes that one of you - out there, may be able to relate, feel normal, and unashamed of your mental illness. Because thats what it is - an ILLNESS. Its not something you choose to attract into your life, it controls you, and its hard to fight.
The simplest things in life become such a battle, and life itself becomes pointless - you do not find any enjoyment in anything anymore, and your only causing grief to the people who are closest to you. You feel it would be better if you didn't exist. And I think that level of pain some people struggle to understand. So I want to share what it was like, because there shouldn't be a stigma around any illness - mental or physical. after all, ignorance can cost lives.
If you keep fighting long enough, you will get better. I promise.
Little disclaimer: I want to make it clear that nothing 'awful' has ever happened to me. I've been very lucky in life. I have a caring family, with no money issues, poverty, normal education, and good health. Maybe people from the outside, looking in at my life would think 'what does she have to be depressed about?" or 'she's being over dramatic" or "that i'm ungrateful'. It doesn't matter what the cause of your depression is. No matter how big or small that cause is. Every depression should be taken seriously. Never feel that you are unworthy of feeling the way that you do, just because some people have it worse than you do. I've hated myself for a long time over this exact reason. Depression is so individual to a person. Everyone faces hardships. And you can only compare you're own hardships to what you've experienced personally. What's hard for you, may not be hard for someone else, but thats ok. We are all different, and trust me, that doesn't make you any less of a person than anyone else.
So without further a due, let's begin...
I have always wanted to be a vet, basically since i found out what a vet was. It's been my lifelong dream and passion. I had finished AS (AS is midway exams in A levels) in 2017, with AAA grades - exactly what was required for veterinary. The year later i applied to universities. I remember being nervous, but excited for interviews. And coming out of the interviews thinking that I had done ok, and that I had a shot of getting an offer (especially after all of my hard work in the exams).
From january to March in 2018, i received emails from 4 of the universities, all REJECTIONS. This knocked my confidence MASSIVELY. I felt inadequate, and actually embarrassed that i had done so bad since it was something I was so passionate about. It affected me so much that I was too distracted to revise and focus on my school work (despite my efforts).
On March 31st i received an email from Bristol (my last uni and last hope at getting an offer). I remember before opening the email i kept telling myself over and over in my head 'it's a rejection' 'it's a rejection'.
When i opened the email, i was shocked to see that they had given me an offer, i was absolutely over the moon. They later sent me a formal letter with the offer on it, and as motivation, i stuck the letter up on my wall. From that day on, i started to revise like crazy, i was so adamant to get the grades and not lose the offer. I would stay up all night (literally). When i was really tired, i would set an alarm that would allow me to sleep 2 hours MAXIMUM. I would drink 19 cans of pepsi a day, just so that i could stay awake. I never left the house, and I sat at my desk for so long that my legs would swell up, to the point that i wouldn't be able to put my shoes on (i'd have to wear my sisters shoes instead because she had bigger feet)
As you can imagine those exams were an absolute disaster. My mind was foggy and my anxiety was through the roof. I knew i had messed up.
When results day came, i wasn't surprised that i had failed.
This is when my depression started, slowly creeping up on me at the realisation that all that sacrifice was for nothing.
2018 - 2019
That summer for me was very hard, I felt depressed from the moment my exams ended. It felt like I was in a big pit. and there was no way for me to climb out. Sometimes it felt like i was so deep down that i couldn't see the sun shining anymore. I couldn't imagine myself happy in the future anymore. I couldn't understand why it had happened to me, when i had tried so hard and sacrificed so much to follow my dreams.
At the end of the summer I remember sitting down with one of my friends at a cafe. I opened up to her about how i had been feeling, and although she didn't understand it completely, her advice was 'everything happens for a reason, i'm sure some good will come out of this'.
A week later i received a text from my aunt inviting me to go and stay with them for a year, attend school in the same year as my cousin (who i'll call - May). And resit my exams.
