Working with Depression
Since the age of thirteen, I have struggled with depression. By sixteen I was officially diagnosed and medicated. At twenty-two years old I feel I am finally able to say that I am working with depression.
I can’t say how my depression came about. There’s buckets of information about it being hereditary, about it being psychological, about it being both or neither. But that’s not why I’m writing. I just wanted to tell you my story, it’s helping me to write it and maybe you’ll get something out of it too.
I don’t really remember how it started, I just remember a consuming feeling of hopelessness. I found it hard to understand: I wanted to cry constantly, but surely things couldn’t have been that bad? I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because I always felt that my problems weren’t as important as others.
Everyone’s got their own problems, why should they also need to worry about mine?
Secondary school was pretty difficult. I was struggling daily with depression but I also had the added stresses of realising that I was gay. In the end I just decided to stay silent about everything I felt, because I didn’t think that anyone else would understand, especially if I didn’t.
The best and worst I’ve ever felt was during my three years of university. I finally got to move out of my parents house and study something I was passionate about. My chosen subject was Psychology, which is clearly not a coincidence. Those three years were a rollercoaster and yet I feel that if it didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
I made friends who helped me to realise that it was okay to feel unhappy, friends who supported me and accepted me. Things were going good for the first year. The second year was spent struggling with coursework, losing friends and drinking copious amounts of vodka. Third year was spent drinking copious amounts of beer and attempting suicide. It is a year since I finished university, so it really hasn’t been a long time but the person I was then feels a lifetime ago.
After I attempted suicide, I decided that I would never let myself get in that position again. But I didn’t really do anything about it, I just walked around with a notion of “Yeah, I definitely don’t want to kill myself”. It took a few months to get to a place where I felt I could work through the bad things. I went back on my medication (I stopped taking it for a few years) and I sought counselling. The counselling was wonderful, it is amazing to just be able to spend an hour a week talking to someone about what you’re feeling with no judgement whatsoever.
In April 2012, I met someone. I had liked them for a while but never felt that I was in a position to pursue a relationship, thinking they wouldn’t be able to cope with me. But one day, I felt that I was ready and that I deserved to be happy. We’re still together now. It’s the first time I’ve felt truly able to talk about anything and everything with someone, the first time I’ve felt truly comfortable with another person.
After I graduated from University, I got a lucky break and was thrown headfirst into the tech industry. I’ve wanted to be involved with tech in many forms since I was around 14 and making amazing image mapped Myspace layouts, so I was pretty ecstatic to be given the chance to enter this world.
Things were awesome for a few months; I was falling in love, I had a great job, great colleagues and was meeting tonnes of new people. I felt amazing.
Then things got really shitty.
I started to lose interest in my work, in caring for myself, in everything. After a close family member was diagnosed with Cancer, that’s when things got really really bad. I’d go into work every day and not realise I was putting the bare minimum in. It’s not that I didn’t care about what I was doing, but I had no excitement about anything anymore.
My boss sat me down and told me that I needed to sort myself out. Now, he said this in a much nicer way, but that was the gist of it. Up until that point, I hadn’t realised how badly I was doing. I went home and looked at the last few months of my life and saw that I was truly unhappy. I was absolutely terrified I was turning back into thirteen year old Charlotte who hid her freshly harmed arms, or the nineteen year old Charlotte who found happiness, lust and everything else at the bottom of a bottle.
I’d like to say “So I picked myself up, sorted myself out and now I’m good”, but I’d be lying. I’m still struggling. But I realised that I need to take a step back and think about what Charlotte needed. My partner encouraged me to seek proper therapy, something that I’ve been doing for a few months now. I’m taking my medication regularly, I’m looking after my basic needs (eating & sleeping, things that are incredibly friggin’ important and something I never used to care about) and when I look at future me, I see someone content with their life.
That’s the thing for me. I don’t say things like “one day I don’t want to be depressed, I want to be happy and normal”. I am someone who is working with depression and I’m going to try and do a damn good job of it.