It feels like the end: the end of studying, the end of cohabiting, the end of the best friendship group and the end of all the happiness of the now. Suddenly we’re living in the future, talking about next year, the next still implying the coming September because regardless of how much we are looking forward to and planning for the future we’re holding onto the idea of the academic year because we’ve never known anything else. We’re young and we only see a world full of possibilities: people are going travelling, people are moving to London, people are staying in Bristol. People know things: pathways and futures. And I… am floundering in a sea of uncertainty where the waves that crash against me cloud my vision, distort sound and drag me further from reality.
I’m in my grotty student house on the sticky leather sofa sitting with the arms wrapped around my legs, a defensive posture, perched on the arm of the sofa like I’m not really meant to be there at all. My housemate bumbles into the kitchen; I’m not really in the mood for talking but he asks me how my day was. Somewhere my mind is telling me that I must have chosen to sit in our living space because I want to talk. I’m not sure what words I said because I only hear sounds coming out of my mouth as if my brain can’t quite process the reality. I tell him that I’ve quit my art foundation course because I feel down. And I look at him and await questions that I have no desire to answer and judgements that I do not want to confront, but they don’t come. Instead he comes over to me and hugs me and I cry; I cry because I don’t want things to change, I cry for a future that has not yet happened and I cry because someone is holding me and I really need to be held.
Then I’m on my bed and I have the phone in my hand, my arms wrapped around my legs in that same defensive posture. The doctor’s surgery is ringing and I feel so sure that I’m going to hang up. I’ve practised what I’m going to say, how I’m going to phrase it, that thing that I don’t want to say. I’ve thought it but somehow to say it out loud makes it real, and maybe, maybe I don’t want to be happy. Maybe I don’t want to talk about it and get help, maybe I’m happy being unhappy – did anyone ever think of that? But the thoughts are broken when the receptionist answers and somehow I’m still there. I’m still real and I’m still the person who is holding a phone about to say that I am depressed. And it happens, just like that, I’ve said it plain and clear: I’m depressed, I need an appointment.
This is one fragment of a lot of different moments that feature me and depression. But it’s an important snapshot: one that signifies action and change. And it’s an important moment to talk about in the context of mental health now, when conversations are happening more freely and more work is being done to have these conversations.
Thinking about this moment now, I think about just how important this is to think about: how do we find a language to communicate how we are feeling when words themselves seem inadequate. How do we manage to get these words out of our minds and into the world? Because then, and only then, will things change – for me, when these words came out, when I started finding a language I started thinking about how I could manage my feelings and, most importantly, who could help me do this.
It would be dishonest to leave an image of a person who is now completely content: I’m not. I still question the world, I question my place in it and I still get the sense that everything is not really okay. But… I have become a lot better at recognising those feelings and exploring them, and remembering that I can say I’m depressed because I’ve said it before. And in fact, that loads of people have.
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