When I think about it, I can’t pinpoint an exact moment that the depression took over my brain. There was no ‘Ping! You now hate your life!’ moment, no revelation of how sincerely miserable I was just a sudden feeling that something had not been right for quite some time. Originally, I brushed off the feeling s as ‘high school sucks, that’s probably why’ and tried to label my feelings as something other than what they were. I felt guilty. On the grand scale of things, I’d had a decent childhood, caring parents whether they were together or apart, an education and a solid group of friends. I had no reason to be depressed and at 15 I almost felt selfish for being miserable. The longer the fog of depression clouded my brain the more I retreated into myself, masking my sadness with overwhelming energy and excitement in an attempt to convince people nothing was wrong. My friends nicknamed me ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, a name expressing both my love for the movie and my false attitude. At weekends, I would go drinking with my mates on park benches, bouncing around the place like a kid on a sugar rush, grinning like the Cheshire cat and cackling like the Witch of the West. The more people commented on how bright and bubbly I was, the more satisfied I was; it was working. People were blissfully unaware of my inability to smile without forcing it, or the constant desire to hurt myself as punishment for something I couldn’t put my finger on. I continued to create an illusion of happiness whilst simultaneously wishing my life was anything other than what it was.
Eventually, I did confess. A selected ‘chosen few’ heard the tales of my depression and my self-harm when it finally became too much to keep a secret. Their concerns were inevitable and the majority of the people I told did nothing but try to come to my aid. But after one individual informed my high school head teacher in an attempt to rescue me from the hell I was stuck in, I felt betrayed and uneasy, instantly regretting the decision to open my big mouth. It didn’t take long for the word to spread of the condition I was in. In high school, any news, good or bad, travels fast and before I knew it I had people making jokes about the scars on my arms, dirty looks in the corridor and every tom, dick and harry whispering as I passed them. Naturally, this made everything an awful lot worse. The more I was bullied for the scars, the more scars I produced. My parents began to raise their eyebrows, I could tell they knew something was wrong but I was determined not to confess to any more people the state I was spiralling into.
As I got older, I got wiser. I learned that if the scars were on my legs or stomach, no one would notice them and I could breeze through school with nothing for people to criticise. I tried to continue with my original plan, masking my sadness with a false sense of happiness in the hope people would think I was somehow ‘cured’. The guilt of being depressed still hung over me, but at least I had it under control, I was getting good at being miserable. At around 17, my mental health changed. I noticed my mood swinging like a pendulum from one extreme to another. I’d had good days and bad days before, but this was different. I had bouts of genuine happiness, days out with my mates, house parties getting drunk and being ridiculous, moments of natural happiness where the fog lifted and I felt my dopamine and serotonin realign again. But these moments were always subject to change. I could turn, in a matter of minutes, from blissful ignorance, to almost tangible misery. Some mood swings were so bad you could almost see the metaphorical ‘black cloud’ hanging over my head. People commented, asked questions, and probed me to explain just how I was smiling 5 minutes ago and crying now. Truth be told, I didn’t have an answer.
But the mood swings weren’t just as simple as ‘happy’ and ‘sad’. I became prone to moments of unbearable anger, sometimes for no perceivable reason. I got overwhelming urges to hit something or break something, an urge that would get so out of control I could feel myself shaking with rage. In my calmer moments I often worried what this said about me as a person. Was I a bad person for having uncontrollable desires to set things on fire? I attempted to reason that it wasn’t all the time, so it couldn’t be that bad, right? But the more often it happened, the more concerned I got that somehow, in these moments of pure, indescribable rage; I might just be capable of something unspeakable.
The more frequent my little outbursts of anger became, the more I tried to find productive and healthy ways to get it out, something that wouldn’t cause anyone else any harm. I tried multiple tactics; ripping up paper, squeezing ice cubes so I could feel the sharpness of the cold, practising my right hook on my pillows, almost all of which only satisfied the urge temporarily. What if I did need something more? I dreamt of fighting someone, forcing myself into a scenario where the only way out involved physically exerting the anger onto someone else. On occasions, I found myself looking for an excuse to hit someone, trying to pick fights on anyone that would stand still long enough in a desperate, if not somewhat selfish, need to get it out of my system. I must admit, I did my best to avoid this. As much as the overriding need to exert some pent-up anger was, most of the time, almost painfully, I pushed the feelings down until I was worn out.
There were other sides to the mood swings, a variety of emotions only felt in their extreme sense. But the worst one was where I had no mood. I became blank. You know when someone begins to daydream their face becomes expressionless, lost in thought? Yeah, well that expression was how I felt. And it seems wrong to use the word ‘felt’ because in truth, I didn’t feel anything. I would come crashing down from my fits of anger straight into nothingness. I wasn’t anything. Your teenage years are the years you feel the most, your hormones are developing and cause most to be overwhelmed by new emotions, but I had nothing. I had hit auto-pilot, calmly and insincerely going about my life without feeling anything about it. I was hollow, cold and unresponsive. I still have days like this and I still cannot put into sufficient words to describe it.