To myself, I've always believed that I've been battling depression since I was 11 years old. I kind of pinpoint the turning point as my parent's divorce but so many other things led up to that, I think. Low self-esteem due to a toxic home environment. Constant moving led to my isolating myself. The pressures I was under to live up to high academic expectations. There are so many different aspects of my childhood and upbringing that my depression could have originated from but I think it began as a combination of all of the above.
It was worse as a teenager. I was already going through so much at home and really failing to meet my expected potential both in middle school and high school and it led to some awful coping mechanisms. Especially in my teenager years I felt very low for a great deal of time. I hated myself and could find no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I often thought of suicide and felt like nobody cared. I had no thoughts of the future as I couldn't see one for myself. I slept a great deal, I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't concentrate in class and did very little coursework. At times, I wanted to get certain things done and found myself physically incapable of accomplishing even the smallest of tasks.
Over the years, I've found better ways of coping with it. It's never gone away, but I feel like I'm better able to see the signs of a depressive mood coming on. I try to maintain regular exercise, eat better, actually SPEAK about how I'm feeling. It isn't perfect though.
At my worst, as I was heavily depressed and having suicidal thoughts, I also self harmed on a regular basis. I had no outlet for how I was feeling. Even now I have a hard time dealing with really strong emotions and (now) instead of facing them head-on I bury them inside me. As a teenager, though, this method did not work at all and the pain that I inflicted on myself was a small way of expressing the feelings that I had no idea how to cope with.
It was also rather gratifying as a method of self-punishment. I really don't want to dwell on this aspect of my life as it really brings back strong emotions and feelings that I still don't know how to process. This was a really difficult thing for me to overcome, finding other ways to relieve built-up tension. I ended up reading several books about self-harm and knowing I wasn't alone in it helped a great deal as well as having several healthy relationships in which I was able to see myself through them and could have a better understanding of my own worth.
As a teenager, I had an eating disorder. The symptoms of my eating disorder are closely related to bulimia nervosa, though I rarely purged my food. Instead, I'd binge and follow it with days of starvation. The periods of starvation lasted longer and longer and I'd feel faint and pass out. I remember passing out one time in the bathroom and I hit my head on the toilet bowl quite badly.
To this day I still hold onto feelings of shame and guilt around food. I still struggle with binge eating and also struggle to eat regular and healthy meals. I believe my eating disorder is so tightly wound together with my self-esteem that it is hard for me to fully overcome this. I've also read that bulimia is another way of expressing emotion which I still struggle with. I've always had issues with my body-image and am constantly on exercise programmes and different means of dieting.
Anxiety and panic attacks
And finally, we have my anxiety and panic attacks. I suffer from social anxiety - in which I feel excessive anxiety about social interactions. Not just common fears such as speaking in public (holy crap, I can't do that!), but also meeting new people, being in new environments where I will worry about what other think of me.
At some points in my life I have not been able to eat in public, I'm not able to do certain activities where people might see me, I cannot comfortably walk into small shops on my own. I cannot be late into a tutorial for fear of people turning to look at me. In some cases, it is impossible for me to actually speak in a social setting for fear of embarassing myself. I really struggle to go to new places and will avoid all of the above if I can. Both as a teenager and now.
I've suffered panic attacks at really stressful times in my life. Changing schools was always very upsetting for me and I used to get panic attacks before walking into a classroom where class had already started. The anxiety I felt was at such high levels that I felt like I couldn't breathe, my heart would race and tighen, my palms would get sweaty, I'd feel dizzy and the fear would just take over. Every single time I had a panic attack, I always felt like the only way I would be able to breathe again would be if I raced to the library. The library always had a calming influence on me. I feel very lucky that I have not experienced a panic attack in many years.
I always felt alone in the things that I experienced. As a teenager, I was never comfortable with anyone enough to talk about my depression, my self harm, my eating disorder or my anxiety. Only through books and through this blogging have I felt any sort of outlet for the things I've gone through. Thank you for your support and for listening.