I first went on antidepressants when I was 24. At this point, I had suffered from depression for over ten years.
Just like when I was 21 and became extremely depressed after finishing university, I went to the dark place because I couldn’t get a job, again.
I had been travelling to South America for 11 months and I came back to do a Masters degree in Television Documentary Production. I decided to dedicate myself entirely to doing that degree for a year, I also worked in a bar to support myself financially.
It was a pretty lonely time, I didn’t have that many friends left in Manchester as a lot of them had moved away. I lived on my own and then moved in with my friend, who I never saw as she stayed at her boyfriend’s house every night. I also worked unsociable hours in the nightclub.
I had a serious boyfriend at this point but I only saw him once a week as I wanted to concentrate on getting my work done.
I finished my Master’s degree and got a merit but I still didn’t feel happy with myself. I gave up my life to do well in the MA and it didn’t particularly make any difference to my career prospects. I quit my nightclub job as I needed to finish my MA and get some work experience.
I managed to get a placement at the BBC for a month, but it was before Christmas so I didn’t get taken on. By January I was doing anything I could to earn money, even doing online surveys and constantly applying for anything, even if it was unpaid.
I had to go on the dole, my boyfriend was in the same position after moving back to Manchester from Essex after travelling. We went to the jobcentre together and it was a depressing walk, especially as there wasn’t a bus from where I lived so it took almost an hour.
I was still taking driving lessons but I hated it so much it meant that I wasn’t making very good progress. As you need a driving license for many TV jobs I switched to automatic driving lessons to make it quicker and easier. It didn’t and I still struggled. If I made any mistakes whilst out driving I would hate myself for it.
As I was on the dole, I had to do pointless courses at the jobcentre about writing CVs and the like when I already had a CV. This was time that I would have preferred to spend actually looking for jobs.
They put me forward for a job with the Future Jobs Fund which was an old government scheme where they pay for you to do a placement at a firm. I got an interview (I think everyone did) and they gave me a job at a management company for a financial district in Manchester.
I spent my days putting files into archive boxes although the FJF told me that I could spend weeks doing other things if I could find other placements, so that’s what I did. I worked for a voluntary organisation that made films and got paid minimum wage, which was better than nothing. I did another placement at a radio station near where my parents live so I went home and that’s when things got worse.
I was so exhausted by constantly looking for work and placements as well as repeatedly failing my driving test. I wouldn’t see my friends as I didn’t want to admit that I was a failure. They all had jobs and I couldn’t bear the questions about what I was doing with my life.
I compared myself constantly to other people on my MA, my friends from school and from university, even my boyfriend. I felt like everyone had a great job while I wasn’t even on the first rung of the ladder.
I went home so that I could start my placement in the morning and I didn’t sleep as I felt so bitterly disappointed and angry at myself. I felt like such a failure that I couldn’t relax my body, I just wanted to punish myself.
The next day, I told my mum that I couldn’t carry on. It was like the bottom fell out of my life when I admitted that. I cried because I felt that after surviving 24 years without asking for help, that I had failed by doing so.
I now know that I should have asked for help earlier, and maybe it wouldn’t have got to the point where I felt like I had nothing to offer the world.
I went to the doctor for the first time about my depression which was hard. What made it harder was that my mum cried the whole time and totally took over the appointment which was supposed to be about me. I guess it was obvious what the problem was and I think that guilt had some part to play, but that doesn’t matter now.
The doctor prescribed antidepressants, they did have side effects but they helped me to help myself during that time. I remember they made my pupils really big for the first few days, a bit like being on pills. Learn more about antidepressants here.
It is good that people talk more about antidepressants now, as I did have friends who were judgemental about me taking them back then. However, talking about mental health problems and being sympathetic to them is definitely a sign of strength.
Absolutely everyone feels depressed at some point in their life and some people need help, life can be really difficult no matter who you are or where you come from.
Now I wish I hadn’t tortured myself so much because actually I did have good things in my life, like my boyfriend. I’d also passed my MA, eventually passed my driving test and I was getting experience by doing placements. It was just hard to earn so little money and to scrape by whilst working all hours.
I once worked for 21 days straight and only earned around £200. It was tough to live that way but ultimately I learnt some lessons, mainly about the exploitative nature of many industries.
I was on antidepressants for 11 months and they helped me to improve my life, I also got a full-time job working in television after a lot of persistance. I did end up on antidepressants twice more, but thats a story for another day.
I don’t let depression worry me as much as it did then because I’ve survived before and I understand the signs much better now. I feel proud of myself and for everyone I’ve met who has had to deal with depression in their life.