“It was Sunday and I was on the 10-4 shift, it was a rough few weeks and today was the day it was all to come crashing down. I didn’t go to work, and I didn’t call anyone to say why and when the calls came through that afternoon I just ignored them, I had my reasons, but I wasn’t ready to tell anyone. The next morning before 8am I opened the shutters, placed an envelope on the floor, closed the shutter and threw my keys on the envelope before the shutter closed. I had done it, I had let my depression win. I couldn’t do it anymore.
I had held down jobs (dementia care, mental health, beauty therapy/massage therapist) studies, a social life (ok maybe that’s debatable) since I left high school whilst also holding down a 24-hour mental illness – high functioning depression and what that means is I could fool everyone into thinking I was a capable, intelligent, happy person whilst also hating myself, self-medicating and thinking about suicide. I could fake the happiest day of my life, not because I wanted too but because I needed too. As much as I wanted to hibernate and throw myself into oblivion I also wanted to live, I wanted to learn, work and meet people. So, I was stuck and left with a choice that wasn’t really mine – learn to live with depression and keep both my life and mental illness separate. And I did that very well for a very long time.
Up until entering secondary school I had a happy childhood, I grew up in Hampshire in the historic army town of Aldershot. When I was 11 I had to leave my friends behind as I entered a different high school to the rest of my class, this is when the depression first showed its face. I wasn’t a teacher pet nor was I the cheerleader type or artistic goth, I was something else, somewhere in the middle and although I wasn’t bullied like some of my classmates I was still a target. (I’d like to make a point that I don’t think bullying caused my depression what I do believe it did was awaken something that was already somewhere in my unconscious – as much as I used to try to convince myself otherwise).
I ended up taking refuge in the place I should have ran from, depression. And although I have also battled with eating disorders and self-harm noting has held its grip and strange comfort more so than depression.
I lived on this tightrope for many years, when I’ve confided in friends who knew me back then they are shocked they never picked up on my depression, never saw a glimpse of my fragile state of mind. That is the difference between high functioning depression and the ‘classic/normal depression’ diagnosis. HFD is what I’d describe as more manageable depression – although I’ve had many occasions of not being able to get out of bed until noon, not moving from the sofa and not being able to find the motivation to even shower, I can still hold down a job, concentrate on tasks, pay the bills and do a food shop, meet friends and basically live day to day without thinking of depression. Maybe it’s because I need to work, I need to be busy, I need to have purpose. Or maybe its because I’ve lived with depression since I was a child I’ve been able to manage it. Up until last year that is.
When it became hard to see the point of getting up I knew things had changed, the days felt longer, I felt exhausted after 10 hours of sleep, I didn’t want to take care of myself. The doctor told me eventually everything will burst, 15 years of depression with no therapy, only self-medicating was bound to take its toll. I was given Prozac, ignored the therapists calls and became a zombie for 6 months. When I physically couldn’t cry (yes really) I knew this wasn’t working, I was given Sertraline and still ignored the therapist. I still couldn’t cry but I could work my 40-hour week.
The crash came slowly, and the damage was brutal. I felt numb and full of emotions all at once, the feeling of your entire soul wanting to explode out with pent up sadness, rage, guilt, pain, pure and utter grey matter is indescribable. I didn’t know who I was, where to start, where depression finished, and I started, I was utterly lost. This leads me to that Monday morning when I decided no, I’m done. No matter the consequences, no matter the aftermath depression was going to throw at me and believe me it has I had to stop.
Going to the doctors was very difficult, saying out loud that I needed help, that I had a problem was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Not because I was scared of what the doctor would say but because I was just another statistic, I was another 20 something failing at living, I had left my home town with an abusive guy (I didn’t know this at the time) thinking that I wouldn’t get stuck like the rest of them, I was going to be different. Ultimately the doctor was lovely and very helpful, although medication was given on an instant I know why they turned to that first – depression for 15 years is going to need an arse kicking, I needed to go on meds because I needed to see things as they were before I started to get better, meds did that.
Happiness comes in all mental states and wellness and if mine comes from surviving mental illness I’m no longer ashamed of them I’m truly happy.”
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