I felt ecstatic, it was as if everything had fallen into place, and i found my reason. I needed to fail, so that i could learn from my mistakes, and have a second chance at getting it right - learning how to have a good work-life balance, making new friends, becoming more independent, and ofc going out to parties as i had missed many the year before, all whilst attending a very good school, with my cousin. For me, it offered everything that i had wanted to experience in uni - independence, new friends, and fun. For the first time in ages, i felt like i could actually go through with the year. That this new life I had envisaged in Cardiff would be good enough to get me through interviews and exams again.
However, this story isn't that simple !
life never is, the reason why bad things happen to us might not be obvious. In fact i don't really believe 'everything happens for a reason'.
Life is far more complicated than that.
However, i do believe that there is something to be learned from every bad incident.
Bad things in life help us to evolve and become stronger, more caring people.
And so, with that saying in mind. Let's delve into part 2, of 2018 - 2019
2018 - 2019 (september onwards)
I started my cousins school in September. I moved in with them. I took the train every weekend back home, bought my own groceries, walked to school. And had the opportunity to get used to life in the city. I was having the time of my life ! in fact, i can't think back to a time when I was happier. I had a nice group of friends in school. I was a little more mature. And was way more confident.
However things started to quickly fall apart after a few weeks of living there.
[My cousin - May]
I had known my cousin all my life. She was a year younger than me. And although i disliked her at times, we could get along in short encounters. She would always have these mood swings, where she would go from 'life of the party' to 'annoyed at everything'. She quickly started to turn against me. She wouldn't talk to me (despite all my efforts to form a connection with her). She would run away from me, to avoid having to walk home with me. She would block me from the friend group chat. angle photos so that i wasn't in them... all sorts of childish things. Once I posted a photo of us hugging on instagram, with the caption 'thanks to the johns for putting up with me 24/7, lots of love'.
I don't know why exactly, i felt a great amount of gratitude for them for letting me stay with them, and i guess a part of me wanted to mend things between me and May.
May messaged me, saying that she hated the photo, she was absolutely LIVID with me. I tried to apologise the best i could, but she wouldn't calm down, she kept attaching me.
I was devastated that this had only made things worse between us.
The most interaction I could manage with May was small talk, about the weather and things like that. Often she wouldn't say anything back.
Or even worse, she would make some comment that would make me feel bad about myself. For example - i would try to joke with her about not being able to do my tie properly, and she would look at me with annoyed and say 'thats not funny, why are you laughing'
The whole situation with May and the family made me feel awkward and disliked by everyone in the house. I would start to retreat more and more over time.
[The burglary ]
I traveled from Swansea to Cardiff every Sunday - consistently.
One weekend my mum drove me back to my aunts house, she dropped me off there, whilst she had to go and get some money out for me to use during the week.
Whilst my mum was out, I was busy putting my food away in the fridge. It was 10 pm at night.
Whilst I was busy doing this, two policemen came up to the front door. I let them in, and they started questioning me - Name, age, relationship to my Aunt.
They asked me where my Aunt was and I told them that she must be in the house somewhere, so I led them upstairs, to the bedrooms. At this point I realised that all the lights on the second floor were turned off. Slightly panicked now I started to call out for my Aunt. I passed one of the windows on the second floor, and I could see outside, 2 police vans, and several police cars behind. There were several policemen searching around the outside of the house with torches and police dogs. I had never seen so many policemen in one place. At this point my heart started to race, I couldn't help thinking that someone had been ********. The more I called out for my Aunt, the more I started to believe that this might be true.
After about 10 minutes of searching the house, the policemen were called downstairs.
Once back in the kitchen I could see my Aunt and my 2 cousins outside, they were talking to a policeman. At this point I felt so relieved that they were ok.
I watched as the police left and drove off. And my aunt and my cousins entered the house again.
My aunt went upstairs without saying a word to me. I questioned my cousins on what happened.
This is what they said ....
"We heard noises coming from downstairs and mum thought it was a burglar. We all had to hide in the room upstairs, and mum called the police. Mum was so scared that she was crying. When we saw the police here, we climbed down the fire escape to the front of the house'
and then one of them repeated
'You made mum cry'
I remember feeling ashamed of myself and guilty.
I went to my room and I could hear the 3 of them talking about me in the room below mine.
