A journey of depression

Hello, my name is Callum. I'm 19 years old and I experienced my first mental health issue about 18 months ago. I remember it like a light switch in my head. In my younger years, I was confident and regularly participated in social events with friends, got up on stage and was vocal in school classes. Looking back on this part of my life now, it scares me to see how much I've changed. Before I was carefree and now I struggle to talk to new people.
It began in October 2013. I was 17 and was attending a big party, which the whole year of my sixth form was invited to and this might sound cliché but my first instance of depression was triggered by unrequited love; my interest in her was essentially laughed off. I returned home from this party, ended up vomiting and then after a terrible night's sleep I woke up, wishing that I hadn't. I suppose at first I was hoping this was just a phase but these feelings ensued for months. Sixth form was becoming a struggle every day and I'd escape into my own world, headphones plugged in, playing my music so loudly that I couldn't hear what people had to say. I think it was fairly noticeable that I wasn't doing well, but one thing I can say is that these few months really showed me who my friends are.

The Christmas holidays came around and I was still struggling. I often questioned my existence and it was the first time that I self-harmed, punching a wall until I bled. I already wanted to escape Sixth Form, however following a slight public humiliation after continuing to pursue this girl I liked, my depression got worse. Over the holidays alone I lost around tow stone from not eating and had barely said a word to anyone. During this period I was regularly asked by my parents if anything was up, to which I replied with "no everything's fine". My parents had a lot on their plate and I felt that they didn't need my problems. That might sound absurd, but I felt as if I didn't matter to anyone, family included.

In A-levels there was a lot of pressure on exams; an area in which "Old Callum" used to excel. That was certainly not the case come April 2014. With the continued depression and bottling up of emotions teamed with the stress of exams, I broke down. I had my first anxiety attack and it felt horrendous. I was about 10 minutes from school when I turned to my mum and told her I couldn't go in. She seemed a little confused, but I really couldn't go further. After taking me home I sat on the floor of my room and cried listening to music for a few hours. After a few days away from school with anxiety, my Dad dragged me in and I was referred to counselling. It was really useful for this particular time in my life; someone to talk to was what I needed and after a couple of months things were starting to look up. Although I still felt down, there was no more self harm and I was coping with my stress and anxiety levels better than before.

After exams and a summer of ups and downs of equal measure, I embarked on university life. It was a mix of emotions for me. I couldn't wait to leave home, a place I associated with depression but I was scared to meet new people and socialising, especially given that I'm not much of a drinker! I was wrong. Although I was practically silent for the meet and greet event in my accommodation block, I came away with 3 fantastic friends, who I will get the pleasure of living with next year.

Finally, things were getting better. I was enjoying my course, I met amazing people and I was in an exciting new city far away from home. The only problem I faced was that I was still feeling depressed. I couldn't understand why and this drove me to become really angry at myself. It had been a year since I started feeling this way and despite everything being right, I still felt wrong. Although I was grateful that I finally had a friend to talk to who had similar experiences and without whom I'm not sure I could have made it through university.
After another bad winter break and the largest mental breakdown I've suffered to date, I realised something needed to be sorted out. A talk with my friends led me to the GP, after which I got prescribed medication. Afterwards, I called my family and explained what had happened. I wish I had done it sooner as even my dad, who I did not always get on with, was compassionate and understanding. Needless to say my family relationship has improved since.

I'm just shy of a month into my course of medication and despite a few early hiccups things are starting to improve with a few days of clarity, something I haven't felt since the beginning of it all.

I hope my journey has helped you know that you're not alone and I think if I can take anything away from this, it would be to trust those close to you with your mental health issues. Chances are, they will be there for you and a problem shared is a problem halved. I know that it can be tough, but stick at it, it will get better.