Well, when I say ‘diary’ I really mean that what this post is going to be about is pretty much how I go about living with depression. A lot of people won’t understand why I’m posting this, or maybe a lot of people who know me (even well) will ask me why I posted it in such a public form. But here’s the thing, I started a platform that encourages people to talk out about their mental health issues, eating disorders and self-harm. If I can’t speak out about my own issues, what gives me the right to tell others that it’s okay for them to talk out about theirs?
So here goes, and I don’t really know where to start but I guess I should start at the origins of my depression, the things that started it all off and why they still creep up on me to this day, even though I like to think I’ve been doing a pretty good job of controlling my emotions recently.
I grew up watching my mum struggle with manic depression. Now, manic makes it sound like I grew up under the care of a maniac, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. My mother is one of the strongest, most caring, funniest and lovable women I’ve ever known. If I am even half as strong as her, then I’ll be doing something right with my life. She was in and out of hospital for a majority of my childhood, countless suicide watches and countless breakdowns. I’d go to school being terrified that she wouldn’t be there when I came home. But even if she was in hospital, she was still there. She’s always been there for me, no matter the situation, no matter the stupid decision I’ve made. She’s been there when my heart was broken, and she’s shared the happiest times of my life with me too. She’s a role model and a rock, the fact that she has a mental illness does not alter her personality in anyway, and she should never be judged for that smallest fraction of her—none of us should.
At the age of seven, my grandmother died, and then my parents split up a few months later. All of this was a shock to the whole family. None of us knew how to cope, we just got on with it and supported each other. My grandmother was my mum’s rock, and not only had she lost her but she’d also gained the responsibility of looking after three kids on her own. Even at the early age of seven, I was trying to protect my mum from the hurtful things in life. It was a messy divorce, and there was a lot of mud-slinging, especially about my mum’s mental health. I felt guilty about missing my dad, and so I’d keep it hidden from her, I’d help out as much as I possibly could with housework and money issues. I’d make excuses to not go on school trips, just so I could be there for her and I’d do my best to spend the majority of my time with her. No seven year old should have to go through that, but I don’t regret doing it, it made me who I am and I don’t think caring for people you love is a bad thing to learn early in life.
Things started to settle down a little once we moved back to our hometown after the destruction of the divorce had passed, and we were on our way to becoming a family again, even if it was a highly dysfunctional one. My mum and dad started to talk to each other like friends, and they would be there to support each other if push came to shove. They never did this for them, they done it for my siblings and I after they realised just how much the divorce was affecting us.
Years passed without relapses or heartbreak, and life continued as any (dysfunctional) one should. There was some hiccups, but nothing that couldn’t be handled. But then, as life likes to do, it turned itself upside down. After an altercation with the neighbours that lived above us, they decided to threaten my brother’s life and throw a brick through every window in our house. This was possibly the scariest night of my life. Not only had I just witnessed a drunk threaten to stab my brother, I’d also heard every window in my house shatter whilst this happened. The sound is like nothing I can describe, it sounded like several gunshots happening at once and the house shook from the synchronised smashes. But the fear wasn’t over once the police had been called and we’d all gathered in the living room— my dad insisted on walking to our house to make sure we were okay, to do this he’d have to walk past the man that had just threatened to stab my teenaged brother. I’ll never forget just how worried I was that night. My dad arrived and we packed up our lives into several bags and got into my uncle’s car ready to stay the night at my dad’s house and then figure out what our next move was.
None of us slept much that night, there was too many questions that needed answered. What just happened? What are we going to do? Where are we going to go? Lots of things, and we had no answers to put the questions to rest. After our parents forced us to bed, we woke up to find that they’d come up with a plan to sort things out. My mum was going to take us to live with my granddad until we figured out what our next move was, and my dad was going to take care of our animals until we were settled. (To an eleven year old, where the animals were going to be was one of the most important parts of this plan!)
After a week of staying with my granddad, and all of us slowly losing our sanity from watching Countdown and eating fish and chips, my mum figured that the best thing we could do was to move to Livingston and stay with one of my dad’s older daughters until we got sorted.
We moved to Livingston, I attended school with my cousin and things were starting to settle down. We were getting used to living here and we were adapting to missing every single person we’d grown up knowing.
And then came high school. Before high school, I’d adored learning. I remember being ill one birthday and running away from home to go to school—I’ll never forget the image of my mum running down the street in her pyjamas yelling at me that I wasn’t going to school, I don’t think I’d ever seen so many confused faces peering out of windows. But yes, high school. They say that high school is the best years of your life, and up until third year I thought that people must have been crazy to think that.
Every day brought a new insult, a new jibe about my weight or hair. A new shove while walking down the hall, or a new joke made about the age of my dad. It all added up, and one day it just got too much. I snapped. I broke down crying and went to the social health department for help. I got told that I was being stupid and that I shouldn’t let people get to me. All of this happening while my mum was suffering from a relapse and staying in hospital. I needed out.
I came home that day and decided that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I wasn’t going back to school, and no matter what anyone said my decision wasn’t changing. So yeah, for almost two years I didn’t attend school. I looked after my mum, and became even more worried about my dad’s frailness after witnessing him getting beat-up for defending me against a group of teenagers that were shouting slurs about my weight one day that we were going to visit my mum in hospital. At thirteen, I was going through all of this and the usual teenage things. I couldn’t cope, and I wasn’t the only person that knew it—my mum noticed those tell-tale signs, and the things she’d already been through.
So at thirteen, I was referred to a psychologist, she helped me deal with waking up in the morning and wanting to actually do something with my life again. She helped me learn how to talk about things that were bothering me, and she basically stopped me from bottling things up inside and then letting them explode all at once.
After working on my depression, I started missing learning. I was assigned a home tutor and got caught up with the school system. Once I had caught up enough, I applied to a different school and that’s where my life began to change.
I met a group of people that didn’t judge you for what you looked like, they accepted me for my personality and I started to adore learning again. I went to school without fear, and life was beginning to give me that hunger to do something with it again—this was around the time I found my passion for writing, so I guess I have all of this to thank for making me more open and making me realise just how powerful words can be.
Then 2008 brought another downfall for me, after a couple of years of happiness life felt the need to bite me in the ass again. I fell ill in January that year, and spent the entire year hardly being able to move from pain. And that’s when my self –loathing came back with a vengeance. What else is there to do when you spend an entire year in bed, being let down by your body?
During that year I lost my support system, I lost any confidence I had, and I lost count of the amount of times I begged my mum to help me die. I couldn’t do it anymore. I felt pathetic, disgusting and any other negative word you can think of. I spent an entire year hardly able to eat, sleep or leave the house. Depression came back full force, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.
And then, one day I woke up and the illness was gone. It was as if I’d just magically slept it off. But, the depression wasn’t. It still isn’t. But, instead of going to that dark place again I just try and put it to the back of my mind. I have my dark days, but doesn’t everyone?
Some days I still wake up wanting to sleep my life away, sometimes the simplest things seem like the highest hurdles I’ve ever came across. I still have major issues with paranoia and body image, but I’m getting there, I’m winning. For the first time in my life, I can say that I’m winning. I have people here that want to help me through this, I have people who love me for who I am and will support me with anything. So now, when depression tries to get in the way of my life, I remember that I’m not just fighting for me anymore; I’m fighting for them too.
“You’re existing, but are you living?”
At the end of the day, I could keep quiet and let it eat me away and consume my life, but here’s the catch; I refuse to let it. Life is for living, not for existing.