Buzzwords that try to encapsulate what mental health is are inadequate. What does depression even mean? ‘Stigma’, ‘depression’, even ‘mental health’ don’t actually tell us anything other than promote a clinically indifferent interpretation of the definitions.
We think we know what depression is, we hear about it but we don’t experience its trauma just by reading about it. I’m highly conscious of the fact that the words I use might not do their job in this article, because the relationship between language and the life destroying experience that it tries to convey cannot provide a satisfactory delineation.
I begin to understand what this illness is when I meet Sarah.
Her wide smile and chatty idiom hide the fact that she is prone to severe depression. I thought I understood the extent of what that means but I didn’t until I actually heard about it first hand and now, any nod or smile on my part would be useless in response.
I only felt a strange thud in my stomach when I comprehend how excruciatingly lonely it must be to battle depression.
The crippling infliction on her mind disables her from achieving the simplest of things. It’s a debilitating, difficult condition that leaves its sufferer feeling guilty, anxious and alone.
Sarah agreed to write a diary of her thoughts and feelings in the hope that people will simply understand.
I’m terrified that someone might see me writing this. I want to change the stigma about mental health but I’m scared to let anyone know what’s going on in my head. I feel embarrassed.
I don’t think I’ve been to a lecture in nine days. It feels like I’m spiralling out of control. I hate myself for being like this. I tried thinking of the motivational things my mentor told me, but when I feel like this I don’t care about those things. They won’t make any difference.
Last night was the usual night of disturbed sleep and I feel so tired this morning. I have to tell myself that it’s an achievement that I’ve woken up early today.
I still won’t be going to my lecture. I could perhaps rush and try going the lecture but I know I would be late and it would be embarrassing with everyone looking at me as I walk in late after the lecture has started.
I’m still in my pyjamas, sitting on my bed, I will take my anti-depressants in a minute.
I did try to push myself by flyering on the concourse for a friend but it just made me feel like a failure because I can’t fake confidence.
I went to the I.C. and tried to hide away in a corner instead. I’m feeling pretty awful and hopeless and I can’t see me finishing this essay by Monday.
Why do I feel like this? I don’t know. There are good things in my life yet feel like I might collapse. I’m trying to think how to describe how I feel; It’s like I can’t support my own weight, like I can’t be bothered to move at all.
I’m always tired and every time I sleep I have nightmares. I feel disgusting, like I want to get away from myself. I can’t leave the house and I’m scared to answer the phone.
I bang my head against the wall. Writing this makes me feel worse. I hate myself. I feel cursed.
Years of this. It’s never going to get better so I just have to live with it. I don’t want to be around people I don’t know. I feel like everyone is looking at me and judging me as if I’m not good enough.
I can’t be out in a bar without drinking lots to make me forget about how I feel.
I’ve missed another lecture which makes me feel so much worse. I know I’m going to feel like this and that should be enough to make me go in to uni but it isn’t. At the time when the alarm goes off, I don’t care if I feel worse later. I hate myself for missing uni. I let people down and I can’t explain to them why. I don’t want to see anyone. I don’t want anyone to know that I’ve missed another day. I’m ashamed. Thinking about how much I’ve missed makes me feel ashamed.
I don’t want to be me anymore. I hate my own thoughts. I have to go back to sleep to get away from what I’m thinking.
I scratch at my arms. I just want these feelings to go away. I want to be someone else. I cry. I rock back and forth on my bed. I don’t want to do anything. I need to get up, I need to get a shower and I have to go to the IC. The more I think about it, the more I think about not going. I feel guilty for feeling like this, it depresses me more. It’s getting closer to the time that I should be leaving and I’m still in bed. It’s making me panic. I rock harder. I want to disappear. The closer it gets, the worse I feel about not already being up and ready. I feel so bad now that I’ve not gone and I’ve missed it.
People think I’m lazy. People think I make this up, that I choose to be like this. I’ll never get a job because I’m ill so what’s the point in going to uni.
I will always be like this. No one knows how I feel. If I told them, they would think I’m crazy. They would not want to know me anymore. I feel so alone. I am a burden to everyone. I feel like my house mates hate me. I have no friends. I am alone. No one likes me.
I might as well be dead.
I need to remember that negative thoughts don’t help me and that they make me feel worse. Avoiding uni or seeing people makes me feel worse, it’s never ending.
Lectures seem so scary and I don’t even know why; I just feel like I can’t go. It’s impossible. This is such a hard illness to have because no one can see it.
It is so difficult to tell people. Some people take it the wrong way and don’t understand and think I make it up. I’ve been through too much for them to deal with and it’s led to me close friends and even relationships. This makes me scared to tell people I don’t know very well or a new partner in case I scare them away and lose them too. I try not to give much away about what’s going on unless I really have to and only to people I know well.
This would be fine apart from keeping this all to myself actually makes me worse. If I feel like I can’t talk to anyone or that people just don’t want to know about my problems then I feel really isolated. These days I only confide in people I can trust and who I know will be understanding and be able to handle this. I need to feel like I can talk to someone, even if it’s just a few words to say I’m not well with the depression some days.
I save any major stuff for the doctors or the therapists though because I know they are the best people to talk to when things get really bad.
Vice-Chair of the Welfare committee, Alice Clark, is committed to ridding the negative perceptions of mental health in order to eradicate stigma and apathy.
“The impact of prejudice, ignorance and fear around mental health can be devastating for many students. Stigma may prevent people seeking help when they need it. It can stop them from building new friendships and mean they lose existing ones and may prevent them from getting the job they’re qualified to do.
“It can mean that everyday activities that you might take for granted, like going to the pub, shops or gym are impossible. One in four people experience mental health problems in any one year.”
Nightline offers a non-judgemental, friendly and empathetic ear to any problem at all, and no problem is too small. From 8am to 8pm during term-time (0114 22 28787)
The Samaritans are available 24 hours a day and are always willing to hear from anyone having difficulties. (08457 90 90 90)