two girls holding hands in sepia

Whilst I was searching for some photos to accompany a blog post on my Facebook profile the other day, I came across a Facebook status from mid-2009 – about 6 months before I met Stacey. It said, simply, ‘Carley is fluoxetine hydrochloride.’. For those of you who aren’t au fait with mental health prescriptions, that’s the medical name for the drug commonly known as Prozac.

I was diagnosed with a depression-type disorder just before the summer exams in my third year of uni. It had been a shitty (academic) year – from a flatmate moving out and refusing to pay rent to a massive falling out with the girl I was attracted to, an episode of Scarlet Fever which lead to me being quarantined for ten days and on top of all that, difficult classes which actually counted towards my degree. It eventually all came to a crux when I arrived at an evening shift at my part-time job, and a colleague / fellow student asked what I’d done since we’d last seen each other. My answer (which was that I’d basically been in bed for four days straight) worried him so much, he frogmarched me to the doctor’s the next morning. (It didn’t help that I’d lost a lot of weight – in part due to the scarlet fever – too.)

Carley in her third year at Uni, before going to a rave / paint party

This was me at the beginning of my third year of uni, before everything got on top of me.

In hindsight, my depressive episode is more understandable, because I can see the amount of stress I was under (and how broken my support system was) at the time. I was twenty, living hundreds of miles from home and all my family, and I was really struggling with my identity, my feelings for both my best friend and this other girl, and I’d had a pretty tough year all in all. My response – to both the way I felt and the anti-depressants – was probably more worrying than my depression was.

I don’t suppose that my behaviour appeared to be much different to that of many other students – I stayed up late at night, and would sleep all day unless I had a tutorial to attend. The only things which made me feel better – made me feel like I actually had a life worth living – were things that I shouldn’t have been doing. I got stupidly drunk, I’d kiss entirely inappropriate people and basically tried to self-medicate with booze and other miscellaneous substances – although never anything illegal.

two girls holding hands in sepia

Things got really bad when the friendship between the girl I like (R) and I came to an explosive end. Despite the fact that we were in the same year, and had lived within 200 metres of each other three years running, I only met R randomly at a house-party in October 2008. Very drunkenly (and both of us with our own agendas) – we kissed on a crowded dancefloor. I fell for her pretty hard, but I knew from pretty early on that she didn’t feel the same way. At this point, I should have cut down contact with her – but instead, I became incredibly close with both her and a mutual male (gay) friend. The three of us had a brilliant few months – getting drunk and watching films and stressing over work together – and R even came down at stayed with me in London, where we had a fun night of gay-clubbing. I tortured myself trying to just be friends with her, and when she she was herself cut up about someone else, things between us just fell apart. I remember her telling me, very bitterly, that it wasn’t her fault I was so insecureThat line still hurts, even to this day. 

I don’t want to claim that it was this non-breakup which was the catalyst for my depression diagnosis – as I mentioned above, in between catching a highly contagious disease, struggling with living arrangements and my feelings for my best friend, it was a tough year. At the end of the day, the reason for the depression wasn’t the biggest worry for me – and even to this day, I feel most alarmed not by my depression, but due to the things that I did because of it.

Going out to sea in a six-foot, blow-up dinghy, with beer

Going a mile out to sea in a six-foot, blow-up dinghy, with beer. Obviously a good, sensible decision.

Depression, in and of itself wasn’t that uncommon in my university experience, but my response to it that that spring and summer still  makes me ashamed. I spent as much of my time as possible in dangerous pursuits – anything to get a bit of a thrill and feel – well, anything. When I wasn’t at work, I was learning to ride a half-fixed motorbike on the (mostly) empty farm roads just outside of St Andrews, cliff-jumping into the North Sea, getting obnoxiously drunk and insulting everyone around me. My problem was compounded by the fact that I was so desperate to feel anything that I would drag others into my ridiculous plans. It’s this that I’m most ashamed of now.

The scrapes and bruises which covered my legs from falling off of the motorbike I was learning to ride.

