Community: Real Life

Fighting back from depression

Mathilda, 22, is studying to be an Air traffic controller, owns a horse and juggles a second job, but life wasn't always as good. She tells how depression nearly got the better of her, but how she's managed to turn her life around.

Where it all started

Overcoming depression

Mathilda (posed by model)

By the time I was 14 I had already moved to my third school. Although I was lucky enough to already know one girl, I didn't make any other friends. It was around this time that I first started feeling depressed. Instead of going out, I'd go home and spend the entire afternoon and evening by myself on the computer. 

Aged 17, it became clear to me that I had a problem. I had no close friends, and just a select few people I talked to at school. I was certain my parents hated me and I spent most of my time feeling miserable and alone. By then I had sworn to myself that I would stop having emotions and that I would create a shell to hide under so nobody would know how I felt.

During this time, I didn't seek help from anyone. One day, however, my Mum found me crying. I was feeling so low that I couldn't even lie about what was wrong; I just cried and cried. I was devastated that she'd found out because it was so obvious how much it upset her. I felt like such a failure because I'd cracked and exposed myself. I couldn't really explain anything, even after I calmed down, and it was my Mum who eventually suggested I see a psychologist for Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).

"I now have the courage to voice my concerns to other people when I need reassurance, and also to remind myself that the way I may be feeling is probably just temporary."

Getting help

I wasn't put on antidepressants; instead I was set a number of assignments to help me work through my depression. I found almost every assignment difficult because I honestly thought I was worthless and couldn't do anything well. My only motivation for completing each task was a fear of disappointing those around me. There were days during my treatment when I felt really low. I was certain I was relapsing and that all my hard work was in vain and I'd go back to my old ways. The hardest part was believing that any action I took would change the way I felt.

Starting to get better

After about four or five months, I looked back and realised I was making some progress. Despite concerns I may go through the same thing again, I know I'd never go back to the way I was feeling without a fight. I now feel I know myself far better than before and I've come to realise just how emotionally strong I can be, as well as what my limitations are. Most of the time I feel like I can do almost anything if I apply myself hard enough, and that failure doesn't reflect on me as a person. I now have the courage to voice my concerns to other people when I need reassurance, and also to remind myself that the way I may be feeling is probably just temporary.

I've also stopped taking everything as seriously as I did. I've made some mistakes in the past, but now my outlook is to learn from them and move on. I've overcome many obstacles so far and I keep finding new reasons to be proud of myself. I do this by storing my achievements in a diary. This diary is a big part of my new life; I make sure I don't forget to remind myself regularly of all the positive stuff I've done and it's helped me to be the best I can be.

Keeping on track

So far I haven't heard of anyone who's recovered from depression, or is on the road to recovery, claim it's been easy to stay on track. It's been hard work, but I've learnt to find a range of coping strategies that help me through difficult times. I usually try to identify why I start worrying and if it's something external, like stress, I try to find ways to relax and clear my head. It helps me if I keep active by going to college, taking part in sports and hobbies, seeing friends, and getting plenty of rest. When things are bleak my mind tends to deliberately forget everything positive and negative thoughts seem to float back to the surface. An important milestone in my recovery was breaking that cycle.

Updated: 17/04/2008

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