One of our students recently wrote this magnificent and moving piece, which was published on SpunOut.ie. We are reproducing the article here in full with links to SpunOut’s help pages.
“Depression is awful; it can easily be fatal. It kills you slowly, agonisingly, from the inside until you are nothing but an empty shell, unable to think or to feel, barely existing.”
So I have depression, and have had it for the majority of my life. When at school, our year received a talk from “Aware” and I couldn’t believe it. It was like they were talking about me. I had the majority of the ‘symptoms’ of depression. I still have the booklet they gave out. I was so sure that I had found out what was wrong with me. However, I was terrified. I felt that having depression meant I was weak. I felt I couldn’t tell or let anyone see that was struggling, that things weren’t ok. As far as I was concerned it wasn’t serious.
So what did I do? I buried my head in the sand. I told myself to get over it. How could I be depressed when I had it pretty good (a lot better than many others). I threw myself even further into school work. I tried to ignore it.
At the time I don’t think that I realised that it was escalating. My anxiety was getting worse. I was hurting myself. I used it as a punishment. I was (and am) obsessed with being perfect (get 60% in a test – not good enough). Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn’t keep up the act. Things were getting worse and worse. I was pulled out of my secondary school and begun attending an alternative educational setting.
I wish I could say that things started to improve after changing schools, don’t get me wrong they didn’t get worse, for a while. I was still pushing and punishing myself. On top of the usual I began using food as a ‘weapon’. Growing up I used to eat away my feelings. Every time I would feel I would eat. Food became something that had to be earned.
When I came to The Centre (my new school) I found someone I ‘trusted’, her name was Paula*, she was one of my teachers. She helped me and listened to me. When she left I began going downhill again, this time at a much quicker rate. I had let her into the fortress which is me, then she was gone so I built the walls stronger and higher again. I honestly believed that everything was my fault. I had to be perfect.
Around this time my mother’s health also began deteriorating slightly faster. I pushed myself as hard as I could to be the perfect daughter, the perfect student. I wanted to please everyone. I hated and still do hate myself for not being perfect, for everything. I was really struggling to keep up academically but I refused to tell or let anyone see that I wasn’t fine. I had to be fine. I always have had to be fine.
Over time I became less and less able to pretend or to keep up academically. I also began self-harming more, eating less and caring less. If I couldn’t be perfect, then I didn’t want to be here. I have made myself be good academically and I was losing it. I was losing the only thing I was anywhere near good at.
Then in approximately February/March 2015, Jane approached me. Jane had been one of my teachers for a year or so and she explained that she was training to be a counsellor and asked whether I wold be interested in meeting her. At the time I was in quite a bad place and I agreed. It was the first real time that I verbally admitted to myself, let alone anyone else that I thought that I might be depressed. I knew that things were getting worse but I was too scared and stubborn to ask for help. In around April I began meeting with Jane. At first it was kind of get to know each other, breathing techniques, etc. Things rapidly but steadily got worse and worse. It took a while for me to tell Jane about my self harming and even longer to tell her about the thoughts.
I finally went to my GP and told him that I wasn’t fine. He prescribed medication and also referred me to a mental health resource centre. After a few months I met with the psychiatrist. The following day I told my mother that I was on medication. She wasn’t that surprised. It took a long time to tell her about the self harm, I eventually told her at the end of October. Since going to my GP that first time my medication has been changed and the dosage altered a lot. It will probably change again shortly. Today is my 34th day clean free from self-harm. I guess that is my story so far…
I am not going to pretend that depression is easy to fight. It consumes you. It is really hard to describe what depression feels like to someone. It is like a constant numbness, a constant emptiness, a constant exhaustion. You can’t think, can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t function. Without a doubt it is one of the hardest things I have ever done.
I have a pair of dog tags that were originally obtained with “Battlefield 4” a few years ago, that I wear around my neck. One of the dog tags has the phrase “Prepare 4 Battle” inscribed on it. Every night I take them off and every morning I put them back on. I find that phrase to be highly accurate and applicable. The only way I can effectively describe depression is to compare it to war. There is a war going on inside my head. Every day is a battle, a fight.
I wouldn’t wish depression on my worst enemy. Depression is far too common for my liking and is romanticised in society. People say;” I’m depressed” as a joke or an exaggeration that they are sad. However, depression is not being sad for an hour, or a day, or even a week. Depression is a constant numbness, an exhaustion, an emptiness. I am the prisoner and depression is the warden. Depression is awful; it can easily be fatal. It kills you slowly, agonisingly, from the inside until you are nothing but an empty shell, unable to think or to feel, barely existing.
*Names changed to protect identities of the author.