What it's like to live with depression
“When you learn to cope better, you’ll find the feelings easier to deal with.”
It was something I heard a lot at the beginning of my illness, and my reply was always the same.
“I don’t want to deal with it! I want to feel better, I want it to go away.”
Diagnosed aged fifteen, it often seems like clinical depression, anxiety and eating problems have stolen the so-called “best years of my life”. A normal teenage life is tricky to navigate under any circumstances, but with the added agonies of mental illness, at times they felt hopeless and I felt powerless to continue with life.
My repertoire of coping skills was limited, and so I trod the well worn paths of self destruction. For many years it felt like as I grew, so did my capacity for pain - time wasn’t healing and I grew steadily worse, trapped inside the dark places my head inhabited.
It wasn’t really until I began university aged nineteen, studying theology, that things took a turn for the better. Encouraged by fantastic friends, my local church and supportive lecturers I began to think a little differently about myself and for the first time I wanted to get better.
It wasn’t, isn’t, an easy path to take. It’s long and tiring. I slipped up more times than I can count and wondered whether it was worth the effort.
The funny thing is that the more I improved the more I began to realise that my wonderful friends and family had been right. As I sought healthier coping mechanisms (singing, writing etc) I began to see a way through the darkness. It was not that the darkness disappeared, more that I had been given a torch with which to navigate my way through.
As I began to consider the idea of a future, it struck me that I could make something good come out of all the bad stuff. It became my mission. I wanted desperately to make all I had gone through count for something. So I volunteered with some chaplains in my local mental health unit, and started an awareness group at my university. Writing the sessions, answering peoples questions and even sharing some of my story allowed me to heal in ways I had never dreamed of.
I have not clinically recovered. I still take medication daily and have episodes of depression which leave me reeling - but they no longer floor me. I have had the pleasure of seeing ThinkTwice (the organisation I set up) take off on social networking, and through an awareness concert.
I do not wish to sound blase about my journey. I cannot say that I’m all better now and I’ve “grown out” of depression. And yet, I can say that I’ve got better at dealing with the darkness, and I have hope - hope in the future and hope that I can make a difference.