The best analogy I can find to describe how it feels when a depressive episode sets in is to liken it to ‘waves.’ Pretty much like this: you’re standing on a beautiful beach, taking in the view when you feel splashes from the sea hit your ankles. Great. Everything is great, you’re in control. As time goes on, the tide rises a little higher and now it’s slapping against your knees – still fun. Then you notice the water level has begun to rise and the sun isn’t shining as brightly as it was at the start of the day. You can see the clouds coming in on the horizon. Now, you’re wading through the sea; the water is up to your chest and before you can get yourself together and make a run for it –it’s too late, you’re in over your head, drowning.
This is the way it usually goes in my experience and for those who I’ve detailed this to, as my only way of explaining what’s going on with me, have understood what I feel (or tried) through this description. The waves represent the process that it takes for me to become overwhelmed in a depressive state – it’s like knowing you’re fine one week and then as the days creep in you feel yourself becoming awash with this stagnant energy and you know it’s coming no matter how much you try to get on with your life.
It’s hard to say exactly what triggered it but I distinctly remember it all starting back when I was 17. There were a lot of changes in the works at home and money was tighter than ever which was stressful. A lot of things had taken place around that same year too, relating to family and I think it was probably a mixture of different things that bought it into fruition.
I’m 20 years old now and the periods of depression are recognisable and quite consistent and life has definitely not gotten easier. I decided maybe I should write an article about this because it’s been something dancing in the back of my mind for a while now. I also find it very hard to talk about to people and this is a way of pushing it out into the open for myself and others who find it difficult to talk about. I think for a lot of people depression is a hard topic to deal with no matter what age you are, then when you get into cultural identity/norms and what it means to have a mental illness it can get even more complicated. Add to that being a young person: someone who’s supposed to be deemed as constantly having the time of their life, living with little cares or responsibilities and full of life and vitality. So what do you do when you don’t feel these things a lot of the time? Well, if you’re like me you mostly play along with people…you lie, you pretend you’re okay when you’re not, you can’t stop thinking so you sleep too much or too little, you compare your life to others and you keep trudging on even when your world has stopped turning …because you realise everybody else’s still does.
One thing that pushed me on to write and share this, was the Mental Health season on BBC3 recently. They’ve focused a lot of programming on getting the perspectives of young adults with mental health issues ranging from schizophrenia to agoraphobia to bipolar and anorexia and more. Giving people the platform to tell their own stories in their words and to choose how to explain their illness to others despite what the preconceived notions surrounding their condition may or may not be.
It also confirmed a few things for me, one being that I have been experiencing depression for an on-going length of time and there’s certain things I need to do to help myself out a bit more.
Hopefully the dialogue surrounding mental health and young people continues to grow and is spoken about amongst friends, colleagues, family and those in health professions more freely and more honestly.