I have depression. This is a picture of my Recovery Hermit Crab – I drew it for a very understanding friend, as we were discussing how it felt to be coming out of an episode of depression – like a little hermit crab sticking its claws out to explore the ocean. I thought this made a good analogy for the process of overcoming an episode of depression. The crab (recovery/un-depressed thoughts) is in a shell, and will venture out if you convince it that there are pretty fish and things to be seen outside of its shell. But if you pressure it or rush it, it can run back in and hide. Without very much warning. Also, hermit crabs are cute and fun – just like how recovery should feel happy and bright and awesome and stuff like that – but recovery, as I have found, isn’t as easy as that and doesn’t always feel so good!
Depression is like getting sucked into a black hole of self-directed internal negativity, that creeps up behind you like spiders or shadows and you don’t noticed how far in you are until it’s too late and your grip on things has become iffy. At this point, asking for help is Really Difficult. In my experience, there is a little ‘Depression Voice’ that tells me I am not ‘so bad off’, and should ‘get over it or something’ and shouldn’t burden others with how I feel and this agrees with non-depressed peoples’ opinions of how un-depressed and fine I seem to be and how it is a thing that I should just ‘learn to cope with’. Depression is difficult to cope with, I have had to pause my second-year of my chemistry degree as a result of not coping. That’s hard – and the worst thing is how aware I am of how well and happy I should be and the things that I should be doing right now instead of being depressed and reclusive.
My department at university, being sciencey and rational, have the rather black-and-white opinion that depression is a chronic condition that should be managed by the student affected and it is not the responsibility of the department to deal with it. The episode of depression from which I am currently recovering felt very acute at its onset and left me unable to go to lectures, complete tutorial work or maintain sanity for the duration of a four-hour laboratory session – I felt abandoned by my beloved chemistry department, afraid to burden my housemates, and terrified that the depression voice in my head might actually convince me to harm myself. I didn’t want people to know how I felt unhinged on the inside, so lurked in my small student room, ignoring the growing heap of laundry and abandoned responsibilities. I survived on junk food and hardly left my room, until dragging myself into university to ask for support, only for the tutors to tell me that I should focus on one piece of work at a time and try not to be too stressed about the uncompleted work on my desk. I didn’t feel listened to or supported, I hid my lack of work from my housemates and friends, but as soon as I confided in my family I saw my doctor and was swiftly prescribed antidepressants.
That was about three months ago – now I am no longer officially a student there, until September when I may (if I’m capable, which my tutors seem to doubt) restart the second year of my degree, and salvage what is left of my aspiration to Know Lots of Lovely Logical Chemistry. I don’t miss studying Chemistry now, and I have started a part-time pottery course, filling my remaining free time with coffee-chats with friends, such as the understanding friend for whom I drew the Recovery Hermit Crab. Recovery is possible, and is happening – even when the hermit crab inside my mind wants to curl up and never do anything ever again, I remember that. Depression makes everything sound so melodramatic, I am not exaggerating but aim to simply be truthful to how I have felt.
I am Fryn, my favourite colour is green, I have depression and This Is My Blog.