What it's like to live with depression and anxiety
Mental health problems are something I’ve lived with my entire life; both suffering myself and watching people close to me suffer.
Even when I was a young child, from the age of about 3, my family knew there was something not quite right with me. Back then I had extreme apathy towards everything and everyone, all the time. I would purposefully try and hurt people and put people in difficult situations and enjoy seeing them struggle, feel uncomfortable or get upset. When I was about 4, I killed our family bird because I was jealous and thought my mum loved him more than she loved me; I needed everyone’s attention all the time.
After that, I was referred to a child psychologist who suggested I was displaying a high number of sociopathic tendencies, but from what I can remember, nothing was done because they thought I would grow out of it. I had severe problems at school, I was bullied relentlessly, mostly because I acted so weirdly and differently I imagine. I would steal things from other classmates and outright lie about it, even if someone had seen me. When I was about 7 I got suspended for biting a classmate, and my school said something had to be done about my behaviour.
It was then that my mum was diagnosed with cancer, and any thoughts of my behaviour went out the window. Initially she was given six months to live and, while I was calm and accepting at the time, massive rage and anger began to manifest inside me. I was just, so angry, every minute of the day, if someone so much as looked at me and I didn’t like it, I was off. I threw horrific tantrums, sometimes lasting 12 hours straight and I started pulling my hair out and banging my head against walls.
Most of the rest of my family lived in London (we lived in Devon) and although my aunt lived in the same village, she retreated into massive denial and refused to accept my mum was dying; I was the only person left to look after mum. I remember coping quite well with it, even then things rarely unsettled me or shocked me, so I took the fact I had to help my mum bath and use the toilet in my stride and although my tantrums and behaviour was getting steadily worse, if my mum needed me I could switch to a responsible adult in seconds. I know now that no 8 year old should have to deal with looking after their dying mother, but at the time it was normal to me, I thought it was what was done in those situations.
Mum died when I was 12 and I had just started secondary school. Her death in itself never affected me that much, and even though everyone said it would hit me after a while, it still hasn’t, ten years on. What did hit me, though, was this horrific feeling that life was just pointless, and I had no idea what that feeling was, so I just dealt with it how I felt I should. If I wasn’t at school, I was in my room sleeping or watching mindless TV to just pass life away. Summer holidays were the worst, I would pretty much spend six weeks inside my room, often not even being able to get out of bed and shower and eat. I went days at a time without eating or drinking much and I didn’t even realise, I started self-harming at about this time.
When I was about 15, I started going to London and spending my summers with my stepdad and cousin: these trips were the highlight of my year and I would begin to feel loved and feel hope while I was away, but when I went back home everything just crashed down.
I left school and went to college, and my social life changed dramatically. People actually liked me there, and I actually enjoyed being there. I had done so badly in my GCSEs that I was lucky to get in and, although I said I was going to work hard at college, I spent my two years drinking, partying and burying my depression and self-harm deep inside me. When I was 17 I suddenly snapped. Everything was just so horrific and I was just trying to pretend it wasn’t, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I tried to kill myself, but then panicked and went to my aunt, although I refused to go to hospital.
In 2008, when I was 18, my life changed. I met a guy on the internet in London and I went to visit him for a few days and I never went back to Devon. They guy and I barely lasted a week but my stepdad realised how much I didn’t want to go back and told me I could move in with him.
I told my stepdad about everything and he told me how my mum had also suffered for years with depression and that I needed to see a doctor. I was put on anti-depressants, anti-anxiety tablets and at the time, anti-psychotics for my panic attacks and I see a therapist weekly and a psychiatrist monthly.
I’ve had one really bad patch since 2008, when I broke up with a partner, and yes I have my ups and downs, but I’ve never experienced life as good as it is now. I’ve finally taken my love of psychology and I’m turning it into a career, doing my degree at the moment. I have wonderful friends and though I can’t work at the moment and though certain things need to still be addressed, I’m happy, and I’ve never ever been happy before.