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That deep dark

One of the things that I often say is that you cannot generalise depression. My experience with depression may be completely different from yours. There are always different reasons, different outcomes. I will, however, tell you about a feeling that depression caused myself and many of my friends to feel; hopelessness. In my deepest depression, I couldn’t see a future, I couldn’t see past the minute I was living in and how I wanted to end it all. The only reason, however, of why I wanted to end it all was to stop being such a sad low nuisance to those around me. It wasn’t the ease my pain, I didn’t care about the pain, the loneliness, all I wanted to do was stop people worrying about me and the only way I could do this (in m very ill mind) was to die. It felt as if I was submerged in never-ending darkness; it wasn’t a choice, and it really wasn’t something I could snap out of. Depression is an illness so for everyone there suffering, or trying to understand it, it’s not easy to get better but you can get better. At my darkest, I wrote and drew lots of stories about fire and light. I wrote stories of the darkness and how I felt blind. Depression made me blind to the joys of life. It’s described as a black dog that follows you around like a loyal servant but I think it’s more like a black fog. It’s a fog that clouds your judgement, blinds you, suffocates you. Depression isn’t an easy thing to live with. Now I see, that what I needed to do was get better. And as soon as I started being able to make future plans I knew I was on my way to recovery. My point is, If you’re feeling this hopelessness I described, it does get better. You start being able to see a future, you can make plans and look forward to things. I know it’s hard to imagine right now but everyone has a future. Don’t rob your future due to someone else’s idiocy. Depression is an illness and it’s a hard process to get better, but I promise you when you look back on your dark period (a friend of mine described it as the Deep Dark and I think that’s quite fitting) you will be glad you didn’t succeed in any suicide attempts. Stay strong.

Eating disorders

I get lots of people coming to me asking about advice on eating disorders, and in all truth, I’ve never had one. I try only to give advice on matters I have myself experienced, but with everyone asking I’m going to give this my best shot. I’m not going to tell you how to fix an eating disorder, because I don’t have the experience, but I’m going to tell you how to try and help your friends and peers if they are suffering. From what I gather, eating disorders are very secretive, and it’s not purely because young teenagers are constantly surrounded by images of stick-thin models. Rather, the reason for an ED is usually far more complex than that. It is, in some ways, a form of self-harm. It is a way to control an aspect of your life when you feel everything else is uncontrollable; it is not just about being ‘skinny’. Knowing I was going to write this blog, I asked a friend of mine (who has, and is suffering from an eating disorder) how she would like people to approach the topic. She said that she didn’t like people to tell her she was looking skinny, this, in turn, making her obsess more and more about her weight, and she also did not feel comfortable when people pressured her to eat. An eating disorder is not just about the physical act of eating, and sitting someone who is suffering down in front of a massive plate of food is not going to fix the problem. Eating disorders are a psychological illness and not just someone being attention-seeking. Although I wouldn’t classify myself as ever having had an eating disorder, my relationship with food is either all or nothing. When I was at my lowest I hardly ate, not because I was conscious about my weight, but purely because of the fact that I didn’t want to eat and didn’t feel like it. It was a form of self-punishment and something that I could control when everything around me was uncontrollable. During my time in hospital, myself, along with many other people I have met, made ourselves sick. I only found out others did this once I had left. After speaking to them, all of us did it for similar reasons, we couldn’t control what we were eating, or when we were eating, so that was the only slight bit of control we were able to grasp at. It was only in these extreme, stressful situations that I turned (quite unconsciously) to that resort. I’ve been with lots of friends when they have been suffering an eating disorder, and in my opinion, the best thing to do is to mention it as little as possible. If your friend feels comfortable talking about it, then assure them you are there to talk but when they start to feel uncomfortable don’t push the matter. It can make them feel worse and guilty and could potentially make their issue worse. If you are really concerned about someone, tell someone you trust, or tell the person that you are worried. When friends of mine have been suffering with eating disorders I do keep an eye on what they are eating, and if I am concerned, I tell them. You need to be able to confront friends on issues like this, but there is a very fine line between the person thinking that you are concerned or them thinking that you are judging them. Depending on the friend you need to judge that line yourself. When people aren’t having a balanced diet I always try and convince them to take vitamins, at least then they are getting some good in their body. It’s very daunting to sit down in front of a ton of food and being pressured into eating it. With me when this happened, after the meal I would go and be sick, and many people I know would too. I hope this has helped in some ways; tweet me, leave a comment or email me.

