“I didn’t do anything about it for two years. I felt I had no right to be depressed”

Well. That’s not quite true.

I talked about it with one of my best friends once, only because we were both fucked and the subject came up in reference to someone else. We haven’t discussed it since. I think he gets it.

It’s great that awareness of mental illness is increasing, yet sadly it is still something lots of people feel uncomfortable being open about – myself very much included.

The crux of the problem seems to be the incredibly tiny amount we actually know about depression. There is no one set type of it. It wouldn’t show up on an X-ray. Depression is stimulated by different problems, it expresses itself in different forms and affects people in different ways.

Depressed 1

Some never sleep and some want to sleep all the time

I only started to think there might be something wrong during my second-last year at school. I didn’t do anything about it for over two years. This was for two reasons.

The first, a very common feeling: I had no right to be depressed. I came from a very happy family. I had an insanely good upbringing which was bursting with love, friendship and comfort. I was obviously not actually depressed because that would make no sense.

The second, that although my parents do everything in their power to support me, they cannot change a belief ingrained within them, a belief I’ve half-heartedly attempted to stomach – the belief that depression isn’t real, that it is a made-up state for those incapable of ‘getting on’ with it. 

And, to be completely honest, I think they might, to a certain extent, be right.

Don’t get me wrong, I realise it’s impossible to ‘get on’ once you’ve crossed a certain line – I’ve crossed it myself. But I feel mental illness is more of a spectrum than one of two binary states, making it tempting for anyone who is not severely schizophrenic to be labelled a phoney by those lower down the spectrum. If only the line were visible.


People might be more sympathetic

I also agree that the only way to get better is to be proactive. Depression sucks even more for people who find that all types of therapy have little to no effect in kick-starting the recovery process.

Luckily for me, I was not one of them. When I came to Cambridge, I came with forced optimism. Having had the whole summer to get hyped, I told myself I would have the best time of my life.

I quickly crumbled. We’ve heard the story countless times before. I won’t repeat it.

I tried going to the University Counselling Service but it didn’t even help slightly. I think this is because, as I’ve said, I don’t have any serious, deep-set problems to tease out. The problem was fundamentally an imbalance of brain chemicals.

That Christmas I was put on antidepressants. They changed my life wonderfully and completely. I realised my gradual fading hadn’t been my personality getting shitter with maturity but an actual problem.

Not all a bad thing

In came the Sertraline

I’ve been on them for over a year now and I’m hoping I’ll get off them at some point fairly soon. That said, there seems to be little solid knowledge down this line – it’s hard to tell when you are ‘cured’. No one’s aware I take them and, although I should perhaps be totally open about it, I’m really happy that way.

I now have many close friends here and at home. They see me as strong, fun to be around and vaguely normal (I think).

This way, it’s very easy for me to focus on the positives and get dragged up rather than down. When people see you as a positive person, it’s much easier to be a positive person. When your family hear about achievements, it’s much easier to be a successful person. When your supervisor receives a good essay, it’s much easier to be a confident, intelligent person.


No more “I only have a plan”s

I’m not saying antidepressants will work for everyone. I’m not saying, either, that my life is suddenly a flawless meadow of rainbows and happiness. It’s a normal, fairly stressful Cambridge life.

I am saying, however, that it is not normal to view having a shower to be an impossible task because it involves leaving your room. It’s not normal to spend 50% of your life in tears and to feel more alone around other people than when you’re actually on your own. It’s not normal to be incapable of doing any work at all when you’ve already proved yourself to be intelligent enough for Cambridge.

Please, no matter how open you choose to be about it, and no matter how little you think you should need it, seek support if these things sound familiar. Seeking help is not a weakness, it’s a strength.

Also, read Fraser Newgreen’s recent article on Antidepressants.

Depressed 1

Only if you try

Giving up may be the easiest option, but it’s definitely not the best.

  • anon

    I live in perpetual hope that one day, there will be an article on psych meds that aren’t just antidepressants…

  • Well I just

    had to have a little cry. Happy Saturday….(but thank you).

  • Fellow depressive

    I really hope that a few decades from now we’ll finally understand the hows and whys of depression. And I really hope that we’ll look back on the years that it was stigmatised and sometimes untreatable with a sense of shame: that we just allowed loads of people to feel utterly miserable *all the time*, to the point that suicide became the #1 cause of death in British men under 35.

  • Fellow fellow

    Going through similar thoughts and feelings. Thanks for the real-talk.

  • Whoever

    wrote this is a very wise person.

  • Remy

    People don’t have depressions for no reason. If you have a depression, you DO have some “deep set problems” as you put it. Not realising it just shows you’re repressing them (which is actually likely why you’re having a depression). nOr, if it’s “just” a chemical imbalance, then it’s your diet… Student lifestyle surely doesn’t help in this regard.nGood luck!

    • Really

      This is just wrong

    • Anon

      You clearly don’t have a clue what you’re on about. Like the person who wrote this article, I too come from a very loving family, and have had no traumatising experiences. I also do pleanty of sport and yoga, and eat very healthily, yet I don’t remember not having depression in my life. Besides, it’s scientifically prooven that for many it is just a chemical imbalance, which is what antidepressants should sort out!

      Might be an idea to read a bit more about depression before spreading more myths about it.