Thursday, 5 July 2012

Depression : ultimately a positive thing for me.

Today I thought I'd do a post about depression. I have two reasons : 1. it's good for me to reflect on my journey with this illness. 2. By talking openly about what depression is it's breaking down the unacceptable stigma which surrounds this illness.

So I'll start at the beginning of this journey. I was formally diagnosed with depression at the beginning of April this year. Originally I went to my GP thinking I had anxiety (I've suffered lifelong on/off with anxiety) but after much reflection it turns out it was actually depression. With the beauty of hindsight a diagnosis of depression makes perfect sense. I reckon my depression crept up on me slowly for at least 18 months. The symptoms were staring me in my face. I remember right in the early days in April, one health professional said I was textbook depression/anxiety. 

The scary thing about depression is that the symptoms can be subtle, until one day it can get too much to deal with.  Upon reflection, the symptoms I had were constant worry. I would worry about everything, even small seemingly insignificant things. When I look back it was totally out of hand, for example, I wouldn't answer the buzzer to my flat door because I was scared it would be someone trying to attack me, now when I look back this is totally bizarre as I had no evidence. My worries would snowball until I'd be blowing everything out of proportion.  Loss of interest in my hobbies. I'm a massive F1 fan, I love it. However, I found myself not really getting excited for the new season. I also love cooking making new recipes, however in the months preceding April I found myself not wanting to do any cooking, and not trying anything new. My partner Adam would just be lumbered doing most of the cooking. I would also make excuses not to go out and see people. Putting myself down constantly with negative thoughts. I'm talking all the time. I used to have negative thought patterns that studying for my degree was a waste of time as I'd never amount to anything. This is out of character for me as I'm a very ambitious person. I never normally put boundaries on myself. However, from at least 2010 (since I finished my under grad degree) I was telling myself that I was just a burden to everybody. This kind of thinking is exhausting, and ultimately it's like a self fulfilling prophecy. If you think bad stuff, bad things will happen. Aches and pains. I definitely had physical symptoms, I got loads of back aches and just felt generally tense. I also had a knot in the pit of my stomach the whole time. These were my main symptoms. You have to remember they built up very slowly so I thought these were just my personality, not an illness.  

When I look back, it's not surprising I got depression. 2011 was a pretty horrendous year for me. I had two operations, a load of failed botox injections which meant I had to go back onto the waiting list for more surgery. My parents separated and my Grandad passed away and I moved house. Studying for a masters degree. All in the space of twelve months. I didn't allow myself to cry over these things I literally just said 'It'll be alright in the end' so I guess in April my mind just kinda said 'Look Amy, you need a break love' So basically in April I got the most severe bout of anxiety yet, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat. The GP put me on anti-depressant medication. The first lot of anti-depressants actually made me worse, but I've found my perfect medication now and it's helped me massively. Those few days were the hardest of my life as I felt like I was never going to feel normal again, but somehow I pulled through.  I also had to leave my university course temporarily to recover.

Depression has taught me a big life lesson, I'm actually grateful that I got it. I feel relieved in a way that I know symptoms I experienced were just because depression is an illness and it's not my personality. It's taught me to just let things happen and to live in the moment. I no longer look as far ahead as I used to, because depression has taught me in life unexpected things can happen. Worrying is a waste of time. I cannot emphasise this enough. Worrying is wasted energy. Why worry over things that might or might not happen? Might as well deal with it if it happens. Put yourself first. Yes, because in sometimes in life you have to put your own well being first. I spent so long listening to everyone else's stresses I forgot about my own needs. I've also got my passion for baking and cooking back and I'm more passionate than ever before. So ultimately I do think depression can be a positive experience, because if I hadn't have sought help then I would never have fixed these problems. At last I'm enjoying life and being 23.

I'm not running before I walk though. I do still have bad days, but they're outnumbered by good ones. I still get a bit doubtful over whether I can complete my degree, but I know deep down I can. With the recovery of depression you have to give it time and small steps at a time. I'm a little nervous about relapsing, but know I know the symptoms I'll get help much earlier. I've also got a big operation in August and my mobility will be compromised for a while after, so I worry I'll get low after, but I'm working on a plan to keep me occupied. I think as long as I remain aware that to be mentally healthy is as important as being physically healthy I'll be okay.

Thanks for reading. I do urge you to get help if my symptoms ring any bells with you. There is no shame in visiting a GP about mental health. 1 in 4 will suffer from mental illness (that's just the diagnosed cases!!)




  1. Great blog Amy! Not enough people feel confident enough to break the (pointless) tabboo surrounding depression and mental illness. As someone who has seen first hand the havoc depression can cause on an individual and their loved ones I think we should all be talking about it more freely.

    I hope your good days continue to outweigh the bad ones :-)

    1. Thank you :) I totally agree. The fact it's so shrouded secrecy is a real problem because it leaves people feeling ashamed of their thoughts and feelings. It's exhausting having to put a front to people about how you feel. Thanks, I do feel miles better compared to when I got diagnosed xxx

  2. This was a very brave post! I'm just starting out on the steps to overcoming my mental illness, I've put it off for round about 3 years now because I was so convinced I was just being paranoid.

    1. well done on confronting your mental health Mel. In my opinion, asking for help is the hardest bit, as you're admitting you have a problem and can leave you feeling vulnerable. I've found that admitting there's a problem felt there was a weight being lifted off my shoulders - I no longer had to hide my feelings. I hope you manage to overcome your mental illness and that it can be a positive experience for you xxx