How young does depression start?

How young can depression start? It’s a question most people ask, and I truly don’t think there is a straight forward answer. Personally, however sad it may seem, I cannot remember a time in my life when I was truly happy. This may be because many of the events I remember are the bad ones, it seems as if I only remember the bad things and never the good. I think I was around 7 when I first had thoughts of suicide, I would constantly think about what it would be like to not be around, and several times between the ages of 9-14 I had small attempts of killing myself but I never did tell anyone. I remember specifically one time, I think I was around 10. I knew what I was doing was not right, but 10-year-old me thought it was either something very normal that nobody talked about, or I was really strange and in that case, I shouldn’t tell anyone. I think I went to my first therapy session when I was 7, I have suffered from a tic disorder (involuntary twitching) for most of my life, I think however for a long time this physical symptom masked a lot of the internal pain I was going through. It was at my local CAMHS unit and they asked me to draw a picture. I can’t remember the exact question they asked me, but I drew myself with a boulder attached to myself by a chain. Even at that age I felt weighed down by the life I was in, and every day was a struggle. I first tried to self-harm when I was around 9. I didn’t actually do it, I chickened out. I thought that if I cut myself or stabbed myself the pain would go away. I thought that these were normal thoughts people had. Around the same time I stopped going to school, there were some mornings when I just couldn’t get out of bed. I would fake a cold or a stomach ache just so I didn’t have to be around people, I wanted to stay in my bed all day and not exist in the outside world. I don’t think it was necessarily the school that was the problem, but more the feelings I was having inside. In year 7, when I was 11 my tics worsened, I did anything I could to stay out of lessons and would spend the whole day in the nurse’s room. I think because of my tics, as there was a physical symptom that made life very uncomfortable for me people did not question it. However I think the tics were caused by underlying feelings, I was experiencing the same feelings I had had the majority of my life, I can’t describe it, but it has felt like as the 7-year-old me drew, there is a boulder that I must drag with me everywhere I go, and at times it gets heavier, and other times it’s lighter. This period of my life was a heavy one. I managed to get through ok until I was around 14, this is when things really took a turn for the worst. Instead, however of my tics being a coverup for the internal anguish, I was in, my mood was explained by me being a ‘grumpy teenager’. I wasn’t a grumpy teenager, I just could not continue with life any longer. I started self-harming, I stopped eating, I would go to school early every morning and come back late just because I felt the more time I spent at home, the more likely I was to get discovered. I was lonely. I felt as if I was the only one going through what I was going through. It was only a week before I attempted suicide that it crossed my mind that I might have been depressed. I didn’t think I was, I mean I had felt varying degrees of the same for the whole of my life, I hadn’t been depressed my whole life had I? I still don’t know the answer to that question. I still don’t at times feel like I have ever been depressed because to me it was so familiar. Still, now the feeling is familiar, the boulder I am carrying is not the heaviest it has been but it is still there, and it is still a struggle every day that I must fight through. So how young does depression start? I have no clue. I don’t think anyone knows for definite. For me, this feeling has been an omnipresent aspect of my life for as long as I can remember. There are varying degrees but it has never, ever gone away. All I ask is that you keep a lookout for the signs. Don’t let persistent physical symptoms distract you from the fact that the problem may be internal, and with teenagers, keep an eye out, depression can often be confused for being a moody hormonal teenager instead of something more sinister. Despite a loving mother and a supportive family depression has plagued much of my life. Much more of my life than I have ever had the courage to admit. There is no definite cause for why I have suffered from it, and there is usually no reasoning to me as to why my boulder is heavier at times than others. It happens, and there are things that can help manage and help you get better. All I ask is please don’t give up. Things may be rough and hard, but don’t give up. It is worth getting through, and there isn’t a simple fix, heck there are still times I am in a bad way, but it’s worth soldiering on.

