THIS IS WHO I AM... GET OVER IT
As a female from a middle-class area, I’ve never known anyone living in poverty, I’ve never known anyone dealing with dreadful or unthinkable circumstances, I’ve never encountered extreme racism (towards myself or anyone else) and all sexual orientations have been embraced by the people that I know.
Of course, this is only my experience with life and perhaps I’ve lived a heavily sheltered existence here in the countryside. Still, this is my story.
At 17 I became unwell and missed the first half-term of Upper-Sixth. Very quickly I became fed up and cross that this was the hand that I’d been dealt. I couldn’t understand why it was me that was unwell, why it was me missing out on school and why it was me that was going to have to change my outlook for the future.
I was fast becoming irritated and my patience was wearing thin. I’ll be honest, I got irritated and decided that my only available option was to drop two of my A-Levels and just continue with Maths. But soon, I lost interest in Maths and couldn’t be bothered to do anything at all. Staying at home to watch ‘Friends’ in my pyjamas was a much easier option and that was the choice that I decided to make.
I was losing a sense of myself. Anyone who’d known me would tell you that school was my favourite place in the whole world. My friends were there, my efforts would be rewarded, I felt safe and comfortable, and I considered it my home from home.
Many teenagers will tell you that they hate school, that they can’t wait to get out, but for me it was the opposite. That’s why it was so strange when I was actively skipping school to sit alone in my bedroom with nothing but a TV for company.
I became agoraphobic and the anxiety that had been a constant throughout my life was now in complete control. It wasn’t until I’d been unwell for 9 months that I was diagnosed with depression, a diagnosis that came as a huge relief.
I like to think of it like the devil and angel on my shoulders. On one shoulder sits the angel – a happy, chirpy, bubbly, excitable and silly character; a lover of life and someone who tries really hard to succeed.
On my other shoulder sits the devil. This person is sad, bored, lonely, uninterested, anxious and empty.The devil is a loser, a person who’s happy to sit back and let someone else take control. This character is uncaring and thoughtless, mean and self-centered yet self-conscious and guilty.
For most of my life it’s been dual control – the angel taking the wheel but with the devil’s anxiety always present. However, on occasion the devil has played a larger role than I’d have liked and at 17 the devil took over. Yes, I was poorly but it wasn’t anything that I shouldn’t have been able to handle, and that’s why I believe that some people will always have a depressive tendency, and why it’s not always due to hardship.
So often we are told that those with depression have a deeper rooted problem. We are programmed to expect anyone with depression to be victims of bullying, financial issues, abuse, sexism, racism and trauma, but that isn’t the case for everyone.
I’ve never been a victim of any of those problems and have the strongest, most supportive family and friends that anyone could ask for. Despite this, all it took was a gentle push for my angel to fall down and depression to take over.
For me, the solution has been simple. I was prescribed Citalopram, an antidepressant that increases the amount of serotonin in my brain, consequently improving my mood. This enabled me to go to see a therapist so I could deal with the anxiety that had been plaguing me for years.
I consider myself to have a natural tendency towards depression due to a chemical imbalance, an issue which I can control with medication. This is why for me, the comparison with diabetes is apt; my grandad has diabetes and in the same way that he controls his chemical imbalance with insulin, I control mine with serotonin.
I understand that for a lot of people, depression is as a result of a larger cause, but there are some of us for whom it is just natural. Depression is, and always will be, a part of who I am. Luckily, I can control it and at the moment it causes me no harm.
I ask that not all depression sufferers are treated as damaged goods because some of us just have a weaker angel and it doesn’t take much for her to fall down. This is who I am – get over it.