Monday, 12 May 2014

Mental Health Awareness Week 2014 - My Battle with Depression

This week is Mental Health Awareness week and so I thought it would be a great time to write about my depression and how it has affected my life. Living with depression is not easy. At it's worst hard to focus on day to day activities and it's also hard for your loved ones around you to understand and deal with too. I was diagnosed with depression when I was 18. I have also seen my younger sister suffer from the same type of depression too and how at the time it affected the family as a whole but I really want to focus on my own depression in this post.  

Me aged 12.
Senior school life wasn't always as
happy as it looks in this picture. 
This year's theme is "Anxiety" which is something I have battled with since I was at least 11 years old. I think it was when I started senior school that I started to notice that I had a problem but I never really spoke up about it until I was a lot older and had finished school. I wasn't a very popular child at school and had a small group of friends. I have never been a very confident person. I found moving from primary school (where I felt comfortable) up to senior school really hard. All I remember was that I found being in a big group really hard so school assemblies became my first nightmare. If I was sat in a school hall full of other pupils I began to start panicking. I started obsessing that I was going to either throw up or wet myself and how embarrassing it would be if any of those things happened. It wasn't something I could stop thinking it was there all the time in that situation. I would go hot and feel like I was going to be ill and my heart would race. This carried on and progressively got worse as I went through the years until in the end even in class I would worry I was going to wet myself. I would religiously leave going to the toilet until the very last minute before I had to go into class and then sometimes I would even put my hand up and ask to go because I felt desperate only to get to the toilet and nothing to come out. I would panic and concentrating on anything in class was really hard.  Other fears would be going on school trips and feeling sick on the coach which is why as much as I could I would pretend to be ill on school trip days so I didn't have to go. The hardest thing of all though was exams. Doing my GCSE's at the time was the hardest thing I have ever done. I got into the hall and sat and panicked. Focussing was really hard because the "what if I throw up/wet myself?" question just continually went around in circles. I remember really stressing about the Geography exam because it was 2.5 hours long and the longest exam I had to do. I made my mind up there and then in that room that I would never do A-Levels because I couldn't handle the extra 30 minutes of the exam. Some people might think think this is a little odd but I came out of that Geography exam feeling on top of the world because it was over and I had got through it. Not because I thought I did good in the exam but just because I managed to do it without throwing up or wetting myself.  The question a lot of people have asked me when I have discussed this before is "have you ever thrown up or wet yourself in public? where did this obsession come from?" and the true answer is no I have never thrown up or wet myself in public and I have no idea where it came from.  Anyway I did my GCSE's and came out with a B in Geography, a C in English Language and Maths, D's in everything else and E's in Science (which I was never good at). I went on to college and had the same fears and ended up giving up the course after 6 months and then decided education just wasn't for me any more. 

It would be lovely to say that these thoughts went away but no the obsessions over throwing up have continued into my adult life, right up to this day. Though I don't seem to panic about needing the toilet now. There are certain situations that I find really difficult, in particular cinemas and theatres and travelling on public transport. There is no point in me going to the cinema or theatre because I just don't enjoy it. By the second half of the film/show I might have calmed down slightly but by which time I would have missed the first half obsessing in my mind about throwing up. The public transport again is a similar thing because it's me trapped in a space with other people. All of the anxiety is based around the what if something embarrassing happened? The thing is whilst I sit here and type this I know it sounds a bit silly and that even if you did throw up people aren't going to continually think about it. 

Me aged 18. Great job and
things are looking up. 
When I was 18 I had an amazing job doing IT Support which I fell into and really enjoyed. I started to get a bit of confidence and even travelled to London a few times but then one day I got glandular fever and that's when my world changed forever. Around the time I had a lovely boyfriend called Pete who loved me, but one day we had an accident and I found myself having to take the morning after pill. Not long after I took the pill my tongue bloated up. I had an allergic reaction but when I went to the doctors he said that no one had ever had an allergic reaction like it before and it was caused by stress. It was embarrassing because I couldn't put my tongue in my mouth and I couldn't speak properly and my family found it funny but to me it was distressing. The doctor saying it was caused by stress made it worse because it became my new obsession. I can't tell you the amount of times I went to the mirror a day to check to see if my tongue was any bigger than normal. In my mind I was obsessing that my tongue wasn't the right size and I was going to have this all the time and it would bloat up when I am say walking along the street and everyone would laugh at me. Then it changed and I started feeling like parts of my body were aching and kept thinking I had a million and one different things wrong with me. I ended up going to the GP many times who then told me there was nothing wrong with my body and it was psychosomatic. They put me on Diazepam and told me it would help but that I couldn't be on them for too long as they are addictive. A month or so later it was decided that I needed to stop taking them and go on to anti-depressants (I can't remember the name now). So I came off the Diazepam in one day. I will never forget that night I was at Pete's and at about 3am I woke up with a burning sensation all over my body. I told Pete that I was burning and to call the fire brigade (which of course he didn't) and everything but later when I called the out of hours doctor he told me it was a panic attack and I was hyperventilating which was probably due to coming off the tablets. 

