Amy's story: Living with Depression
I was diagnosed with depression when I was at college, after being bullied at secondary school, which caused me to have very low self-esteem and increased stress levels around exams.
I have had very good support from my local GP since I first got my diagnosis; my GP is patient, listens to what I say and I don’t feel like I’m being rushed out of the door. For me, it was very difficult to start to be able to talk about how I was feeling in a safe environment and to trust my GP.
I received CBT for a period of time at university. Although it can be helpful for many people, it didn’t work for me. I had a number of relapses, as well as self-harming and having suicidal thoughts, whilst I was at university. I took time out from my studies and my local doctor referred me to talking therapies and the Community Mental Health Team – if it hadn’t been for this referral, I don’t think I would have been able to start my recovery journey and I don’t know where I would be today. Being given the choice and opportunity to access these services enabled me to face and start dealing with my depression instead of feeling like I was helplessly enduring and battling with it. Talking therapies helped me to not try and get rid of negative feelings but instead to learn to deal with them effectively so that they have less impact, as well as helping me to realise that it isn’t normal to be happy all the time. I found this approach very helpful and it became a significant turning point in my life.
I went to a well-being and counselling service at university. It took me a while to feel comfortable and safe opening up to and developing a trusting relationship with the practitioner, but the consistency of seeing the same person each time enabled me to do this. I was informed of a ‘Text and Email Support Service’ (TESS), which has been another very helpful support tool for me. I tend to find it easier to express how I am feeling through written communication and I have found TESS a non-judgmental service that enables me to make sense of how I am feeling, by the volunteers not telling me how I should be feeling but instead acknowledging and listening to what I am saying. Exercise has also helped with my journey.
My recovery journey hasn’t been smooth, but the invaluable support I’ve received from two close friends has helped me to keep going through some bad days when I feel like it’s too hard to carry on. I trust my friends inherently and I feel safe enough to open up to them about painful thoughts and feelings. I’ve found that recovering from depression is a very up-and-down journey. I have had to stop hiding from painful past experiences in order to be able to understand how they have impacted on my thoughts and feelings in the present. Although I still take medication, I am in a better place and want to send out the message that a mental illness does not make a person weak or define who they are, and that people can recover and be successful in reaching their goals.
Although I have experienced varying levels of help and support from different doctors in different areas, it is important for other people living with a mental illness to know that there is help, support and information out there – don’t give up!