I was toying with the idea of writing an ‘All about Nym’ post. Some sort of flippant, humorous and probably slightly twee list of things I like and dislike or some facts about me or some such. But having paid attention to my last blog post asking for feedback and just thinking about which of my posts seem to get the best response, I think I know what would go down better even if I’ve shied away from writing an entire blog post about it so far because it seems self indulgent. Besides, if my 16 year old sister can open up about how ASD and meltdowns affect her (in this post) then I feel I really should show the same sort of willing (though, I can’t promise the results will make for such good reading).
Okay. I suffer from depression.
Not a particularly shocking or daring admission given – besides the fact I’ve mentioned it on this blog before – depression affects one in…ten…five…four…I’m not sure, actually, Google couldn’t seem to come to a consensus. Loads. Loads and loads of people have depression at some point and even more people know someone who is depressed, is what I’m trying to say.
I think I had been suffering on and off with depression for a long time before I realised what it was. A long time. As in, I remember taking myself off to my dad’s workshop to read and just crying and crying for no reason then lying when Mum asked if something was wrong and I was nine at the time.
I was twice that age when I figured out what might be causing it. The Wolf and I got a flat in Glasgow the September after I turned 18 because I’d been accepted into the University of Glasgow. I remember unpacking one of the boxes for the kitchen – the Wolf was at work so I was home alone – and as I was taking the bubble wrap off a champagne flute I dropped it and it broke. And then I broke…down (this seemed like a good metaphor when I started). This wasn’t some ornate, crystal champagne flute or anything. At least, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t! No, it was part of a present from a friend; what with me turning 18 and everything (for any US readers, the legal age for buying alcohol in the UK is 18) and I think it was even part of a set of two but it just upset me so much that I’d managed to package this breakable thing up and transport it all the way from home with it intact just to drop it after I’d unwrapped it. It was like a Of Mice and Men thing except instead of my home being destroyed like in the poem or having to kill my best friend like in the novel my champagne flute broke despite all that bubble wrap. Okay, so maybe they’re not comparable but that’s the point. It wasn’t the end of the world (it wasn’t even the end of me drinking champagne since we couldn’t afford it at the time, anyway) but I sat on the floor of our tiny kitchenette and sobbed and sobbed.
|None of these are the glass in question.
Obviously, since that one…you know.
I don’t think it was as a direct result of this I sought help but this was certainly one of the incidents that led to my realisation it probably wasn’t ‘normal’ to cry for half an hour over breaking a glass.
I’ve been asked before what depression feels like and it’s hard to answer, not least because when I’m not depressed I don’t think I truly remember what it was like when I was in the midst of it. The thing with the glass was common, though. You know how sometimes you have a really crappy day? Maybe you were kept awake half the night by noisy neighbours, then you realise you’re out of milk when you go to make tea, then you forget your purse/phone etc. when you go out and each thing on its own is just a small irritation you’d normally sigh about and shrug off but after a whole day of small irritations it just takes one more to make you snap? That’s part of what being depressed is for me. Small annoyances seem like the very last straw every single time. The number of times I cried through washing up just because…I didn’t want to wash up (we ended up getting a dishwasher eventually) is ridiculous. If I was alone – I don’t do crying in front of people – it didn’t take much: something breaking, realising an item of clothing I wanted to wear was in the wash, not being able to decide what to eat. Any of these things could cause me to cry and cry.
|Or finding there was only Goram Eclairs left in the tub.
Actually, we probably couldn’t afford Cadbury’s Heroes at the time.
Which would also have made me cry.
Whilst I didn’t realise this was, in fact, depression I did know my reactions were not completely normal so I hid it all from everyone bar the Wolf. Though, even with him, I didn’t confide exactly but when you live with someone in a small, one bedroom flat the darkness will seep out.