The scrapes and bruises which covered my legs from falling off of the motorbike I was learning to ride.

Perhaps I’m writing this now because, 4 years down the road and in a more secure situation, I’d forgotten about how that desperation felt, or maybe I blocked it out on purpose; but there was a sudden jolt of recognition when I reread those few words on my Facebook page. When I look back at how I was acting, I’m not surprised that I had so many of my friends and relatives worried during those months in 2009. I did some really stupid stuff and I genuinely find it terrifying how nonchalant I was the whole time.

 

In the end, it wasn’t the anti-depressants which pulled me out of my depression – it was three girls that I barely knew but spent the summer with. They definitely helped me see my problems more clearly, and helped me work out a lot of stuff – especially in regards to my relationships and my sexuality. By the time I met Stacey, around 6 months later, I’d settled down and avoided telling anyone about the prescription the doctor had given me. In fact, I don’t think that I’ve talked about that time in my life with anyone other than Stacey since.
Two of the girls who absolutely helped me change my life that summer.

Two of the girls who absolutely helped me change my life that summer.

I worry about what would have happened to me if I hadn’t met the people I did, when I did – and I think that’s what has made me write this post. People think that depression involves feeling sad all the time, and staying in bed all day and not wanting to do anything. For me, it wasn’t like that – when depression hit, I felt emotionally paralysed – like I couldn’t feel a thing, and that life was moving really fast whilst I was standing still – which is what lead to me making bad decisions, just to try and get some feeling back. I’m really grateful that I things worked out the way they did – because I ended up having an absolutely brilliant summer, and I’m still close to those girls I spent those few months with.

 

For anyone who is worried about feeling sad, or down, or just completely ‘not-right’, like I did – please, please go to your doctor – and please, tell the people around you who love you. I know how hard it is to open up about a depression-diagnosis, but having people who care for you standing next to you when you feel like the world is upside-down really helps with getting through it.
Girl sat on doorstep feeding two ducks
I hope to follow this post up with some more information about what I call ‘The Summer of Yes’ – the months after my diagnosis which were filled with craziness and late-night trips to Tesco and hungover breakfast at Greggs – just to show that however bad things get, there are positives which can come out of every situation.
Carley
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    10 Comments

    • Carley

      Thank you for commenting – I admit, I hesitated before I pushed that ‘publish’ button, but I wanted people to know what whilst my life may look easy and perfect now, it certainly hasn’t always been that way. x

  1. Kiki and Lala

    Depression is so difficult… I understand how you felt.
    I used to be in a very bad place too until I met Laraine and gradually she helped me out of it…..
    Glad y
    U are through it too hunnie xxx

    • Carley

      Having the right people around you definitely makes dealing with depression so much easier. I was lucky that two of my friends were junior doctors, and so always kept a sympathetic eye on me. Glad to hear you made it out the other side too! x

  2. Sara

    Depression, or any kind of mental illness is difficult. And I think blogland needs more posts like these. Life isn’t always sunshine and puppies. When I write about my ED or having depression, I don’t second guess it, I just write it, and then publish it. Because my life isn’t sunshine and puppies, it’s not perfect. I struggle. And I’m going to write about those struggles if the mood strikes!

    • Carley

      It is hard, because on one hand, I feel like I’ve moved on from that part of my life, and so I don’t want to relive those days… But then I’ll find something which takes me back so strongly, and I’ll feel the need to write things down to prove that these hard times did happen to me, and yes – I got through them. I agree though – people need to be able to see that mental illnesses can happen to any of us, and that there is no weakness in admitting how you feel, or felt.

  3. Susie

    A very honest blog. I have a very similar experience but just a little later in life. I certainly became very erratic too and your experience seems similar to mine. Writing is a good way to relive it. None of us are perfect and that’s what makes us human x

    • Carley

      I completely agree that none of us are perfect – and I certainly don’t want any young people looking at mine and Stacey’s life and thinking it’s all perfect and easy and unattainable – we’ve both had it hard, but we have come through it. That’s what I’m most proud of – we’re both better people, together, because of what we’ve been through. x

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