Friends

There are times in life where we meet people who carry us through hard times. These amazing people can be found in the most unlikely of places. A friend once said to me, when I was first admitted into hospital and consequentially lost a lot of friends that “friends are for a reason, a season or a lifetime”. Even though we would all like to think that a lifetime applies to most of our friends we have to accept that this may not be the case. During my ‘dark times’, even though I lost a lot of friends a tight group of friends developed around me made up of people that I would have never suspected. I’m still close to them all now, but recently I have realised that there are a few who were there for a reason, not a lifetime and it is with these people that I must begin to move away from. There is little point in clinging to something that isn’t there. What this is getting at is that people change over time, and it’s not a bad thing. People are forever evolving, adapting and even though people may move away from each other, it’s not a reflection on you and it isn’t someone abandoning you. It’s a natural progression. Losing friends because of a mental health issue is always hard, whether it be at the time of diagnosis or at any point along your journey. But it’s hard to be a friend to someone who is constantly lacking the will to live, so we have to appreciate that that one who do stick around are incredible, and it is with these friends that we must be open and honest. These are the friends that will try their best to understand. Depression can make you a hermit. I know it did for me. My friends at the time began to call me mysterious and elusive, I wasn’t doing this intentionally, but for several months I vanished from their lives. I would see them at school, and out of school too but I think I myself was absent, not physically but emotionally. I was a shadow of my former self and they picked up on that. I didn’t care if I was around people or not, I was within myself so the situation I was in was irrelevant, because I wasn’t aware of my surroundings anyway. I was on autopilot. I think that’s a great way to describe how someone copes when Depressed, I have had, and still get people saying to me “but you cope so well, you’re too normal” – but coping isn’t living, I cope on autopilot, not fully aware of what I am doing. It’s a lonely place, you become trapped in your mind and there is no escape, you yourself become your own best friend and own worst enemy. Your mind is in a constant battle, there is never any peace. But we must understand, friends are not bound to us, they do not have to stick around, they do not have to put up with the rubbish that quite frankly we put them through. Yes, Depression is something we cannot help, but they must also protect their sanity. Don’t take it as a negative, take it as a learning curve and be thankful to the ones that did stay.

May's Story

My name is May Gabriel and I’m 19. When I was 14 I started suffering from depression. I knew what depression was; I had heard the misjudged preconceptions, but as a 14-year old I really had little clue what was happening to me. I started self-harming and sleeping an awful lot, I went to the doctors and had blood tests but everything came out pretty much normal. I was very secretive about it all, I became very quiet at school and went very much into my own little world. In late March 2010 I first attempted suicide, this part of my life is still blurry, but in the beginning of April, I was admitted into an adolescent psychiatric unit. I was petrified, I had never spent this much time alone in my life, and I was still pretty young, all knowledge I had of psychiatric hospitals were from horror movies and I assumed it was all big metal doors and straight jackets. Still to this day I can’t remember the exact reason why I tried to kill myself, there wasn’t a particular trigger I don’t think, I think it was a feeling that had been building up for a while and I couldn’t stand the darkness I was in any longer. My first admission lasted until June 2010 when I was discharged. In hindsight, I think I was most probably discharged too early…. In October 2010 I was admitted for a second time into that same hospital, I (again) cannot remember why. For me, when I am at my lowest, I don’t tend to remember what happens. I become so engulfed in this darkness that I am barely able to function. By this time I was 15, and I had an idea of what to expect at a hospital. I found this second time that the hospital wasn’t the right place for me, and I found trusting some of the staff really difficult. I took an overdose in the hospital, and again I was very engulfed in my depression. My second admission was probably my hardest, I knew the system and I found it really frustrating. Everything got took to long to get done, and there was this internal hierarchy that I find lots of patients who have been to an adolescent unit find. I was discharged from the hospital in February 2011.
From February 2011 I started attending the college I am still attending today. The college took me on at a strange time and enabled me to complete 3 of my GCSE’s: Maths, English and Geography. I think me being able to get back into education quickly enabled me to focus on that and try to move forward. I was very lucky in finding education so quickly after missing so much, some people are not so lucky and this is one of the things that MUST CHANGE! In May and July 2011 two of my close friends that I had made in hospital passed away from suicide. This was very tough for all of us, and during that time many of my friends went back into hospitals to keep them safe. I, myself, continued with my exams and managed to stay out of hospital, focusing on practically helping sort out other peoples issues rather than my own. This mean, I never really had time to grieve for the deaths of my two friends.. In late 2011 I decided to set up the It’s Ok Campaign as I felt something needed to be done. People needed to TALK more about mental health and Speak Up! No one should have to suffer in silence any more, and no one should feel ashamed about their depression, it’s an illness and it can be helped. I felt people needed to be educated in the matter, and it was something that needed to be taken seriously, both in schools and the community. After losing my two friends I realised that death is so final, and everything should be done to prevent suicide. In April 2012 I was admitted for a third time in the same hospital, this admission was the shortest, it lasted about 5 weeks. I was admitted just before my 17th birthday. This last admission I wasn’t helped particularly, I felt I was a fake and no one was really taking me seriously, but for me, it gave me the chance to grieve. The chance I hadn’t given myself the year before. I also found that as people get older the system becomes harder and harder to deal with, and if you don’t have someone by your side to help fight for you (My mum!) it’s very easy to get lost in the system. Now, I have just finished my GCSE’s, and am continuing with my A levels, I’m a year behind but finally, I have gotten here! All in all; there are a lot of things that need to change in regards to mental health, both within the wider community and within the mental health system itself. The stigma needs to be broken down, people need to be educated, schools need to be aware of the signs of depression. I hope this campaign is helping achieve some of these things..