When we were little my brother decided it would be fun to try to make ‘slime’ He went about this by combining the inside of a glowstick with some WD40, a rubber (eraser for you non-Brits – he didn’t put any condoms in to my knowledge, though he probably would have if he’d had one) and who knows what else. This was all stored in a small plastic pot with a magnifying glass lid designed – I assume from the plastic spider that came with it – to hold spiders and insects. He blithely added all these ingredients and left the little tub on a shelf. The terrifying concoction eroded the plastic, ate its way through the wooden shelf underneath…and the shelf below that. It was…sort of fascinating but pretty scary and weird. And not entirely unlike my depression eroding away my hope, patience, self confidence and very gradually dripping its acid on the Wolf and our relationship and my relationships with everyone else, too.
See, whilst I did hide my depression from everyone I knew (very well apparently since more than one of my friends said I was literally the last person they would have thought was depressed after I finally told people), it still took its toll on all my interactions with other humans. When you construct this happy, jokey, easy going facade for all conversations you’re left behind it peeking out. It’s not really you having chatting and smiling, it’s this construction. Once you’re alone again you feel all the more lonely for having faked your way through all your chances to properly connect with someone else. That is the single most overriding feeling when I’m depressed, actually, Sure, I feel defeated and distressed and miserable and guilty and paranoid but more than anything else I feel lonely.
Within a few months of the champagne flute breaking I took an online test where if you tick yes to more than X number of questions it indicates you may have depression. I scored more than the minimum number and decided to go and see my GP.
But I was scared. I wasn’t scared he’d say I had depression; I was scared he’d say I didn’t. If I had depression there was a reason for why I felt the way I felt and there was a chance I could get better. If I didn’t…then I was just a miserable git of a person and that wasn’t ever likely to change.
One of the reasons it had taken so long for me to realise I might have depression was because depression was a real condition and surely me crying quite a lot and feeling completely and utterly hopeless and alone was just being a teenager. The impression I got from the little I knew about depression was that it rendered you incapable of any sort of normal life without you grabbing at the nearest sharp object to hack away at your wrists. I was having a hard time but I had some good days here and there and I managed to function and even talk and laugh when around other people. If I had a particularly rough night of obsessing over every single bad thing that had happened in the last year or so and finally crying myself to sleep at 3am (very quietly so as not to wake the Wolf) then the next day when I was out at Uni and the sun was shining and people were going about their lives all around me I’d tell myself I’d been silly and everything always seems worse in the middle of the night and I just needed to pull myself together. I’m British, after all! Stiff upper lip and all that. Surely I could just walk it off.
But as stiff as my lip was (that sounds really terribly bad now I’ve written it down) and as much walking as I did to and from campus every day, I still had these awful episodes and an overriding sense of things being hopeless.
I went along to the GP appointment with a list. I was worried I’d be laughed out of the room for being a melodramatic teenage girl so I clutched my little notebook of evidence (this was to stand me in good stead when I needed to document all Tyger’s autistic traits and behaviours for evidence almost a decade later) and hoped I’d be taken seriously.
|Which one is best for taking notes on Great Expectations and which
is best for noting down all the signs of a potential mental illness?
I earnestly went through my list of symptoms: both psychological (feelings of despair, guilt, irritability etc.) and physical (insomnia, headaches, loss of appetite, fatigue…). The doctor was lovely and thankfully did take me very seriously. I had to fill out a sort of assessment questionnaire, which went over the same ground I’d already covered with my little notebook but this was official and asked how many times I’d suffered from each thought or symptom in the last week. It came back showing I had moderate depression.
I was so relieved.
The doctor said he was reluctant to put someone so young straight onto antidepressants so he referred me for ‘talking therapy’ instead. I was secretly a little thrilled. As much as the thought of having to actually tell someone all about the ridiculous things going on in my head was, I felt a little like a character out of an American TV show. They all seemed to have ‘shrinks’, after all and at 18 it seemed almost glamorous. As it happens, my experience with the talking therapist was not particularly positive but I suspect this is reaching it’s attention-holding limit so that may be the subject of a future post.
If you’re disappointed I didn’t write a blog post about my likes and dislikes I can tell you I like tea and stepping on crunchy pine cones and dislike motivational minion memes and the volume for the TV being on an odd number. It probably wasn’t worth an entire post.