I held on to life by my fingernails (written by Karen)

Wednesday 28th March 2018


I am so glad that I have opened up my blog for you to contribute. Writing has helped me massively with my mental health and this gives others the opportunity to write and share their journey from a different perspective. I am truly inspired and encouraged by what I have read. I have no doubt you will too.

**Please remember local and national support services are available if help is required**

Thank you Karen for your openness in ‘take over 7’

I was first diagnosed with depression 16 years ago at age 13. I felt like I was in a cage with the bullies, my teachers, friends and parents all looking in and laughing at the stupid girl inside. I wore baggy clothes to try and hide myself and barely spoke at school to decrease the risk of me saying something stupid. I cried myself to sleep pretty much every night then woke up screaming with recurring anxiety dreams that were so vivid I didn’t know if I’d actually been awake or dreaming. Then I went to school and got humiliated in front of teachers and the class all over again to be told by my dad when I got home that I was making it all up.

I thought of dying a lot at this time. I still view staying alive as the most selfish thing I’ve ever done because I did it to spite everyone. I thought “you think you can treat me like this? you think I‘ll just go away?” I knew that was what they wanted so I held on to life by my fingernails.

Unfortunately you don’t just get over sexual assault and bullying because you are not in that situation any more, it leaves a numbness, a fear and an emptiness. After seven years of school with those boy’s it was hard to break the habit of being constantly in fight or flight mode. It was hard to trust my parents, or anyone else, again because they had failed before so they would probably do it again (and they have), this made me much more selfish which is something I’ve tried to correct recently.

The thing with depression is it never completely goes away, it lurks. You have to practice self care all the time, not just when depression smacks you in the face. It also doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re going through, how much money or how many friends you have, it will take you for its own regardless.

I went to the doctors age 26 after having panic attacks several times a day and randomly bursting into tears a lot. I didn’t understand what was wrong, I’d had the best year ever. I’d got engaged to my boyfriend, I’d recently qualified as a Samaritan and had passed my G.C.S.E psychology with flying colours. I had loads of great friends, a busy social life, a fantastic relationship with my fiancé, my sister and even my parents. Yet the doctor told me I had generalized anxiety.

It’s so tiring not sleeping because your mind won’t shut up. Then when it does you wake up with another anxiety dream. Then getting up for work and spending all day on your feet pretending you’re fine while ending up in the toilets with your friend having another panic attack, only to be told by a manager you need to stop going off the shop floor. It felt like there were weights on my arms, legs and heart, the latter also felt like it was scrunched up into a tight ball constantly. It was impossible to relax, I couldn’t read more than a couple of pages of a book, I’d realise someone was talking to me but couldn’t remember what it was about because my concentration was so bad.

I was juggling a million balls and dropping them all which made me feel like a failure, why was I unable to live life like everyone else? They all managed to hold down a full time job and a family so why couldn’t I?

Looking back this is clearly how my anxiety got accompanied by depression. I was doing too much and not looking after myself. The doctor took the decision out of my hands and signed me off work. I was still being stubborn and went back full time after a month, but everything just started all over again.

I cut down my hours and changed jobs which made me feel incredibly guilty because the lessening of money would affect my fiancé since we lived together. I felt useless sitting at home while he was working hard, doing over time at weekends. I kept trying to push myself to do more hours but I was having panic attacks still and the guilt made the tears come more frequently.

Sometimes the frustration and anger I felt at myself was unforgiving and then other times there was just nothing. My mum would come around and we would go for a walk and I would see the trees, birds, the lake but feel nothing. It was like I was looking down at my body from somewhere else, I had no connection to it at all.

Having had depression before it definitely made me more scared of it being that bad again but I learnt a lot from that first time to help me cope. For starters I’d surrounded myself with amazing people especially my husband and sister but also my friends and even my parents at times. I’d also read a lot about depression since my teenage years so understood what I was up against, and because of years of counselling was able to communicate with people better so they could try and help me.

I ended up staying on anti-depressants for 6 years. I still only work 16 hours but I started writing a blog, then two books and now have an Instagram account. Luck was also on our side as my husband got two promotions in quick succession which took off some of the financial pressure.

I am still scared of depression, you never know which time will be the last time but that just makes me want to do the best I can to be happy now, yes I still battle with my demon’s on a regular basis, sometimes I still find it hard to get out of bed, but there is definitely a light at the end of the tunnel and it is very bright.

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