EATING DISORDER; KAM’S STORY

At the age of eleven, my mother put me on a diet. I remember how she used to weigh me once a month on the bathroom scales; she would go first and then I would step on, watching the dial spin and click. She would then compare the two numbers: mine always had to be lower. During my first couple of years at secondary school, I ignored my mother’s constant threats about grounding me if I didn’t exercise, her criticisms surrounding what I ate and the quantity of it. Instead of succumbing to what she wanted I started saving my pocket money for sweets, skipping sports lessons and sucking my stomach in tight when she was around. When she noticed that I wasn’t visibly losing any weight the threats worsened, so I eventually began to use the treadmill. I hated it at first; the monotonous pounding of trainers against rubber; women sizing themselves up against each other; men panting like rabid dogs, their hair slick with sweat. I continued going once a week to placate my mother and over time my opinions began to change. I came to the conclusion that losing weight would bring with it acceptance and love that I felt completely deprived of, that it would help me to feel confident and happy. From then on I started increasing the amount of time I spent in the gym and the frequency, as well as cutting out “bad foods” such as chocolate, crisps and sweets. As time passed my eating and exercise were becoming more and more extreme. I started skipping lessons to go to the school gym and spending lunch breaks attempting to study, pacing around or nibbling slices of apple. By the time we reached our study break for GCSEs, I was spending the majority of each day in the gym, lying to my mum that I was exercising for half an hour and studying for a couple more, when in fact I was running constantly. I would take my textbooks and balance them over the screen of the treadmill, shifting the papers every few minutes to check how many calories I had burned. I was exercising so much and eating so little that my mind was completely preoccupied; there was no room left for thinking about anything else, and that’s exactly what I wanted. My body was craving food constantly and I began to find it harder and harder to resist eating more than the restricted amount that I was allowing myself. I started to have episodes of being completely out of control, which I had never experienced before. I felt completely dissociated as I ate anything that I could find, so frantic that I didn’t even have time to pause between bites. When I realised what I had done I would panic, my mind running over and over what I had eaten, the calories I must have consumed, how much weight I was going to gain from it. The less I ate the more these episodes occurred, and the more I would compensate afterwards. My mother had no idea that it was going on until one day she found the sink blocked; when a plumber came to investigate he found the pipes clogged up with vomit. The girls on the sofa introduced themselves and the one pacing stopped to come over and talk to me but she remained standing until finally the nurse yelled at her ‘sit down, on a cushion please, stop jiggling your leg, stop it right now or you won’t be going on a walk tomorrow.’ Within minutes I learnt that she was admitted three days away from death, she had been in a wheelchair for nearly a month and her BMI dangerously low. I tried to stay away from her during my stay as it was evident that she had no desire or intention to recover and was extremely proud of the state that she had got herself into. Everything with her was made into a competition. At 9 p.m. another nurse came to ask us what we wanted for night snack. I remember drinking my hot chocolate and it was so sweet that I felt sick after a few sips, but if you didn’t finish within fifteen minutes you would be given a supplement drink. If you continuously refused supplements they had to force-feed you through a tube, and if necessary they would sedate you to do this. I became familiar with the environment surprisingly quickly. For the first week I had to have blood tests done every morning, mostly to check that my phosphate levels were correct and I wasn’t developing re-feeding syndrome. I wasn’t allowed on walks or into group therapy so I spent most days lying around in pyjamas in a half-asleep daze. When the staff were certain that my bloods were all within the normal range my meal plan was increased, I started attending groups and was permitted outside for cigarette breaks.
I was discharged from inpatient care after a month and a half and then spent another four months in day care. I had to take the rest of the year out of school and I moved to a new college which has helped immensely. Even now I am still in on-going treatment and see a psychiatrist, dietician and therapist. Despite this, it still irritates me that so many people put eating disorders down to vanity and the influence of the media, which is a huge misconception that is yet to be challenged sufficiently. My mother has attended various support groups and her behaviours have improved, however I am very much aware of the fact that some aspects of her personality are unalterable and will most likely remain as they are for the rest of her life. I’m still not allowed to eat chocolate cereal or ice cream and she still pressures me to exercise. I would like to say that I’m fully recovered, that everything’s okay, that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I pulled through. I would like to say that because my weight is now in the healthy range it reflects my state of mind; that gaining it all back and learning to pick up a knife and fork without shaking until peas scatter all over the table has fixed me. I wish it was that easy. Check out Kam’s youtube here. If you are feeling at risk of harming yourself or need someone to talk to please contact the Samaritans for confidential support in the UK. In the US please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline on 1-800-273-8255.

