I’m Alex. I’m happy and I absolutely love life. But it was my depression that nearly cost me my life. It was the illness that caused it (just like cancer can), not me.
I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety just after my 19th birthday. I had let work pile up because I physically couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. Every day seemed more horrible and hopeless than the last.
I couldn’t see a way out of the torment inside my brain.
A few weeks later, after my depression continued to spiral out of control, I was prescribed 20mg of citalopram, which I started taking on my Easter break from uni so my parents could monitor the side effects, which can be quite nasty.
Everything seemed ok, although I did experience a sort of ‘block’ on my emotional capabilities (not too happy, not too sad). My brain had just seemed to flatline. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep and it felt like I was trudging through mud just to get through the day. I was told these side effects were common in the first month, but I was getting really fed up that I wasn’t making any progress with my life and my depression.
I returned to university and I was excited for the first time in a while because I would get to see my friends. Two days later I decided to go out with my entire hall block to a club for the evening.
All day I seemed perfectly fine and actually quite upbeat. But when I got to the club, I realised I didn’t want to be there and felt totally empty and lonely. I left early with my friend in a taxi and went to my room. For the next few hours I worked myself into a panic about how I would always feel this way and nothing was ever going to change.
I popped out pills from numerous packets and took them one by one.
I was halfway through when I noticed a picture of my brother on the wall of my room. My heart sank because I realised that I would never see him again. I ran to the bathroom and threw up the tablets before too much damage had been done. I rang my parents, who left our house immediately and got my friend to run half an hour from his flat to mine.
The following day I saw the doctor and was prescribed 40mg of citalopram. I started to feel better after the initial shock of what I had done dissipated; everything looked a bit brighter.
But the real change in my thought process happened when I posted my blog about what had happened. I didn’t expect the sheer number of messages I received in the days that followed. It showed me that a) I wasn’t alone and that b) people do actually care, even complete strangers.
I thought everyone would look at me weirdly when I came back to uni or met with any of my family friends – sort of like a zoo animal. And I thought it would be really awkward to try and make conversation. The truth couldn’t have been more different. Everyone was so loving and supportive.
Since that day, my life hasn’t been perfect. I felt horrifically guilty for the pain I had caused everyone. But then I learned to see it as an opportunity to improve my own life and to help prevent other people from feeling the same way, or thinking they are alone in feeling that way. Now I understand that things can’t affect me as much as they used to because I simply won’t let them.
Life does get better. Depression is like a mental virus that stops you from being you to the fullest. It’s simply not your fault but your chemistry, environment or learned behaviours. If someone asks how your day is going, tell them the truth. Everyone has problems and, more often than not, they’re happy to help.
I’m perfectly abnormal. But so is everyone else.