Well hello reader(s)…
Welcome to my life. This blog promises to be a raw, honest, embarrassing look at my life as I struggle to find my place in this world. It seems the more I learn about the world, the less it makes sense, let’s try and figure it out together.
This week it was World Mental Health Day and the brave people across the internet telling their stories had me thinking about my struggles with depression and anxiety.
Many people are surprised when I tell them I suffer from depression. I’m too loud, too confident, I’m always smiling. Whilst it is meant as a compliment, the assertion that I can’t have a mental illness only serves to show that the world doesn’t fully understand mental illness. When French gymnast Samir Ait Said snapped his leg in Rio (don’t look it up if you have any respect for your eyes!), no one challenged him because his physical abilities were usually so stellar. The principle should be the same for mental illnesses. Just because someone is type A, brings life to the party, loves to laugh, it doesn’t mean they can’t suffer from the kind of illness that can have me bed bound, paralysed by fear, devoid of energy.
Depression has been by my side through most of the significant moments in my life: getting my first boyfriend, turning 18, getting into university. Like a regrettable Sunny Beach tattoo, it lurks on your shoulder, reminding you that you are never far away from the abyss.
I am an overachiever and having depression felt like a failure. I hate failing. I hate admitting failure. So I hid my perceived failure as much as possible. Even though my Mum knew I was on antidepressants, I never felt comfortable going into detail about my feelings (or lack thereof). I would never have considered telling anyone at school, friends or otherwise. So I kept quiet, ignored the fact that I barely had energy to make it through the day. I never told anyone that my lower than expected grades were because I had spent evenings and weekends in bed – my body drained of energy, my mind drained of motivation.
And then I got my GCSE results. I was predicted 13 A*s so when my friend emailed me my results (8 As 4 Bs 1 E) I spent the remainder of my holiday sobbing, convinced my life was over. There was no need to question why my results weren’t what I had expected, I was a failure and I had failed.
My A levels were a similar affair. Not only was I spending the majority of my time in my own mental prison, when I did try to concentrate, I often felt fuzzy, and frequently struggled to recall facts.
I didn’t get the grades I needed to meet my offer criteria so I decided to take a year off and retake some A level modules. That year would have been a ideal time to address my mental illness, instead I prepared every other aspect of my life for university.
I started my first year equal parts nervous and excited (like all students). University was a great experience but the culture of skipping lectures and heavy drinking made it easy for me to hide my depression. I could sleep away my life without arousing suspicion. But university was a different ball game. I could no longer skate by on my natural intelligence.
I failed. As in actually failed. As in didn’t get the marks needed to move on to second year. I was floored, I didn’t know what my next steps were. I tried, too late, to explain my struggles to the university but there was nothing they could do but give me the chance to retake the year. So I started again, but I was filled with shame and anxiety. I dreaded the questions and avoided them like I avoid Victoria in rush hour. I carried on, pretending everything was OK (still ignoring the root cause of the problem!!!)
Then came my biggest shame.
The thought of confessing this to the interweb is causing my anxiety to flare up. But as the title of this blog suggests – it’s time to get the fuck over it.
I got a 2:2 in my degree.
There. I’ve said it.
That small (seemingly insignificant) fact has been a paint point in my life for the past two years. Even more so when I joined a very large professional services firm. I felt like a fraud, pretending I fit in with my colleagues who had first class degrees from Oxbridge. My lower second class degree (albeit from a Russell Group university) made me feel just that – second class.
In honour of World Mental Health Day, I will take a small step towards bettering my mental health by getting the fuck over it. You see, my depression isn’t my fault. But I can take control of my recovery. I commit to making small, persisted changes and having the confidence to discuss mental illness frankly with my peers. I urge you to as well.
So… what do you need to get the fuck over?