ANXIETY; NAOMI’S STORY

It’s taken me a very long to come to terms with all the parts that I’m made up of. It sounds so silly, as if I am a jigsaw puzzle – but I reject that notion and instead say Rubik’s cube. Why? Because there isn’t one way to solve a Rubik’s cube, there are many; and it’s the same for anyone who suffers with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder or any other kind of mental illness. You can’t fix it the same way every single time – it doesn’t work like that. As a young person on “the cusp of life” as my grandfather would say, I am pretty blessed. I am at university, I live in a nice flat with nice people, I eat well, I watch a lot of Netflix, I have friends that I enjoy speaking to… to the average person my life sounds ideal, what on earth could I possibly have to worry about? Apparently, a lot! I’m not going to lie and say that I make it easier for myself, because I really don’t, in fact, to be very honest I can’t actually remember the last time I helped myself avoid a panic attack. I think it’s the consuming fear and absolute inability to breathe properly that probably chokes me up… no, but jokes aside – it is really difficult, but that is okay! Without routine, your brain is free to wander wherever and wonder whatever it pleases. It is very difficult to try and relay a message to someone who doesn’t think anyone else understands; I get that. It’s also really difficult to try and help someone out when you can’t relate to their situation (I am sure my mum would give me a knowing look right about now) and that is okay! It is completely okay to not be okay and not know what to do and not know where to start – that’s human, in fact, I think it’s probably more common that a lot of people let on. So, as someone who suffers from not only frequent but quite bad (I’m lying, I often describe them as fatal which is slightly melodramatic but still very fitting at the time) panic attacks/anxiety/general stress, I tend to live by three golden rules: 1. Even though I think it’s going to kill me, it probably isn’t
The truth is that panic attacks are self-inflicted, they only happen because we imagine scenarios up in our heads that probably will never ever happen, and then we start to feel sick and dizzy and we stop breathing and it sucks – but it won’t kill us. It is all temporary. 2. I am not my illness
And it doesn’t define me. It is a massive part of who I am and the choices that I make, and it probably does ultimately affect the kind of person I choose to be every day, but it’s not the whole of me. 3. Tomorrow will be better
And if for some reason it isn’t better, because tomorrow can’t always be better (it has stuff going on too), then you can always have a nap. In fact, you should always have a nap. Naps are food for the soul.
I have never actually managed to solve a Rubik’s cube so I know the struggle, but when things are bad and you think they can’t get much worse just think, you could be a jigsaw. But you’re not. You are a Rubik’s cube, you have a lot of different ways that work in your favour to solve you, but you will also probably make a lot of wrong decisions and very wrong turns – that’s called being a human. I am now starting to sound like a sweet old lady when I am barely 20, so I will stop. Just remember, like May always says, It’s ok. If you are feeling at risk of harming yourself or need someone to talk to please contact the Samaritans for confidential support in the UK. In the US please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline on 1-800-273-8255.

