What It Feels Like To Have Depression | Body Language


When I tell people
I took a year off uni, I always say
it’s because I was unwell. But I never say
I was mentally unwell. I know people
will react differently, but it shouldn’t be that way. Those two statements
should be treated the same. I think the first time I told
someone I was depressed I was 11. And they were like, “You’re 11. “Do you even possess
the complexity to be depressed?” When I was younger, I’d let
my thoughts just run away from me, and they’d usually end up like
a very dark Shakespeare tragedy, but with more
people of colour in it. Very gloomy, very sad. Later, as a teenager,
I’d put on this black coat and sneak out of school
to walk around town. My friends were
quite literal about it. They called it my depression coat. When I arrived at uni, I… I sort of lost it. It was this crazy explosion
of trying to figure out my own personality,
make friends, adjust, and balance all my mental illness
yet to be discovered. I felt paralysed
by the stress of school. It was like someone had cranked up
the pressure in my body. And I spent a year fumbling
for the valve to turn it back down. The night before an exam,
I was in my room, the pressure had really cranked up,
then something snapped inside me. I remember thinking, “OK, I’m going to die.” I had to call my mum to tell her,
“OK, I’m not doing my exams,” and she wasn’t getting it at all. Like someone being confused
about why penguins can’t fly. “They’ve got two wings,
like all of the other birds, “so why don’t we just throw one
out of a plane?” And then I had to be like, “I tried to kill myself.” Um… Yeah. I got on medication for a while – daily intakes of sertraline
every morning with my breakfast. I used to joke to my friends, “Apparently happiness
tastes like orange juice.” I didn’t like that it sort of
made me feel a bit of a lie, like someone had just turned up some
sort of button in my psychology, or some sort of dial. So I went off it,
and the relapse was awful. It felt like someone
had taken 1,000 rubber bands and just tightened them
round my skull, and I felt very dizzy
and very nauseous. Until eventually it went away
and I was like, “Great, that’s done now.
Not doing that again.” So I didn’t decide to do a year out,
it was deemed on me. But I realised
I could use it as an opportunity and I made time to explore my mind. What worked for me in the end is not
something I could have planned for. The thing that was probably
the biggest impact for me in sort of changing my psychology and changing sort of my outlook
is being more open with everybody. What’s kind of interesting is when you have like
an open conversation with people, have a cup of tea with someone
and say, “Oh, yeah, here’s what “I did in my year out, blah blah
blah, and here’s why I was unwell,” you realise that other people
have gone through that, and it’s hilariously normal. I did a big Facebook post saying,
“Hello, everybody, it’s me. “I’ve been very depressed
and suicidal. How are you?” And then sort of ran away from
my laptop like I’d just released some sort of naked photos
on the internet. But, you know, not only was there
lots of loving feedback coming back, but it was this sort of liberation
that I had taken control of the thing that I’m hiding from
and it’s now mine.

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