Depression

20 February 2017

‘My depression went undiagnosed for almost 20 years’

Depression affects everyone differently. Here’s how a Health24 reader, Anne Clark*, describes her journey with depression.

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The worst part of depression for me is that I always feel broken... like I am the mistake. 

Unwanted and unwelcome

Only recently have I put together the pieces and can say I suffer from "high-functioning depression". My depression went undiagnosed for close on two decades. 

As a young child I was withdrawn and alone. I did not like big groups of people. I constantly sought reassurance and reminders that I was accepted, that I was good enough. 

This was often considered “brown nosing”, that I was being needy and simply looking for attention. But in fact it was the only way I felt like I was okay to be on this earth. When I drew pictures they would be sad: cloudy, rainy skies, people crying. 

As a teenager I was overwhelmed by feeling like a misfit, unwelcome, a mistake. Yet I had friends. Academically I performed above average and successfully kept up the appearance of being socially integrated. 

Now when I look back, I can see that I was suffering from depression through all those years. I was bearing the burden alone, due to the stigma attached to any kind of mental illness, and the “just get over it” mentality of society.

Some days I still struggle

I have ruined countless friendships. I have lost jobs. I have been thin (submersing myself in training extremely hard at gym and eating next to nothing). I have been fat (no motivation to do anything, eating whatever made me feel better for 10 seconds, immediately followed by regret and self-loathing). 

I was always told that I am too serious, that I am a bitch, that I take things too personally, that I am melodramatic and always overreacting. And yes, sometimes that seems like the truth. 

When I found the courage to see a psychologist, she told me I just have low self-esteem and I should write down 10 good things about myself. I didn't go back. 

I am now on treatment and have been for a year or two. I am doing better and getting the help that I have needed for such a long time.

I still face challenges. I still have days where I struggle. But I can cope now – most of the time at least. 

The sad thing is: nobody saw. Nobody realised. I was surrounded by people, yet I was alone. 

Live in my head for one day!

I was never diagnosed correctly. Everything was always attributed to stress, anxiety problems or low self-esteem. 

At one point it all started getting too much and I admitted to my GP that I had contemplated suicide and needed help. She prescribed antidepressants and referred me to a psychologist. I couldn’t afford the fees, so I didn’t go. But the medication helped me get out of the deep black hole I was in and fight my way back on my own.

To this day nobody knows that I have at times imagined this world as a better place without me and that I have considered suicide more times that I can count. Things that are unimportant or a joke to many, cut me so deeply inside that it takes me days to recover and that the smile on my face is more fake than Barbie’s.

I wish people would stop saying: "What do you have to be depressed about? You're being stupid." Or “Just get over it!” and, of course, the best one of all: “You just need to get more exercise. That will fix everything.”

If you could live in my head for one day, then maybe you’d understand how empty and pointless all those go-to phrases feel, and that all we actually need is the reassurance that we are loved and are valuable – without having to change who we are at our core. That we need to be loved unconditionally. 

Our strength lies in being loved: by ourselves and by those closest to us. 

Every day is a challenge and learning the skills to become our best selves takes time.

Please be patient with us. We are not broken. We are just a little fragile.

*Name has been changed. 

If you would like to share your story, please get in touch with Mandy Freeman (Mandy.Freeman@24.com).

Read more: 

‘I have a Black Dog – his name is depression’

'My suicide attempt saved my life'

When should you see a psychologist?

 

Ask the Expert

Depression expert

Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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