Depression, Anxiety and Me

04/01/2015 19:57 GMT | Updated 05/03/2015 10:59 GMT

It's possible that in writing this I may only re-iterate that which others have written before me, and ultimately provide something which is of no use or value. If this should happen I apologise in advance.

I've wanted to blog about my experiences with depression before, but until now I've consciously neglected to do so. It's quite a thing to admit that - by medical standards - you're mentally ill. If, like me, you want people to take your political arguments seriously, it's probably a subject which is best left outside of public knowledge. Still, here goes nothing:

I have suffered from depression since the age of sixteen. I am now twenty-seven. It never really goes away. There are times I thought it had gone away, but then it just came back with renewed vigour. Brief highs are followed by lengthy, cataclysmic lows.

When I first became depressed, I didn't really know I was depressed. All I knew was that something was wrong. I was not my usual self. I rapidly became a shadow of my former self, and if I'm honest I still am. I became virtually silent. I hadn't the confidence to do the most basic of things. Relations were bad at home and so I sought refuge out of the house, with friends. It was not long, however, before my change in mood was noticed. I began to be avoided by people. I began to receive more than my fair share of piss-taking.

Looking back, I don't resent how people reacted to the change in me. I was a popular, happy-go-lucky guy turned social misfit, who would stare silently into oblivion for hours at a time, in a crowded room. The differences I was exhibiting were probably just as strange to others as they were to me. Stranger even, because their minds were not clouded in the confusion which mine was. If I had to characterize the early stages of my depression in one word, it would be just that - confusion. Something was wrong, certainly. I knew that much. It took a great deal of befuddled deliberation to deduce that there might be something wrong with my mind.

Eventually I went to see a doctor. I think I was 18 or 19. I was given a questionnaire to fill out, with multiple choice answers. Upon its completion and subsequent examination by the doctor I was told that I had depression, and was prescribed with anti-depressants. I took them for awhile but saw no positive results. If anything, I became worse. It is hard to say why. Perhaps it was the knowledge that I had been diagnosed with a mental illness by a trained professional. Perhaps it was my diminishing group of friends, coupled with the bad relations at home. I really don't know.

I also don't know when I began to have anxiety. I don't remember it being there in the early days, but at some point it arrived - massive social anxiety. If you suffer from this, you'll know how debilitating it can be. The simplest of tasks will seem gigantic and terrifying. Attending a lecture, for instance, caused extreme amounts of stress and the chain-smoking of many prison-thin roll-ups. Eventually, I just stopped attending. I studied at home, alone. I attended seminars only. Why those and not lectures? Seminars were compulsory.

As time has progressed over the past eleven years, I can't say I'm completely better. I still feel low the majority of the time. Sometimes I feel so low I want to top myself. I still suffer from social anxiety. I suffer from self-loathing. I'm able to hide this. I can go long stretches where I project the image of an outgoing, confident young man. In reality though, if I may borrow a couple of words from 'Good Will Hunting', I feel like a 'scared-shitless kid'. On the plus side, my mind feels clearer. It's still a jumbled mess in there, but I am at least able to express myself coherently. This is a definite improvement to silence. I also have some wonderful people in my life. Wonderful people are out there, and there's more of them than I once thought there was.

There are some who argue that depression is not an illness. ''Pull yourself together. This is a first world problem if I've ever seen one. Come with me to Africa and I'll show you people who have a right to be depressed." All I can say to people who say such things is that I'm not able to rationalize it like that. I don't think any of us are. My depression doesn't make me indifferent to the suffering of others, and it's noteworthy to make this point as it seems to be a fairly common misconception about victims of depression in general. We're not self-absorbed and we absolutely do feel the pain of others.

There are some who will perceive this as a self-centred sob story, regardless of what I say. It certainly isn't my intention to give such an impression. I just wanted to add to the growing number of voices out there who are sharing their own experiences with depression. And I'm a believer in the maxim, 'We read to know we're not alone'.