I phoned my mum that night from my bed because I was in a state of shock. My mum told me that she couldn't come back to the house with the money because here were police vans blocking the driveway. The police had apparently blocked off the road leading to the house, and were preventing anyone from going through.
I couldn't understand how they thought I was a burglar when I had been coming to the house the same time, same day, every single weekend.
My mum left the money with her friends that lived in the area (Declan and Ali). They dropped the money off the following day.
My mums understanding of the 'burglary' was, that my Aunt phoned the police to teach me a lesson. NOW, I know this sounds crazy and far fetched. But my Aunt is my mums older sister. They know each other better than anyone else would, and before this they had always had a good relationship.
So my mum would only say this if she truly believed that that was the case. She believed that my Aunt was annoyed that we didn't send her a text on that particular occasion- saying that we were on our way. And so she phoned the police and everything to prove a point that we should have texted her.
I didn't realise at the time, but later learned just how controlling my Aunt is.
The weeks following the burglary incident i progressively felt more and more uneasy around the family. I would often go out for long walks on the streets just to avoid being in their company. I would always cook my own meals do my own washing/ clean up to try and make life as easy as I could for them (and maybe possibly get them to like me more).
I decided to give May some more space. I had come to the conclusion that I was intruding on her life too much (her friends/ family) and thats why she was annoyed with me all the time. So i backed off, and did whatever I could to please her.
One day, whilst I was in the middle of writing an essay for one of my applications to veterinary, my aunt came into my room. She was angry with me. She said that I was odd, that there was something wrong with me, and that they had to put up with it. She blamed me for not spending more time with them. She then preceded to tell me that I was being mean to May, that I was ruining her year and if I didn't improve my relationship with her then she would have to kick me out. When she said this my eyes started to well up with tears. The thought of going home - back to solidarity, no friends etc was my worst nightmare. And at the same time, I felt completely and utterly defeated. I had been trying to fix my relationship with May for weeks. And yet she was blaming me for everything !
After this, my mental health started to deteriorate massively. I missed out on school more, in an effort to avoid May. And i spent most of my time in my room.
I felt so guilty.
My lovely Aunt had sacrificed so much so that i could stay with them, and this is how i re-payed her.
The depression started to creep back in.
I became so affected with guilt that i started comfort eating. I wanted to punish myself.
Within 2 months I had gained 2 stone. I went from 7 and 1/2 stone -> to 9 1/2 stone.
I had never been that big before.
My mum was concerned for me, especially because of the condition that i was in the year before. She arranged for me to see a psychotherapist who also did hypnosis. (his name was Lenard)
I was reluctant to see him on our first session. I remember I refused to get out of the car, and my mum had to phone my dad to help her get me into Lenards house.
I'm not going to lie, the first session was awkward. But over time I started to trust Lenard, I would open up more to him. And I actually found myself looking forward to his sessions. It was more like having a chat with a beloved friend. And I always left the sessions feeling 10x better.
However recovery isn't that easy or quick unfortunately. The short spurt of happiness and hope from Lenards sessions would only last a few days, at most, before I fell back into the black hole that is depression.
I would lie in bed all day and night. Watching Netflix on my computer, as a distraction from reality. I was never really able to focus on anything. I wouldn't sleep well at night and often would be up until morning. I had completely retreated from society, refusing to go to school, or get dressed.
Each day became monotonous, it was too hard to push myself to change anything. It was hard enough fighting my depression enough to take a shower or brush my teeth, let alone be social and pretend that everything was ok.
At this point I wanted to die.
I had never been so depressed before. It completely took over my life.
I was unable to do anything.
I can't think of a single moment, in those three months, that I was actually, truly happy.
I just wanted to stop existing.
But at the same time i knew that i couldn't **** myself.
I had to watch on as my family fell to pieces worried over me. Whilst being absolutely unable to do anything about it.
I would make endless plans to try and get my life back together, but i would only be able to follow them for a few days consistently before the effort of doing so became too much.
I would always crash, and the more I crashed, the more hopeless I become.
My Mum decided that I needed more short term methods to help me recover. Something that would work fast, so that I wouldn't end up screwing my exams over again.