Coming out

I’m coming out. Well, at least that’s the plan. Since the age of 15, I’ve slowly been coming out to those around me. Coming out is horrible. And it’s not just usually once that you have to do it. At the time of writing this, I haven’t ‘come out’ to my parents yet. Or my brother. Or cousins or grandparents. But my mum knows, at least, I think she knows. This isn’t the first time I’ve written a post like this, it’s terrifying. The majority go straight in the trash and never see the light of day. But I feel, I’m almost 20 and I don’t want to leave my teenage years with any ‘secrets’. See, my dilemma is that I do not feel that I should have to come out. I don’t understand why my sexual preference matters, but to me, if I don’t come out I feel this tremendous sense of shame. It’s almost as though I’m keeping a part of myself hidden from those who surround me. Coming to university was a strange experience. By the time I arrived I had already come out to the majority of my friends and I decided that at Uni I would be who I wanted to be. The majority of people here know I’m gay, I’m out and I’m proud. It’s almost easier to let people know your orientation on first meeting, I’ve found the longer I leave it the harder it gets. When I was younger I was really confused. I was ashamed. There was yet another thing that was different about me and I didn’t know how to broach the subject. Still, now I find it incredibly awkward to talk about. Nowadays, people often ask me if they think that it contributed to my several breakdowns, and in all honesty, I really don’t think so. I don’t really know what else to say here. I don’t think that it’s something to hide, and it’s most certainly not something to be sorry or ashamed about. The only thing I do want to say sorry about is that it took so long for me to realise the above. Sexuality is only a small part of who you are, and anyone who doesn’t accept that is an idiot. Update: My fabulous and incredible mum and brother now know!

PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL; FIRST ADMISSION

This time last year I was in hospital, I was discharged a year ago on Friday for what would be the 3rd and final time. The final time being I’m now 18 and can never go back to that place. I wanted to talk about the first time I ever went to the hospital. I was 14, it was a few weeks before my 15th birthday. I had attempted suicide and was first taken to A&E. I was in a general children’s ward for a few days before the moved me to an adolescent inpatient unit. A&E was fine, to be honest, I can’t remember much of it, I just remember a friend of my mums bringing me sushi, and hating the one to one nurse I had. I have nothing against religion, but this nurse was reading the bible to me and telling me I needed to find god. Luckily the lovely paediatric nurses noticed how uncomfortable that made me feel and the one to one nurse ended up having loads of breaks because the other nurses kept offering to have me on one to one. A few days after I was first admitted into the general hospital, i was moved to an inpatient unit. This was terrifying. I thought it was going to be like a prison and everyone who was in there would be terrifying and would be ‘mad’. At the time I was so angry at my mum (I really don’t know why) and I felt really alone. I arrived there on the weekend (I think) so it was pretty empty. There was one other girl on the ward when I first arrived, pretty much everyone else was on weekend leave. The first day I was there was strange. Very very strange. There was a lovely nurse (let’s call her N) was my first one to one. I don’t remember much of that time, apart from being in a room that smelt like piss. It was horrific. After a night in the piss room, I got moved to a new room with a bright pink wall and a view of the garden. It’s strange for me, to think back to my first admission. It has got to the stage where all my admissions have blurred into one. Before going to hospital I didn’t think I was ill at all. Even during my time in hospital I didn’t think I was ill, I thought everyone had it worse than me and at times the system made me feel as if I was faking it which didn’t help my lingering sense of doubt. There really isn’t much point to this blog but there is something I’m trying to get at here; If you need to go to hospital, go. If you need help, go and find it. If you don’t know where to find help, ask. There is help out there, and although sometimes it is hard to access, it’s there. The most important thing I learnt while inside hospital is that feelings are you own. You can’t compare how you are feeling to how someone else is feeling, you are your own person and everyone thinks differently. Please, please, please don’t compare how you feel to how ‘bad’ someone else has it. I can’t stress this enough. Hospital isn’t a bad place, and although there were some deep, dark, terrible times, some of my best memories were made there. We used to have code names for cigarettes and lighters, and used to go on walks to the ‘dog park’ and walk a few yards in front of the staff smoking cigarettes and blowing the smoke to our t-shirts. I have fond memories of the place and made some really amazing friends there. Even at my most ill, I didn’t think I was ill. Looking back on it now, and reading the things I wrote and seeing the things I drew at that time I can see I was very very ill, and I could have very easily lost my life. It felt as if I was submerged under this wave of darkness, getting thrown and tossed about and there was nothing I could hold on to, nothing to support me. I also said that I felt as if there was someone behind me, and omnipresent shadow that never left my side. It was haunting me. It was as if the world was so dark, I couldn’t see the light. And when the light did come, it took me a long time to leave the ‘darkness’, because I was afraid, because after so long in the darkness it began to feel comfortable. Even now sometimes I run and hide in that metaphorical darkness just because it can feel comforting, it is an old friend and old enemy, but it was there for me. In some ways me finding the darkness so comforting saved my life, because I wasn’t in such a rush to leave it, I felt comfortable there long enough to get better. I know this doesn’t really make sense, but I just wanted to write something. There is a lot currently in my mind and I thought that it might be good to air some of it out. Just remember that if you are in that darkness, it does get better, and however scary it may be to recover it is well worth it.

16 May 2015

This time of year is always difficult. These few days leading up to May 16th always overwhelm me with emotions I’m now so used to keeping under wraps. 4 years ago, a good friend of mine commuted suicide at the age 18, she was a friend from hospital. She was such a bright light and an incredible, amazing girl but unfortunately, she was very ill with both depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. The mind is a cruel thing, as is depression. But I’m not going to talk about her, her life and her story are hers, and my memories with her are mine, but what I am going to talk about is the impact that suicide can have on those close to you. Death is devastating. The idea of death terrifies most, and the idea of someone close to you passing is almost unbearable. And it is. It has now been 4 years and there is not a single day I don’t think about all the people I have lost. See, I understand why she did it – because it wasn’t her. I too have been in the grips of severe and life-threatening depression and it can seem at times that there isn’t a choice. It’s an illness that consumes your mind and body, infects every part of your life. But it can get better. People often get angry when someone attempts or succeeds suicide – I’ve often heard the word ‘selfish’ thrown around, often accompanied by ‘how could they do that to their friends and family?!’ But the truth is they don’t, depression does. That’s not to say that anyone should let it. Life can and does get so much better after depression. There will be tough times, there will be trials, there will be highs and lows but ultimately they’re experiences that you can only have if you’re alive. 4 years ago, in fairly close time proximity to one another, I lost two friends – and it was their deaths that spurred me on to do something – to make a difference. I don’t feel, nor want, anyone to go through the pain of losing someone. Help needs to be found sooner, help given needs to be better. There is so much that needs to change – but it’s not going to change unless we step up and do something about it. So I ask you, on the 16th May 2015, talk to a friend about mental health, or heck, talk to a friend about an invisible illness. Let people know that they don’t have to suffer alone.

