Approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. I, like so many people my age, have experienced the long, dark void of clinical depression. Coming out of university with a sense of personal underachievement and a lack of tangible direction were the main reasons for this getting worse and worse. Moving back in with my mother and sister made things even more difficult: it served as a nagging reminder that I had left my home for 3 years with hopes and dreams of understanding my passion, only to return with the feeling that I had progressed no further since my 18 th birthday. I felt trapped and numb, and I couldn’t articulate my feelings to anybody. Shame is an ever-present factor that keeps people in the bubble of depression, and thoughts of suicide often present themselves as a means of escape from it.
And yet despite the overwhelming complexities and confusion that turned around in my mind from waking to falling asleep each day, it was the moment that I first really talked about it to somebody when I found some clarity. I had just returned home after a 4 week stint out of town on a job and my anxiety was more intense than it had ever been before. The moment I got home I went to into my bedroom and closed the door. For the next 6 weeks I lay in my bed, leaving only to go to the toilet. I felt that my life was over and that my irreparable failure as a human being justified me wasting my summer away, defeated and alone.
One day my mum came in and sat at the edge of my bed. I’d barely said any words for over a month, but she quietly asked me what it was that had contributed to my current state of mind. I expressed to her briefly my feelings of a deep personal failure; I castigated my own lack of determination, my short list of achievements and my incapacity to take advantage of my own privileged situation. And so she simply asked me:
“Do you judge your friends, family and loved ones with the same sets of standards? Do you think your friends who live at home with their parents, who are struggling to find jobs and careers are losers?”
Of Course I didn’t. My friends and family were wonderful, talented, skilled members of society, full of potential.
“So why do you hold yourself to such a brutally different standard?”, came the reply.
I simply had no answer to this. It was this double standard that forced me to look at my feelings from a new perspective. A slight shift in thinking, a new point of reference. By no means was this the singular catalyst in my journey to wherever I am now, but I have looked back on this moment gratefully.
My mum stopped me making an irreparable mistake