Following last month’s death of Robin Williams, The Linc covered the topic of depression and anxiety last week, to help people understand the differences and the complexity of these two issues in part one of our exclusive interview with a depression/anxiety sufferer.
This week, our brave interviewee, a 20-year-old University of York student who wishes to remain anonymous tells us about her ordeal, and considers how people can prevent themselves or friends from being subjected to both depression and anxiety.
What’s your story and experience of depression and anxiety? (continued)
My boyfriend and I broke up only a week later as not surprisingly my massive anxiety attack scared him. This was the start of my depression.
When the depression started, obviously I was upset about the whole break-up but it was a lot of: “there’s something wrong with me because no one is that anxious about a relationship. No one is that anxious about their grades.” And the depression was like a big negative outlook on my life: I genuinely thought that I was a horrible person, that I was weird, and that no one liked me. The person I used to love, I decided had hated me.
I can’t remember why we broke up: both of us had issues, but I reckoned he was in love with his ex-girlfriend. I compared myself to his ex-girlfriend who in my mind was perfect, and no matter if I got over him, I’d never compare to her. I wasn’t even thinking about him, I just kept thinking I’ll never be a girl like that.
During this time, I’d sleep a lot and other times I just spent a lot of time doing things that didn’t take much brain capacity. So I’d play games on my phone or I’d read a book or other times I’d just lay in bed thinking of nothing.
I’m looking back on it now like that wasn’t me. I’ve broken up with people before and I’ve been very sad about it, but it was definitely more than that.
What I did realise was what depression was. With sadness, I find you can have a good cry and it’s almost washed away – whereas these lows just got deeper and deeper. My mind would go foggy, and there was no way I could think properly. My body’s instant reaction was if I wasn’t in bed, I’d want to do nothing. I was often tired; sometimes I’d sleep for 14 hours a day.
It was always worse when I’d just woken up or if I’d just gone to bed. It got so bad that not only was my relationship finished, I started thinking I had nothing to look forward to and started to hate my course at university. I just lost all concentration, and eventually I stopped going.
That’s not to say that during this period of depression, I didn’t have happy times. However, I knew that was my depressive time because for around 70% of those seven months I’d be unhappy, whereas for 30% of that time I’d feel happiness.
What was the outcome for you then?
These past six weeks since I came back from university have been a massive step up for me. I still have these terrible lows and anxiety, but it’s nearing its end. It’s also made me realise a lot of things about myself, and shown me what I have to do if I want to be a happy person. It also showed me perfection isn’t everything, but happiness is… you could have a perfect life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be happy.
I’ve also started writing about my lows, I’m planning on doing a half-marathon to raise awareness of depression, and I’ve applied for lots of volunteering position.
What would you recommend for other people who are suffering from depression or anxiety, in order prevent these depressed periods?
Sometimes it’s actually quite helpful to have a good cry, rather than letting the feelings just be numb inside you. It’s a total clique that crying washes it all away, but it really does! It’s getting straight to your emotion, rather than letting it sit there for ages. Just let it all out, and feel what you feel!
If you can try to think positively before it reaches the black fog of a low, then that’s the best way to prevent it. It’s better to kill the cub than wrestle the bear.
Also, I saw a quote on the internet which helped: don’t let one thing be your happiness. Do lots of different things to keep your mind active. I play guitar, or do origami. At university, you can join lots of societies, go out with friends… just keep yourself busy!
Sorry to have another massive clique, but it’s true that diet and exercise are vital! A lot of what caused my lows was my failure to eat properly. I’d not eat till 10pm and then I’d stuff myself.
Exercise and going to the gym everyday is something I’ve found hugely beneficial! Until you properly try it, you don’t realise how much of a difference it makes with how much happier you feel.
And friends! Friends are amazing! One of my best friends has been there for me every step of the way. I would ring her and cry my eyes out early in the morning. You’d be surprised at the amount of people who’ve been through it and want to help you.
Antidepressants for some can help massively – although they didn’t help me, for others I know they have been effective.
One thing I really want to try for myself is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This helps to retrain the mind to think positively.
Finally, just don’t be embarrassed, because you’re going to have these lows and they’re going to happen. Instead, try to figure out where this feeling is coming from, and attack the source of it. To me it was the breakup, my low confidence, my lifestyle and so if you can get to the source you can often get to crux of the problem.
How can we recognise the symptoms of depression/anxiety and how could we help those suffering?
If you recognise that they’re depressed, the first thing you do is get a moment with them, tell them you’re worried, and ask if anything is wrong. Make them aware they’re not alone. Knowing that my best friend was just a message away was a huge comfort!
But don’t become the annoying friend, because sometimes the person needs some space. Just letting them know that you’re there to give little tips every now and then will always be appreciated.Tweet