So she booked me in to see a psychiatrist, someone who could prescribe me some anti-depressants.
My Aunt wanted to go with me to see the psychiatrist so that she could give the psychiatrist 'a better picture of what I was like'.
Of course my mum said no to this as she was aware that my Aunt was biased against me.
So instead my aunt (a doctor) decided to send her own letter to the psychiatrist that I was seeing.
It was a clinical examination of me. Each box on the letter had different conditions that she was trying to diagnose me with. e.e
-> for OCD she said that I played the piano compulsively
-> for emotional attachment she said that I was always emotionally detached from a young age and would struggle to give hugs + eye contact
-> she said that I had social issues, and needed social situations to be explained to me
-> she said that I was often hurtful to my cousins
-> and she suggested that I should go and see an autism specialist
The letter she sent was very contrived, she had either twisted things that my mum had said to her, taken things out of context, or straight up lied, about how I was.
Yes, I was a shy child, I wasn't the type who like to be the centre of attention. But I never felt that I didn't fit in with people, I had always managed to make friends throughout my life, and had never needed/ had social situations explained to me.
Also - the piano thing. Yes, I really like to play the piano, but I wasn't compulsively obliged to play it.
My parents tried to hide the letter from me, but weeks after seeing the psychiatrist, and starting anti-depressants, I found the letter on my mums phone.
At this point I actually felt good about myself. I know some of you may think thats an unusual response to seeing that kind of letter written about yourself. But for me, it confirmed all the things my psychotherapist was trying to tell me. My Aunt was biased against me, and nothing I did for them would ever be good.
The letter made it clear to me that my Aunt was wrong about me.
And from that point onwards I stopped feeling guilty.
And I started recovering.
However I still had a lot of emotions to deal with, at first anger, followed by self-pity and feeling like a victim. Neither helped me to get better.
It wasn't until my therapist told me this.. "I am so proud of you, the difference in you now, compared to when you first saw me is incredible. You have become a lot stronger person" (Although I wasn't healed yet).
He made me realise the difference in me. That I was now far more self-assure, able to stand up for myself.
He said that it was a hard lesson for me to swallow, that everyone is flawed in some way, and that life doesn't always turn out the way we want it to be, it's not fair, and it doesn't make sense.
But through all that I evolved to be a better person. And if you asked me now honestly, would I rather that the whole depression incident didn't happen, I would say no. I wouldn't change a thing. For once I can actually say that i'm proud of myself.
1. I know that I can face tough things in life.
2. I am way more caring and sensitive to peoples feeling than i've ever been before
3. I am far more appreciative of the life that I have, and the people that are in it
4. I am more outgoing, and for once feel that I have just as much of a right to exist as everyone else
5. I am far better at self-reflection, and more aware of looking after my mental state
No recovery wasn't perfect. It took a month of 40mg of anti-depressants to get me feeling like myself again. I remember I woke up one day and I could do whatever I wanted. I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted from me. It was EASY to be me again.
Everyone deals with depression differently, and everyone recovers from depression differently. I'm glad to say that now, mid march I am back to my old self again. And it's an amazing feeling.
I am 100% sure that without the therapy and the drugs that I had, I wouldn't have recovered from the dark place I was in. If i were to recover on my own, it would have taken me years. There is no shame in getting help.
When I was 14 I was able to get myself out of my depression through forcing myself to exercise, eat well, and socialise - it took me 6 months, but it worked eventually.
That wasn't the answer this time round though. You can't always do it by yourself, and thats ok. That doesn't make you weaker than anyone else.
Look at me as an example. The same person, but two different incidences of depression.
As I said before, I wouldn't change a thing. I know thats easy for me to say now, that it's all over. But I promise you that it's worth getting better. And being able to appreciate life again, after having lived several months in a very dark place, is THE BEST FEELING IN THE WORLD.
There is someone out there who wants to help you. For me it was my parents, despite everything that they've been through.
If you want someone to talk to, someone who understands what you're going through on a personal level. I am happy to be that person. Just let me know. I would hate to think of anyone feeling the way that I did. No one deserves that. And to get better sometimes you need to talk. XXX - Meg