After sharing my first blog post online, I was totally blown away by the response. I received messages from all sorts of people telling me they could relate word for word to what I wrote. I knew depression and anxiety was common, but wow! It shocked me and got me thinking… Why is this so common? Why does life overwhelm so many people?
“When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all: Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better…” Doctor Who, Love & Monsters
I was fortunate to have a wonderful childhood. Life was simple and safe. But when I hit 18, my view of the world began to change. The summer after I finished sixth form, I went to Kolkata in India to work in schools for children who live on the streets. In Kolkata – one of the poorest cities in the world – I encountered devastating poverty. Starving children on the roadside were begging me for any small scrap of food that might keep them alive. And it completely broke my heart. I started to question the world. How can there be children starving to death in India when here in the UK, I have far more than I need? It’s not fair. I suddenly felt exposed to the real world and it wasn’t a world I liked.
I returned from India and headed straight off to university, to embrace what I was told would be the best years of my life. They weren’t. Everyone raves about uni; there’s this expectation that it’s got to be amazing. You’re told it’s a time when you’ll learn how to be independent and you’ll find yourself. I didn’t. I lost myself and I realised that I needed people to support me more than ever. No one warned me it would be tough. So, when I found things hard going, I thought I was being pathetic. Worried that I was expected to cope as I was now a ‘grown up’, I didn’t talk to anyone. I kept going, hoping things would eventually get better. But things got much much worse. One of my friends died. She committed suicide. I’d never experienced loss in this way before, but now death was suddenly very real. Life, on the other hand, felt like it was slipping away.
I was spending the supposedly care-free years of my life racked with anxiety, fearful of death and saddened by poverty. The world seemed a very dark place and it terrified me. These experiences have taught me huge life lessons. Bad stuff happens. No matter how small or serious, we’re all dealing with something. And for some of us, this leads to depression…
My first step it trying to beat depression and anxiety is to try and understand it. Depression is not just feeling sad. It’s an all-encompassing force of sadness, hopelessness and emptiness that affects you physically as well as mentally. Depression is very complicated and confusing. I often feel my life’s empty and that there’s no good in the world at all, yet I know my day-to-day life is full of good things (the fact that I’m not living on the streets begging for food is a pretty good sign of this!). So when I seemingly can’t cope with my perfectly good life, I can’t help but conclude that I am a dissatisfied, pessimistic failure. This then makes me feel even worse. It’s a paradox! I believe this is why so many sufferers struggle to understand and come to terms with depression. But the truth is, depression is not dissatisfaction. Depression is not pessimism. And depression most certainly is not a weakness. Facing up to it, however, is a strength.
Life frequently still overwhelms me. But I am now starting to learn how to cope with this. In all sorts of strange ways, I am being reminded that life is beautiful, even when it doesn’t seem so. One thing that constantly reminds me of this is Doctor Who (bear with me on this). In spite of all the horrors of the universe, the destructive monsters and power-hungry villains, the Doctor shows his companions that the world is still a beautiful place, that life is worth living to the full, and that every single person in existence is special. All right, so I’m not having to ward off Daleks and Cybermen on a daily basis, but, like everyone else, I am faced with real-life struggles. Thankfully, a fictional Time Lord shows me that while these struggles don’t go away without a fight, I am worth fighting for and my battles can eventually be overcome. A bad thing doesn’t mean a bad life.
“Every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice-versa, the bad things don’t necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” Doctor Who, Vincent and the Doctor
Please don’t anyone read this and think I have all the answers to overcoming depression: I don’t. But I do have a tendency to overthink things, so this is just me working it all through in the hope that it might help.
To end this post (before I waffle on for another 1000 words!) I want to give a special mention to two groups of people. Firstly to all the wonderful people out there who have sent me messages of support, love, and kindness. It means such a lot – thank you so much for being there for me. And secondly to anyone reading this who is going through exactly the same thing: depression makes you feel lonely but please know you’re not alone. Knowing that other people suffer in the same way can provide a strange sense of comfort, even if it doesn’t take the suffering away. To quote the First Doctor:
“Fear makes companions of us all.” Doctor Who, An Unearthly Child