It has been one of the hardest things I have had to deal with and living with depression is a challenge, but a challenge that I believe made me such a stronger and more knowledgeable person.
I was diagnosed with Depression in the early weeks of January 2015 - my second term, in my first year at LCF. I’d known for a few weeks things felt very different. I didn’t know if it was the pressure of starting a new course, my new job, or the fact I’d just moved away from all my family and friends. But then things began to intensify.
My head began to feel like it was whirling, whilst I was constantly feeling very happy and then suddenly very low. Some days it felt like my whole body had become lead, in a very literal sense. My mind and body had changed, but I didn’t know why.
Telling my GP
My strongest advice to anyone would be to go see your GP if you feel a sense of poor mental health - just as you’d see your GP if you had a sore tummy. I went to the doctors in January after realising I couldn’t keep living with this constant emotional upheaval. I had cried myself to sleep for most of January and decided enough was enough.
Entering the doctors' room when my name was called left me shaking. I will always remember the feeling of “she can’t help you”, “you’re just broken and nothing will ever be able to change that” “she won’t take me seriously”. All these awful thoughts keep rushing through my head and when I told her my symptoms I burst into tears. My frightful thoughts couldn’t have been more wrong. It really wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. The doctor was incredibly kind to me and told me that my experiences were absolutely normal.
She explained she believed I had depression and she was here to help me.
She talked me through my options and let me chose what my next steps would be. There was no pressure to take medication or to the start, the counselling offered to me. This allowed me to take control of my depression.
I left the doctors smiling with confidence that I was now in control and things were looking up for the first time in weeks.
After receiving help through my local GP I then confided in my tutor, knowing that I needed additional support in order to make the most of my studies. I was scared when I began talking to her, but I was blown away by the support she gave me. She really did go above and beyond to help me and taught me about all the ways UAL could help.
She set up a meeting for me with the UAL Disability Service, which you can also easily access too if you want to talk to them directly, through telephone (+44 (0)20 7514 6156) or email.
I was allocated a mentor through UAL, who I met once a week for the next 2 and a half years. My depression meant it took longer for me to think and my mentor was able to help me with a range of tactics that would prevent my Depression from consuming me. These tactics are ones I will carry with me through the rest of my life, and ones I also share with my peers.
I also received something called an ISA which is an Individual Student Agreement. It is a confidential agreement shared between yourself, the Disability team and your tutors,
UAL also referred me to the DSLA, which is a government service which assesses how they can help you with other methods of support. For instance, I was struggling to take in my lectures and retain information so they gave me a dictaphone to record lectures, allowing me to listen back to them. It really did speed up my studies when my mind was finding it hard to focus.
Life with depression
I lived with depression throughout my entire time at UAL, and looking back I believe I had it for about a year before I came to LCF, but after receiving help and support, whilst also reminding myself that I am me and not my depression, I left UAL with a First Class Degree. I will forever be proud that my mental health did not hold me back and it allowed me to become a stronger version of myself.
I am still being treated for Depression, and I don’t think it will ever fully go away, just as a gluten intolerance would never. I’ve also have gone through some counselling, which you can access through the NHS or UAL, and I found that this really helped me talk through issues that nobody else around me really related to. Just like everything you sometimes have to find a counselling service that suits you, for instance, there is generic counselling where you can talk through issues, but also CBT counselling where they can teach you how to manage your Depression.
You will find your own coping mechanisms, for me its all about talking to family, friends, and occasionally a counsellor and writing down all those confusing feelings and thoughts so they leave my mind and make me feel more relaxed. The longer you live with a mental illness you realise that nearly everyone around you will have difficulty with their own mental health at some point in their life, just as everyone can have a bad stomach bug.
We are humans. We are not machines. Just remember even in those darkest moments, it can and will always get better.
Image by Alys Tomlinson
Painting by Davinder Puwar, 2013