12 Months to Happiness

An introduction

There are many reasons why I’ve decided to write about my experience of depression, but I suppose the easiest two to explain are the isolation I felt in my darkest days and the comfort I get from reflection. Given that people write about what they know, it seemed ideal that through writing about my journey, I’m able to reflect on a huge part of my life whilst also creating the type of thing that would really have helped me and my close friends during my depression, even if to only act as a talking point.

Fortunately, my darkest days are behind me, but even now when I meet someone who has had any form of mental illness, I’m instantly drawn to them as if we’re a rare breed, which is far from the facts. To me, this really symbolises the loneliness that I felt during my downtime.

Growing up, I wasn’t particularly sheltered from mental illness. My father spent years of his life battling his mental illness in and out of hospital, so I was no stranger to the reality and often severity of such things. Just a few years ago, my sister fell victim to Puerperal Psychosis, something I spent a long time trying to understand and eventually made a documentary about. Yet somehow, even with the knowledge that my direct family had been through their own struggles, in my time of need, I felt as if I were truly alone for the first time in my life (which brought with it a real sense of fear, exactly what I needed).

Well, it seems that this is the part in which I should probably talk about me, myself and my depression (I was thinking about naming the series this, but even I thought that was too much of a cliche).

Throughout my life, I’ve always had quite a negative frame of mind. Like many others, I find it much easier to list off negatives than positives. The issue is, the negatives have always stayed with me. Whether it was a comment I received in passing that I took the wrong way or a mistake that I made, simply moving on never really seemed like an option to me.

In late 2016, I had my first panic attack. Picture the scene – it’s a calm Saturday morning, my housemates and I are sat around the table enjoying ourselves when suddenly, the question pops into my head…‘What should I get my mother for Christmas?!’. With this triggering the emotional equivalent of what I imagine knowing that the plane you’re on is going down, suddenly my heart was racing. I was shaking. I couldn’t stand the thought of being around people for another second. This is what I refer to as my first warning sign.

Over the next few months, I carried on as normal. The stress got greater, I spent less time looking after myself and all of my effort was focused on people pleasing… until one day I just broke. At first, I was bitter and withdrawn, pushing those closest to me away at the time when I needed them the most. This passed after a couple of weeks when I truly hit my low point. I was left with an overwhelming and constant urge to cry. It was only at this point, that I realised something was probably wrong. Before the week’s end, I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and began to find whatever help I could. This was April 2017 and it’s been a lot of work to get to the position I’m in today, where I’m comfortable enough to talk about this and feeling significantly better.

Over the next year, I’ll be reflecting on how I was affected, my thoughts on what the journey so far and looking at what helped me, as one of the many people trying to shine a light on something that still makes my friends blush whenever it’s mentioned.

So, here goes nothing. Wish me luck and I truly hope that you find this an interesting read (and also that my writing improves over time). If you want to share your experience with me, have any questions or even just want to tell me how poorly I must’ve done at GCSE English, please respond accordingly. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Much love,