Sunday, 6 September 2009

light at the end of the tunnel

In her latest blog, NerdOneirik commented on how people with mental illnesses stop blogging as soon as they get better. And how that's the best time to blog, because it shows others that there's light at the end of the tunnel. So that's what I'm doing now.

I've struggled with depression pretty much all my life, and I've never been able to pinpoint exactly why. I was bullied at school which definitely triggered it, but that was a long time ago, so why has it stuck around?

I've just started a Masters course at university, and because of this I've had plenty of doctors and occupational health nurses trying to assess me and my suitability to the course. Part of this has involved asking me why I suffer from depression, and I could never give them an answer. There's nothing "wrong" with my life, people have been through a lot worse and survived. But as I thought about it more I realised it was nothing to do with my enviroment, it was to do with me and how I felt about myself. I really, really hated myself. I hated myself for being so shy and weird no one ever wanted to be my friend at school. I hated myself for being so ugly that no one wanted to go out with me. And even as I got older and boys started to like me and I thought maybe I might be pretty, I still hated myself for not being sexy enough and being so boring that none of them stuck around. I hated myself for never being outstanding at anything, for not being talented at anything and for never having really achieved anything.

And the hatred was so overwhelming. Have you ever really hated someone? So much that you were so filled with fury whenever you saw them, that being around them for even a second made you want to punch them in the face? Well that's how I felt about myself. I self harmed because it was my equivalent of "punching them in the face", and whenever I experienced failure or rejection the little voice in my head would pipe up to tell me what a useless, ugly, disgusting waste of space I was. Sometimes I felt like I couldn't stand to be in my own skin for another second, I was so disgusted having to be around me all the time. There was no escape, it was completely overwhelming.

So that was then, this is now. And I can honestly say it's been a good few months since I've felt that overwhelming hatred. I owe a lot of it to medication - it honestly saved my life, and it infuriates me when people criticise those who take antidepressants, especially since it's always those who have never needed them who feel the need to have an opinion. So if there's anyone reading this at the moment who is struggling and is unsure whether medication is right for them - just try it. People wouldn't think twice about taking medication for a physical problem, so why the stigma against those who take it for a mental problem? Life is so precious, and if something can change your life for the better like it has mine then it's worth it a hundred times over.

As I mentioned earlier, I started university this week. And it's amazing to see how far I've come, I used to be plagued by crippling social anxiety. About four or five years ago, I never would have been able to talk to people. Why would they be interested in talking to me? I would just bore them, or even worse, run out of things to say. If I saw people talking in a group I would never go up to them and join in, why would they want me intruding? But this week I've been able to talk to people, I've been able to hold conversations, I've made people laugh. I've been able to confidently walk up to a group and join in. And the only difference is that I've finally started believe that I am interesting to talk to, that I am witty, that I do have something worth contributing. And I never, EVER, thought I would be able to do that a few years ago.

So I'm not out the tunnel yet by any means. I only just came off my medication a couple of weeks ago, and I accept that sooner or later I will probably relapse. I've been battling with this all my life, I'm aware that it's not going to have disappeared forever. But there are definitely glimmers of light, and even though I may not be permanently "better", I can do my best to ensure the day I relapse isn't today. And to anyone out there struggling: if I can do it, you can do it too. I mean that.