Picture depression in your head. Now imagine being told that you have depression, a very nasty form which coexists with your anxiety. I’m 95% sure that you wouldn’t have pictured someone that looked like yourself. I’ll let you in on a secret – neither did I.
I was diagnosed with depression a year ago, at 17 years of age. I had failed to realise that my symptoms had been developing since I was 14 years old. The anxiety came first, and this eventually lead to the development of my depression.
If it wasn’t for my boyfriend at the time, I wouldn’t know, and I wouldn’t be writing this now. I sent him a text message one day, and after that he knew that I needed some help, contacted my mum, who organised a trip to the doctor’s. From there I consulted with a psychologist and psychiatrist due to the nasty progression of my depression.
Backtracking a few years, I always knew that I could get very sad. I have always been the person who takes everything to heart, and I get upset quite easily. As my high school years went on, I was becoming sadder and more distant, more often. I really didn’t enjoy where I was, and it got to a point where I didn’t even like my own company.
I have always been a stress head, and I set very high expectations of myself. Coming into my senior years of school, this really got to me. I also became fixated on other people’s opinion of myself. I would do anything for appraisal or recognition.
However, depression is not only sadness. I got to a point where I didn’t feel anything. It was Year 12 and I had no motivation, yet my anxiety and stress levels were through the roof to perform perfectly. I completely lost my appetite and would go a few days without breakfast, then a few days only eating a chicken schnitzel for dinner. I lived on caffeine and tea for a long time.
It wasn’t because I didn’t like what I looked like, or that I felt as though I had to be thinner. It was simply because I wasn’t hungry. My brain wasn’t telling me to eat. I was numb.
I slept for the recommended 6-8 hours a night, but I always woke up tired. I was always lethargic and this just meant I was more prone to blow up and lash out later in the day.
I experienced three panic attacks within two months, two of which took place in my car. This was probably the scariest part of my anxiety. I couldn’t control what my body was doing. I would hyperventilate, bawl my eyes out, uncontrollably scream sentences out, and always got the shakes up. I would go from being freezing cold to boiling hot. All of my panic attacks stemmed from little things. The first was after getting lost in traffic, and the second two progressed after someone had made a comment to me (they didn’t even mean to purposely offend me).
My depression hit me hardest a night, when it was just me and my mind. I remember for a few months I didn’t go without crying for 1-3 hours each night. During the day I would go to the bathroom and start crying; I had no idea why.
It was so confusing because after all of this pain, the next week could be the week of my life. Nothing could phase me; I could be on top of the world. Then bam, straight back to square one.
See, that’s the tricky thing about depression. You don’t know where your brain is going to take you next.
After a consult with my doctor and psychologist, and being clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety, I hit rock bottom. Being told that I actually suffered from these mental health conditions made me feel like a freak to be honest. I was an outsider.
I didn’t tell many people, and the people who I did tell, didn’t really understand it. Some didn’t take it seriously. I think it was because they had never experienced anything like this first hand. I think it came as a shock to them. That wasn’t any more comforting for me though.
I couldn’t speak about it to anyone. How are you supposed to explain to someone that you hear voices in your head but you’re not sure how many and you can’t identify who they are? How are you meant to explain that they all speak over the top of one another, repeating the same statements over and over again, yet you can’t pick what they are saying? How are you meant to explain that you have no control over when they start or when they stop? How are you meant to explain this to someone when you are not even sure yourself?
How are you meant to explain to someone that you have no control over how you feel, when you feel it, or how you act upon it?
I am learning each and every day how to deal with my anxiety and depression. I am more than comfortable sharing my experiences with others. I want mental health to be a more widely accepted issue within society.
Yes, mental health issues can be uncomfortable. No, it should not stay this way.
I hope that one day, knowing what I have been through can help somebody else.