Whenever someone asks me “How long have you suffered with depression?” I never know what to say. I think it was always there, lying dormant, waiting for me to discover it. Sometimes I would think or do something that didn’t seem quite right to me, but I could never work out how. I just knew I didn’t feel ‘normal’.
Even as a child I struggled to cope day-to-day, and found even minor inconveniences to be earth-shattering and my only response would be to have a meltdown. I was a shy and timid child, and would rarely speak unless spoken to. I never raised my hand in class, I never stood up for myself (which made me a prime target for bullying), I couldn’t explain my feelings properly, and my self-esteem fell to pieces.
I repressed my negative emotions and assumed everyone else did the same and just got on with it. Over time I grew jealous of everyone around me; they seemed to take life in their stride, and I couldn’t even face going to school.
Why did everyone else’s life look so easy, while mine was falling apart?
I grew fearful of the future; if I found everyday life this challenging in my twenties, how the hell was I going to cope in my fifties? Would I even make it that long?
I slowly crashed, day by day, finding it more and more difficult just to get out of bed. To shower without crying. To eat without feeling physically sick. The longer it went on, the more I became disconnected with myself – every day felt like an out of body experience. And as I drifted through my life, shutting down like a robot, I thought to myself “This isn’t normal”.
The warning signs were always there, but it was so easy to draw them up to something else. Something temporary, something to ignore and not take seriously. Depression will be with me forever, and I guess I was just scared to admit I’d had a black cloud over me from the beginning.
I remember seeing so many different doctors; being tested for anemia, hyperthyroidism, and glandular fever. Every test coming back negative, every doctor concluding “I don’t know what to tell you, you’re healthy.” But I knew I wasn’t. Something was off, I just didn’t know what.
Finally, after years of doctors only joining up the physical symptoms, I was so close to giving up, I cried during an appointment. When my (4th) doctor said to me “I think you need to accept that this is a mental health problem”, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted; my problem had a name. And now I knew what it was, I could start working on a solution.
The medication helped me get up in the morning and fall asleep at night, but it was counseling that changed me. I learned to recognize when I was spiraling, and point out unhealthy coping mechanisms and dangerous thought patterns. I learned so much about myself and my needs during counseling that it almost felt like I’d been walking around with half of me missing until now.
So when someone asks me “How long have you suffered with depression?” I don’t recall the moment I snapped, because there wasn’t one. I don’t reminisce on a rosy life that was halted by a traumatic incident, because it was never rosy, to begin with. Looking back and learning from my experiences taught me to be more honest with myself about how I’m feeling. To not shy away from a painful truth. I wish I’d got help sooner, but there’s no use dwelling on a past I can’t change. Now I’m moving forward with my eyes wide open.
*Blog by Zoe Thomson*
About the Author:
Zoe Thomson is a freelance writer living in Scotland with her boyfriend and one spoiled pug. She runs her own mental health blog, No Light Without Darkness, has written for The Mighty and covered shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Follow along with Zoe’s journey at https://nolightwithoutdarkness.com