AUSTERITY, UNIVERSITY AND MENTAL HEALTH

In terms of mental health recovery, the importance of education is often dismissed. True, many who find themselves leaving the schooling system due to mental health difficulties will not find themselves back in education, however, there are many that do. At 14, I had to leave school for a year after I was admitted into an adolescent psychiatric unit following a suicide attempt. I luckily managed to get a place at a tutorial college to continue my education a year behind. However, many aren’t able to nor want to go back to education. For me, education offered a structure that is incomparable to any other route I could have taken. There weren’t the responsibilities and pressures of a job (It’s fairly difficult to get ‘fired’ from education) but there was a structure which sitting at home would not have offered me. School, although difficult and stressful at times really aided me in my recovery. This is why I chose to go to university – I still often suffer from bouts of depression and the only viable option I could see for myself was to go to university. It gave me not only the freedom that I craved but the structure also. Which is why I’m so saddened that many people who are In the position I was in won’t be able to make it on to university thanks to Mr. Osborne’s new budget. The £12bn welfare cuts are astonishing in themselves – with many of these cuts coming from areas that will hurt young people. Cutting housing benefits for under-21’s will potentially put 17,000 young people out on the streets. Cutting child benefits for those on a low income with more than two children also shows an astonishing lack of compassion. However, the most harmful to myself and many of those I know is the change in university finance and university tuition fees, which demonstrate the elitist mindset at the core of the budget. The proposed plan to change the maintenance grant to a loan makes university an unrealistic goal for so many. As it stands, with a maintenance grant I will be in an excess of £45k worth of debt when I finish my undergraduate degree. The thought of this staggering debt I’m already in gives me an overwhelming sense of anxiety, and I think, if I was going to go to university in 2 years when these changes will occur would I actually go to university? University has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It has given me a true sense of myself and also given me a slow introduction to independence, for someone with unstable mental health as myself, I cannot imagine being thrown in the deep end. I’m angry, and I’m sad for the future of our society. Young people are meant to be the future – so why are we making it harder for them to thrive? Why are we taking the chance away from those in more financial difficulty to pursue an academic route? To me, it just doesn’t make sense. However, the most harmful to myself and many of those I know is the change in university finance and university tuition fees, which demonstrate the elitist mind-set at the core of the budget. The proposed plan to change the maintenance grant to a loan makes university an unrealistic goal for so many. As it stands, with a maintenance grant I will be in an excess of £45k worth of debt when I finish my undergraduate degree. The thought of this staggering debt I’m already in gives me an overwhelming sense of anxiety, and I think, if I was going to go to university in 2 years when these changes will occur would I actually go to university? University has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life. It has given me a true sense of myself and also given me a slow introduction to independence, for someone with unstable mental health as myself, I cannot imagine being thrown in the deep end. I’m angry, and I’m sad for the future of our society. Young people are meant to be the future – so why are we making it harder for them to thrive? Why are we taking the chance away from those in more financial difficulty to pursue an academic route? To me it just doesn’t make sense.

Six things I have learnt about depression

As someone who has had depression for as long as I can remember, here are six things that I have learnt about depression: To be depressed doesn’t automatically mean you’re suicidal. It took me an awfully long time to accept and realise this. I thought, even though my behaviour may have been destructive and erratic because I wasn’t suicidal that I wasn’t depressed. It never really goes away. This was a shock to me. The first few serious relapses were hard to cope with, now I know the signs and it’s easier. But, depression for a lot of people never fully goes away, only the severity tends to change. But, that doesn’t make things hopeless! It’s easier to compare to something physical like asthma or diabetes, its there and you have to monitor it but it doesn’t stop you living life most of the time. People have their own problems too. With depression, it’s very easy to get consumed in your own thoughts and feelings that it’s so easy to forget that other people have their own things going on. Hard to accept, hard to remember but vital. It’s not a reflection of you, peoples actions aren’t always the direct influence of you. It simultaneously takes away all feelings while making you really emotional. This is something that I’ve only noticed recently, I can’t control any of my emotions while at the same time feeling completely numb. Weird. Not everyone will understand. As someone who’s been in and out of hospital for the past 6 years, the people I surround myself with tend to know my ins and outs pretty well and they’re all pretty good at dealing with my mental illness – so it’s always a surprise when someone new comes into your life and they have absolutely no clue what to do. Don’t write them off, education and patience on your part are key too. It’s OK to give yourself some time off once in a while. Be aware that your expectations of yourself need to account for periods of not wellness. It doesn’t stop you from achieving anything – just allow yourself some time off if you need to and don’t chastise yourself for it.

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