Sian Davies didn’t realise she was depressed until someone pointed it out. She gradually learned to understand herself through talking and sharing
Between the ages of 16 and 19, I battled with depression. It's quite a tricky time in my life to be able to recall. Although I tend to generally have a great memory and can remember things as far back as my primary school days, my depression seems to have caused a 'blurry' period, even though I went though quite a few 'highs' such as passing my driving test - which you'd think I'd be able to remember. Yet I find it much easier to recall the 'lows'.
One of the biggest lows was leaving school when I was 16. During my school years, despite being quite academic, I always longed for it to be over. It just seemed like such an exciting experience to be ‘grown up’ and make your own decisions. I could go to college and study what I wanted, wear what I wanted, get the job I wanted. I was about to turn 17 so I could learn to drive – so exciting! We also got to have a much longer summer holiday due to our exams being over – it doesn’t get much better than that.
Sadly, just a couple of days after my last exam, my nan passed away. I was extremely close to her and this was the first time I experienced grief, so it hit me hard. It was at this point in my life I turned to smoking. Who knows why, but it felt like the thing to do. I chose not to talk to anyone about what I was going through as I felt I was dealing with it okay on my own, and I was never really one to talk about my feelings. I needn’t ‘bore’ my friends, and my family were going through the same thing so I didn’t want to bring them down. Maybe the reason was because I would go out and walk the dog and could hide it from my parents. It would create a distraction for me. I thought I was doing okay and I had lots of plans to keep me busy over the holidays.
After summer, I started college. The classes were a lot smaller and I didn’t have any of my friends with the same timetable as me. It was a huge step up and a few weeks in I felt out of my depth. I began to feel like a failure, but I only had to myself to blame. I took on five subjects based on my GCSE results, but not the ones I enjoyed: maths, Spanish, chemistry, physics and business studies. Yawn! No wonder my heart wasn’t in it. My attendance began to suffer and I started to spend most of my time in bed.
Everyone in my house was out at work, so it was easy to hide my poor attendance from my parents and sister. Again, it wasn’t something I spoke out about. Instead, I waited a few months for my mock results to come in with a whopping five ‘U grades’ (meaning they were ungraded). As you can imagine, my parents were less than impressed and, to top it off, I also shared my smoking habit with them. I didn’t really get told off. In fact, they were just shocked that an A* student had managed these U grades.
At this point, I agreed to leave college, get a job and return next year to start fresh. So I left, passed my driving test and started working full time. Happy days! Or not. It was a few months later that I went to my GP. I can’t remember exactly why, but what I do remember is that at the end he asked me if there was anything else I’d like to talk about. I explained that was all, but he seemed hesitant to let me leave. He asked the question, ‘How are you feeling?’ I thought this was odd, and I must have shrugged it off with a ‘Yeah, I’m fine’. But he noticed I had quite teary eyes and asked if that was something I experienced every day. Again, what an odd thing to say. I remember pausing while I processed his question. Then I thought to myself, ‘Well, yes, I do.’ I just didn’t notice until he brought it to my attention. Perhaps it was my sporadic sleeping pattern? I would constantly have late nights before getting up early the next day, and then nap whenever I could, just like any 17-year-old, right? He continued to ask a number of other questions including what had been going on in my life over the past few months. From this brief chat, he concluded that I had depression.
Words can't describe how low depression can make you feel and how disconnected you are from yourself and your feelings
When he said that word, I didn’t really know how to feel. I didn’t even know much about depression. I thought it was just a term you used when you were having a bad day and felt a little bit sad. It took a while for the information to sink in. I remember walking away from the doctors with my prescription for antidepressants feeling really confused. How did he know I was depressed? From the look in my eyes? Do I seriously have to take tablets? How long do I have to take them for?
I took the antidepressants, which were quite a high dosage of citalopram, and continued my daily routine as normal. I didn’t dwell on it because, to be honest, I was ashamed. ‘But that’s to be expected as I’m depressed,’ I thought. I didn’t tell anyone at first, because who needs to know? And who would even care? I know I wouldn’t. At that point in my life there was very little I cared about. I wasn’t important and nothing was important to me.
As time went on, I came to realise I had turned numb. I didn’t experience happiness and I suddenly stopped feeling sadness too. I guess it’s just because I was so used to it. I learned to deal with sadness without feeling the need to cry. I spent way too long in bed sleeping and my relationships were suffering because people couldn’t understand my odd behaviour. I would look at photos of the fun times with my friends, but I couldn’t remember it at all. I can’t remember much of what we did or how I felt. I hated it, so I thought ‘Right, time to speak out.’
I talked to my family and close friends, who were all so supportive. They helped me realise that in order to help myself, I needed something to aim for. Summer holidays were fast approaching, so I made the decision to go back to sixth form – something I never thought I would do! I started to come to terms with the fact that it was my depression that had previously affected my performance at college. But now I was ready. I was motivated again.
With the support of those close to me, I enrolled in college. I had a complete change of heart and chose the subjects I really enjoyed, including graphics and photography. I still had bad days where all I wanted to do was stay in bed, and my attendance was never 100 percent, but I had the support I needed to keep me motivated. I spent most of my college time with a close family friend and he taught me how to laugh again. It was hard to enjoy myself, but I got there. I came to realise that the antidepressants hadn’t necessarily turned me numb – it was the depression that had. I was making good progress, so after a year, with the support of my GP and my family, I came off antidepressants. It was hard, but I just felt like I was ready to feel ‘normal’ again.
Words can’t describe how low depression can make you feel and how disconnected you are from everyone around you, including yourself and your own feelings. This is probably the main reason I struggle to remember a lot of things during this time. I was so disconnected from acknowledging my feelings that my memory became a defence mechanism to prevent myself recalling the dark times. I feel sad that this was one of the side effects because it was such a crucial time in my life when I was growing up and becoming an adult. I want to be able to tell my kids that ‘I remember when I was learning to drive’, but unfortunately, I can’t.
My one regret is not speaking up sooner. I could have perhaps stopped myself from reaching rock bottom, which is what brings me to share my story. I want others to act much sooner than I did and get the support they need. It was through my own experiences and understanding of depression that I managed to help one of my close friends also get diagnosed. Like me, she overcame it, but we still get our down days. I get days where I may be upset or angry, but now I know how to deal with it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to talk to someone rather than bottling it all up.