It’s hard to pinpoint quite when my mental health story begins. I’ve been anxious for as long as I can remember, and the depression became so intertwined with this as I grew up that differentiating between the two is extremely difficult. By my ninth birthday, I hated leaving the house and having to socialize with people so much that I asked my mum to home school me. By the time I turned ten, I had self-harmed for the first time, and started an addiction that continues to this day.
I wasn’t officially diagnosed with anxiety and depression until I was thirteen years old, after finally dropping out of school, but you can probably see from the above examples that my battle started many years earlier. It was after this that I spent many years in and out of different therapies—mainly cognitive behavioural therapy and person-centred talking therapies—but they never worked.
I didn’t understand why they didn’t work until I was seventeen, when I received my autism diagnosis. I find communicating verbally extremely difficult, but I assumed everyone found it hard. I also struggle connecting my thoughts with the feelings they cause, which is why cognitive behavioural therapy didn’t work, but I didn’t realise it at the time.
Now, I’m nineteen, and after a trial of medication failed to work, I’m facing the reality that I might have to battle my mental health for the rest of my life. I cannot begin to tell you how much that scares me. However, some days are easier than others, and I try and create as many good memories as I can so that I have something to look back upon on my bad days. Taking care of myself in little ways and reminding myself that this battle isn’t my fault helps, too.
What Does Depression Mean To You?
To me, depression is numbness. I’m so apathetic that I couldn’t care what happened to me, or the world around me. I also lose all motivation because I no longer care, which can make getting out of bed and maintaining appearances at college extremely difficult at times. I experience such a lack of energy that sometimes, I can’t get out of bed for days at a time. I don’t even have the energy to do basic self-care activities, let alone having the energy to put on a mask and pretend to the outside world that I’m doing fine. Sometimes I can do this, but it means coming home, exhausted, and hating myself because I can’t be authentic like those without my condition can be, 100% of the time.
How Did You Overcome Depression And/or Self Harm?
My depression is still something I’m battling with on a daily basis, but I’ve found taking things one day—or sometimes, one hour—at a time has really helped. If I look too far into the future I become suicidal because I’m so scared about being worthless and not contributing towards society, but if I take things one day at a time I can think about what I’m doing to contribute to society now. Even if it’s only something small, like being the shoulder for a friend to cry on, or simply existing so that nobody has to go through the trauma of wiping up my dead body. It sounds morbid, but depression can turn your thinking very black and white, and using that to help me cope is really beneficial. I can’t talk so much about the self-harm side of things because it’s something I’m still battling on a daily basis, despite my best efforts.
What Advice Would You Give Someone That Is Battling With Depression And/or Self-Harm?
The biggest piece of advice I could give to someone suffering from depression and/or self-harm is that it’s not your fault that you’re feeling this way. A lot of people feel like burdens on their family and friends for putting them through it but believe me when I say they’ll only want to help you. Their lives wouldn’t be better without you in it, no matter what your brain would have you believe. Like my mum said to me during a bad period at the beginning of the year, the stress and worry is worth it to know that you are safe, and still with us. You’re wanted, you’re loved, and you need to be here tomorrow.
What Do You Believe Are Some Problems That The Media Brings To Females That Battle With Depression And/or Self Harm?
I think the media tries to make out like teenage girls with depression and/or self-harm problems are attention seeking—a phrase that has a lot of negative stigma attached to it, despite not being a negative thing to want attention itself. It makes teenage girls feel like they’re overreacting for feeling the way they’re feeling, which isn’t the case. Your feelings are valid, and you deserve to be treated like they are.
On the other hand, the media can also make depression seem like something you almost want to suffer from. Shows like Thirteen Reasons Why make depression look glamorous, without showing the true reality behind the condition. No, that boy you’ve been crushing on won’t wish he’d gone out with you while he had the chance if you kill yourself, and you won’t be able to fix any existing problems if you get into a relationship. It simplifies complex conditions into character quirks and prevents the seriousness of the conditions being noticed for what they are.