Depressed and Well-Dressed
Everyone has bad days
It feels really strange for me to be doing this right now. Mainly because it’s something I am very passionate about, getting mental health out there and more widely spoken about .But also because this is opening up and actually admitting to myself that I have/had mental health difficulties.
Everybody has rough days. Most of the time these are triggered by something that has happened maybe that day or in the weeks before; But the difference between just ‘having a bad day’ and a mental health condition, as outlined by boards such as the World Health Organization in 2018 is for example for depression, more than just a one off, a period of up to two weeks of “having bad days” will lead towards that diagnosis.
This obviously is only one part of getting a diagnosis, alongside losing the sense of enjoyment in activities you used to find fun, lacking motivation and feeling a general emotional numbness. Other symptoms can include lack of sleep or oversleeping and overeating or not eating enough.
But instead of me listing all of these symptoms of depression off like I’m actually writing a manuscript for W.H.O., I’m going to discuss how some of my mental health difficulties have come about and their effects on me.
Without an official diagnosis, I would claim that I have experienced anxiety at a moderate level throughout university and graduate life, and I have suffered depression on and off over the course of four years, beginning during my second year of university, when I started taking the pill for the first time and had my first really painful breakup, alongside a lot of heavy partying and late nights. At the time I was working a lot of night shifts in a job which was commission only; it was very stressful as you didn’t know how much money you might come home with. I also had a mixture of hormones inside me and throughout the space of almost two years I had tried 7 different contraceptive pills.
My First Panic Attack
I remember my first panic attack.
I had finished a shift working as a shot girl and come home with next to nothing, I’d wasted four hours to earn about £1.20 and it was the worst shift I had ever had. I had been having some relationship problems at the time too. The guy I had been dating had been very distant with me as of recent and I was suddenly feeling a lot lonelier than I ever had done at uni. He had told me just before my last exam that he had not gotten into uni in my city and so when he went to uni we could not see each other anymore. It was only a matter of weeks before things ended in a messy manner anyway and I experienced my first heartbreak. Things just sometimes don’t work out with people and whilst you might understand the practical reasons for it, it can be hard to not let your emotions get the better of you when someone you trusted lets you down.
I was messaging my mum and crying to her about my awful shift at work, and the boy I had been seeing stopped responding to my messages.
I just felt a completely overwhelming feeling of fear as I sat on my bed crying. I found that my sobs turned to pants and I struggled to take a breath. I couldn’t stop the feeling of panic rising within me, I felt my heart thumping under my shirt and it took me a long time to eventually slow down my breathing and fall asleep.
I have since continued to have panic attacks and over the course of my second year of uni I had them regularly. I had a teeming social life at the time and so I found that drinking usually set them off, either when I was drunk or after feeling depressed for a few days after a heavy sesh I would feel a dark cloud over me.
My studies also set my panic attacks off. They made me withdraw from studying as the more I stressed the more often I had them. I got distracted by dealing with a broken heart from something which wasn’t even a relationship. And I found that often putting down my books or switching off my laptop and confiding in my closest friends over a meal or spending a night out together would keep me distracted from the feelings of misery and panic that resided in me a lot during those days. I have to thank my friends for really being there for me during that time as I pushed almost everyone away and spent the majority of my time lying in bed with the dark cloud hanging over my head; feeling a failure because I had left all my assignments until the last minute and a boy I had loved did not love me back.
I remember those being some very depressing days.
I remember lying in bed with my entire body feeling numb, feeling nothing and everything at the same time. I didn’t feel there was any reason for me to exist and I watched as I struggled to move on from a toxic relationship and resorted to being unable to crawl out of bed, to waking up in the early hours of the afternoon, and neglecting my studies for a night out where I would get so drunk I would pray to feel happy and forget everything for a few hours. I couldn’t even bring myself to get out of bed for food or to shower. I remember some of my friends coming over and just lying in bed listening to them enjoying themselves and me being unable to pull myself down the stairs to join in because I was entirely convinced that none of them wanted me there. That I was just someone who they pretended to like and put up with if anything. I even remember having a panic attack in the shower because I was so worried they would hear me moving around and my housemates would think I was ignoring them.
I would say that this was one of the worst times of my life; I would compare it to feeling like I had been sinking into a pit of quicksand for the past two months and it felt like there was no way out.
I look back at this and see how much stronger I am now, and I have to thank this period of my life for giving me the opportunity to discover some of my favourite bands including The Smiths and The Arctic Monkeys whom I listened to continuously whilst lying in my bed too depressed to do anything else. It didn’t take much longer into 2017 before I met someone else who was very supportive, and I also had my first counselling session with the University counselling services. Then the dark cloud slowly began to lift.
Start Talking and Be Kind
I think it’s important to recognise that if something is making you feel this way no matter how small you might make it out to be, it is important to speak to someone about it and get help. There is only so far down you can go before these depressive and anxious feelings begin to create a cycle which drag you down even further, and to get out of that I found required an trained outsider’s help, alongside mindfulness.
I think people find it hard to relate to words such as depression and anxiety a lot of the time, because it feels like admitting that you have a condition, that something is medically wrong with you. Even writing this and knowing how I have been feeling, I feel guilty and like an attention-seeking con, and I have to keep fighting the thoughts that other people have much worse problems and more reasons to be feeling depressed.
But this is part of the toxic reason why people do not get help. Why people do not speak out or talk to their friends and family or seek professional help. This is part of the way that we can impact mental health, by talking about it. Talk as you normally would about maybe the weather or your plans for the weekend. Talking is the stepping stone to seeking help. I find it can be incredibly helpful to write out how I am feeling sometimes and read it back, because then I feel a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. So why don’t we do the same with conversations? I know I feel ashamed to talk to most of the people in my life about everything when I am struggling, I don’t want to seem like a dead weight or like I’m seeking attention. However the saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ certainly rings true to me.
And listening is just as important to destigmatizing mental health. Check in on friends you haven’t heard from in awhile, or understand that friend whose been cancelling on you probably is having their own problems rather than it being because they don’t like you. Talking about mental health goes both ways, problems need to be equally shared between people and if the weight is too much or you have been struggling in quick sand then it is important to realise that the best thing to do is speak to a professional.
The aim really is to treat yourself as you would treat someone else if they told you they felt low or anxious. You deserve to be loved and be happy too. You would do anything you could to help your friend if they felt like that, so why should you not treat yourself in the same way?
Be kind to others and to yourself.
(I hope this wasn’t too awful to read for a first attempt at a blog. If anybody has actually read this and wants to ask me a question or anything else at all you can email me at:
thanks for listening, please leave me a comment if you managed to stick through all of that!