It took about a month for the new anti-depressants to work and I started to feel a lot better. I stopped feeling like parts of my body were aching and stopped obsessing over my tongue bloating up. I started to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But then I moved doctors surgery. The new doctor could see I was putting on weight. When I was 18 I was 8 stone but now a year or so later I was up to about 13 stone. He said he thought I was well enough now to come off the tablets and so within a month or so I came off them. A couple of weeks later I hit rock bottom. I started having horrible thoughts. I am not going to go into great details here about the thoughts as whilst I have dealt with them they are not something I personally feel comfortable telling the world about but suffice to say they were nasty thoughts and they were obsessive. I couldn't get them out of my head, from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep I had nasty thoughts. I thought I was going to mad. The doctor asked me if I had voices in my head and the answer was no. It was just thoughts, nasty nasty thoughts. I felt panicky all day. I felt on edge. I felt anxious. I felt like I couldn't eat. You know how it feels when you have a test or exam? you get nervous and butterflies in your stomach. Well I had that constantly. Now this is the important bit. I never have had problems talking about things. I think it's because I have been brought up by my mum and we have always been able to talk so I didn't find it hard to tell my mum and go to the doctor and tell them. I just wanted help desperately and for the obsessive thoughts to go away. In my mind the only thing that would calm me down for a few seconds was the thought that if it got too bad I could kill myself.  

So the doctors put me back on a different anti-depressant called Clomipramine. I also went to counselling and I even tried hypnotherapy to see if I could get extra help but at the end the only thing that actually did help me was the pills. I went back to my normal self, still with the "what if I am sick" obsession in certain situations but not the nasty thoughts. At counselling and hypnotherapy I was told that the reason I was depressed was because my parents split up when I was 7 years old. Whilst I have sat and thought about this over and over again, in my mind I know that it's not that at all. I still saw both my parents and still knew that whilst Dad lived somewhere else he still loved me and I saw him each week. A couple of years after my depression started my sister had the exact same type of depression too which makes me believe that it's something in our genes. Though of course I am not a doctor or an expert but I know how I feel and I have seen how it has affected my sister in the same way.  We have both been told we will be on our anti-depressants for the rest of our lives and the way I personally see it, if it makes me feel better and not like I am going mad then I don't mind having to take a pill every day for the rest of my life. Also I may be 10 stone heavier than I was when I first had depression but I would rather be that than feel the way I felt. Don't get me wrong, I still have blips and times where I feel "jittery" as I call it. Where I feel a little bit anxious. My biggest fear in life is that the depression will come back. 

Depression is really hard also for the people around you but the one important thing is, it's always good to talk. Bottling things up and suffering in silence is the worst thing you can do. Once you start opening up to people and talking about depression you realise how many other people have had similar problems in their lives but they just don't tell anyone. The hardest thing with depression is you can't see it, you can't read someone's mind. If you break your leg people can see it's broken but depression you can't see. Even though when you have depression you think people are looking at you differently they are not, most people don't know unless you decide to tell them. To me depression is the worst illness I have ever had to deal with and it's something I still fear a little but something that I have under control and I just have to live with. Please if you are reading this and are suffering and you are scared to tell anyone don't be. I had the worst possible things going around my head and I was a little worried about telling the doctor. I wasscared they would lock me up or something but they have heard it all before and were calm and knew what action needed to be taken. Don't suffer alone if you get the help it will get better.  There are links at the bottom of the page to charities that can help. 

I may have found things hard on this journey through my life but my depression is part of me. It has made me the person I am today and I may not be the most confident person but I do believe I am a good person. I have an amazing partner Neil who is caring, understanding and loving. I  have a lovely family. I have a lot to look forward to in life. x

Me now. A little older, a little heavier but
coping well and a good life to look forward to. 

Links to charities that can help: 


  1. Thank you for this blog. Mental health issues are very much a "hidden illnesses" which largely go undiscussed.

    Only by discussion can we help break the taboo. Well done.

  2. Thank you for speaking so honestly and openly about your experiences, I hope it helps others in a similar situation to see they're not alone ((hugs)) x

  3. This is so honestly written. I take my hat off to you for sharing something so personal. Lots of love to you xx

  4. Wow Ellen. You have written this so honestly. XXX

  5. Well done Ellen for bringing up a topic that lots of people would rather not talk about. :-)

  6. Well done for writing so honestly and raising awareness. Great to see so many people sharing their stories for Mental Health Awareness Week and hopefully breaking down the stigma that surrounds mental health x

  7. Thanks for sharing so honestly .. hugs to you xx

  8. Thank you for writing such an amazing blog Ellen xx I can relate to so much of this, and until you have 'been there' no one knows what its really like ...I started off on Prozac years ago, and then went on to Citalopram...which I am still on. The Dr would like me to start coming off of them, but for me (even though I'm only on a low dose now) the thought of being without them is unbearable xx Hugs to you Ellen xxx

  9. Thankyou so much for sharing your battle with Anxiety and Depression this was a very interesting read
    I too am a sufferer and the thought of medication is a big thought i am so worried about going to my doctor for help but i know myself i need to go and get this sorted
    Thanks again for sharing

    1. Awww to be honest I wouldn't have coped without the medication. At first you can get weird side effects on the medication but within two weeks I started feeling a little better. I would rather be on tablets every day than to feel the way I felt. I hope you feel better soon and get some help. x

  10. Thank you for your very interesting post.It always helps to hear the experiences of others.

  11. Kelly Wheelhouse12 May 2015 at 17:53

    Hi Ellen,
    Thank you for writing this post. It has really helped me through today.
    Today I have been diagnosed with depression and social anxiety. I've been put onto citalopram and been told I will receive counselling or group therapy. I am genuinely scared about it all. It is comforting to read your story and hear that you are feeling better after talking to doctors. Admitting my bottled up feelings to a doctor has been the hardest thing to do in my life. I'm hoping it will help me. Thank you xx