I have struggled with my mood since I was around 12 years old. I was depressed, had no self esteem and felt worthless and lost. To cope with these feelings I started self harming and also developed an eating disorder, and after struggling for a while I ended up being admitted to hospital for a few months.
My admission really helped me with my self harm and it was during those months that I decided cutting wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of my life any more. I spent the next two years working really hard at reducing self harm, and managed to completely stop by the time I was 18. Even when I feel really low now, self harm isn’t something that ever feels like an option for me anymore. I’ve gone from hurting myself several times a day to being almost 10 years clean, and my scars remind me every day why I don’t want to go back there.
My eating disorder took a lot longer to break free from, and I had treatment twice in my twenties. It’s something I have found much harder to move on from and I have to make the decision every day to stay in recovery.
I’ve continued to struggle with periods of depression throughout my life, and 3 years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This means that no matter how well I am currently, at some point in the future I will most likely be depressed again. It’s a hard thing to come to terms with. The times when I have been depressed have been the worst moments of my life and knowing I’ll have to relive that again is scary. But I each time I’ve had a depressive episode, I’ve come out the other side stronger than I was before. I’ve got through it before and I know I can again. And if you’re in a similar boat, please know that you can get through it too.
What does depression mean to you?
Depression to me means feeling like I am drowning and everything feels like trying to move underwater. The world feels incredibly slow, and thoughts start creeping in that I am a burden on people and that I am worthless. That is probably the hardest part; it’s so easy to start feeling like a burden. You can see yourself making people around you miserable, but feel entirely unable to stop it, which just adds to the self loathing you already have.
Something I think is often overlooked is talking about the physical sensations of depression. Emotionally, I would actually describe depression as at times almost a ‘nothingness’, a complete absence of feelings. Physically, it is like my whole body is made of lead. I can’t move. I live in a state of being asleep and awake simultaneously. The air around me feels as though it is crushing me. It’s a very hard feeling to imagine unless you have experienced it, but I hope with all my heart that you haven’t.
Finally, depression to me means lies. It is a liar. The things I think and feel about myself and the world when I’m depressed are incomprehensible when I’m well. Although I still have days where I don’t feel great, I don’t experience any of the hatred and worthlessness I feel when I’m depressed. I know now that I am worthy of life.
How did you overcome depression and/or self harm?
Although I have struggled with depression for 15 years, it’s been 10 years since I last self harmed. It was a huge problem for me and stopping was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of the best. I can’t give you any magic tips or tricks on how to stop, other than telling you that it is hard work and you have to try at it, but it’s one of the most worthwhile things you will ever do for yourself. It won’t happen overnight and there will be blips, but that’s okay. I reached a point in my life where I decided that self harm wasn’t how I wanted to manage my feelings any more. I started trying to use lots of different distraction techniques instead of self harming until I found the ones that worked for me.
I have bipolar disorder, so I do still struggle with depression now. It’s been a while since I last had an episode and I try very hard to take care of myself in the hope that this will keep me stable. I eat healthily, I exercise, I don’t drink often and I take my medication every day. This doesn’t mean I’ll never get depressed again, but I am doing everything I can to stay well. I’d be lying if I said I never think about harming myself when I’m depressed, but those thoughts are so infrequent and so quiet now that they don’t ever feel like an option to me anymore. My scars are a daily reminder that I never want to go back there.
What advice would you give to somebody battling with depression and/or self harm?
My advice would be to talk to somebody. Your friends, your family, your doctor, a counsellor, your teacher, your boss, a helpline, a stranger. Anybody. There are so many different avenues to communicate now including online chatrooms where you can be anonymous. Depression and self harm can feel very lonely, but you are never alone. There is always going to be somebody out there that wants to listen and help. Don’t suffer in silence.
What do you believe are some problems that the media brings to females that battle with depression and/or self harm?
I feel that the media as a whole places an enormous amount of pressure on women and girls to be successful in all areas of our lives; it is often implied that we must be intelligent, have successful careers, be independent, have children and look thin and beautiful while we’re at it. Women are expected to be everything all at once. But not too intelligent or we are arrogant, not too successful or we are bossy, not too independent or we are b*tches, not too pretty or we are stuck up. It often feels to me like we can’t do anything right according to the media.
The influence of social media is also enormous. We are surrounded by beautiful bodies and faces, of people traveling the world and getting promotions and achieving all of their dreams. Although deep down we all understand that people are only portraying the best of themselves on social media, it is still very easy to feel inadequate. Additionally, bullying and harassment are often inescapable online.
If you’re confident in yourself and where your life is, these factors can be frustrating, and even the most confident person can be impacted by what they see and hear in the media. But if you’re already struggling with your mental health and self esteem, these factors can be crushing and it can be so difficult to overcome these feelings as it is so hard to escape the media.
There are some wonderful areas of the internet full of body positivity, recovery motivation and self love inspiration. I try to cut the negative spaces out of my life as much as possible and choose to flood my social media with hope and positivity, which I’ve found to be really beneficial to my mental wellbeing.