Elliot Colburn has been away from the Political Promise scene for some time, but he’s back to tell us his views on depression and his experience with it.
This has been my first blog for a long time, because, as the title suggests, I have recently been fighting with depression. I call it a ‘survivor’s’ view, because not everyone survives depression and hopefully this will explain why this is unfortunately the case.
Depression affects thousands of people in the UK and indeed the world. Very little is known about this incredibly common mental illness, other than it can be caused by many factors, and it affects each individual sufferer in a different way. I am going to outline my views both before suffering depression, what my experience was, how others can be helped and what my views are now.
Before I began suffering with depression, I thought people who claimed they were depressed were just attention seekers. I was extremely cynical of the condition, believing that those who claimed to have it were lazy, using it as an excuse not to work, or looking for sympathy and help from others. I thought that those driven to suicides had got some mental idea in their mind that they would survive whatever form of harm they sought to impose upon themselves, and then hope to make money and become famous by selling their stories. All in all, I did not believe that depression existed.
However, earlier this year I began to develop depression, and it grew quickly and viciously. It began with constant tiredness, I had not just a desire to stay in bed, but an actual inability to get up, and a feeling of ‘there’s no point in getting up’. Then came the dark thoughts, a feeling of entrapment, that no one understood me, and an irrational feeling that I was unsubstantial. I had a feeling that the world didn’t need or want me and that I would not be missed. I became constantly glum, unable to find joy in anything. I pushed people away whose little antics annoyed me and relied even more heavily on my friends. Despite what my friends were telling me, their words couldn’t drown out the screaming in my brain telling me I was worthless, and that everything was going to be bad forever. It was around January when I began cutting myself, first I only made one or two attacks upon my wrists, but by May I was regularly cutting all the way up my arm, lying in bed with dark thoughts swirling in my mind, with my arms laying limply by my side bleeding all over the sheets. My moods varied from indifference to rage where I’d throw glasses and other possessions around my room, becoming to what one friends described to be as frightening, or immense sadness where I would positively scream in misery and cry endlessly.
I often stayed with someone who I loved deeply, however, the depression often nudged me and said, “he doesn’t love you back” or “you’re being a burden”. I often felt guilty for those who were looking after me, I felt like I was bringing them down when I walked down the street I felt like everyone I passed became instantly miserable when they saw me, and were sniping at me as I went passed. I had a feeling of a heavy weight on my brain and on my shoulders, my mind was not clear. It culminated with the biggest scream for help anyone can give. On the day before my first exam at University, I threw myself off the jetty on the beach at 3am, into the sea. For a second I felt free, like I’d washed the pain away; that any minute I was about to be taken into death’s waiting and warm arms. Next thing I was above the water, coughing like mad and desperate to be out of the sea. It had not helped. I made it to the beach and stupidly took myself to the pub that I worked at to seek help. I saw the looks on my colleagues’ faces as they helped me; they were upset. This became evident a few days later at the end of a shift, when my boss screamed at me, told me I was bringing everybody down, not doing my job properly and I was an inch from losing my job. Luckily I only had one or two more shifts before I was due to come home and I managed to hold onto my job.
It was only after self-harming, a suicide attempt, and almost losing my job and all my friends that I sought help. I was put on strong anti-depressants and put into an intensive course of counselling and therapy. Things became better slowly, and after my exams were over I felt loads better. For me, my depression was about a course I was worried I would not perform well in and falling deeply in love with someone for the first time and being worried that they did not feel the same way. This is something we all deal with, but for me and for many others, it turned my life into a nightmare. Now I am off the tablets and the treatment, I am back to how I was. I have made amends where possible, and I feel like the weight has disappeared. My mind is clear again. However, as I said before, I am a survivor. For some, this story would have sounded a lot worse and would not have a happy ending.
I now know that depression is a real condition, and how dangerous it can be. People who suffer from depression need all the help possible. The tablets and the therapy are important, but what is just as essential are friends to look after you and care for you day by day, and to constantly remind you that you are not alone, because that is the main thing. When you suffer from depression you feel alone, and this is, I think, the most dangerous part. You may feel like it’s none of your business, but if you know someone with depression, get as involved as possible in their lives, and help them. Because they will not survive without it.
Depression has nothing to do with whether you have a “thick skin”. I consider myself to have a thick skin and always have done. I have faced constant criticism in my life about my sexuality, my mannerisms, my political beliefs, etc, but that has never bothered me in the slightest. Each individual case of depression is different; it will have a different cause, a different impact, a different time span, and a different outcome. Luckily mine was brief, but that was literally that; luck.
Depression can be just as deadly as a terminal illness; it can drive you to do horrific things to yourself and others. My plea is not to judge people so quickly who suffer from depression, as, in my opinion, it is impossible to understand until you experience it yourself.