Depressed? Why don’t you just man up.
That’s the sentence I was always afraid of.
I remember University like it was yesterday. Mind you, I dropped out after 9 months, so I guess it’s not that hard to remember it all.
My depression developed soon into my first term. I’d never experienced anything like it, so had no idea what it was, how I could help myself, or why I was feeling the way I was. It wasn’t like I’d fallen down the stairs and broke my arm – I woke up one day feeling like I’d rather have the world swallow me up, and I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t confront it – I didn’t know what I could do to help myself, and so I let it consume me.
After a couple of weeks my head felt so clouded that it completely changed my personality. I went home at Christmas and my parents noticed a drastic change. When they asked me about it, I got so frustrated that I didn’t have an answer that I’d work myself up and leave the conversation. Looking back, I know I wasn’t the best son at the time and that I probably did things to hurt my parents. In fact, I know I did. I don’t speak of it fondly but I can attribute it to what I was going through.
I had two choices after Christmas. Option one was to continue at University, keep my mouth shut, ‘man up’, and crack on not knowing what may happen. Option two was to drop out, risk disappointing my parents and everyone around me, feel like I was letting myself down, throw the money spent on fees down the drain, and start again. I gave myself until March to make that decision.
I took the decision to drop out. I cried most evenings because putting on a brave face all day every day was far more difficult than I thought it would be, and I knew that wasn’t right. It took me about a week to build the courage to call my parents and tell them I wanted to drop out.
I didn’t know what they would say. I was expecting them to be annoyed – They’d tried to save the money to help support me at university, which I was throwing away. A year of my life, gone. The time and effort they’d spent on helping me get to university in the first place, gone. What would I even do afterwards without a degree?
I had no reason to worry. It was the happiest I’d ever heard them. They were in full support of my decision and knew something was wrong, so wanted to help me. I felt like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. I’d finally spoken out.
When I told my mates at home why I’d left, they were in full support of me too. I don’t know why I was so anxious about telling people. I felt ashamed. I felt like I wasn’t as good as everyone else. Why was I struggling but not anyone around me? Turns out I was one of so many more people than I realised who have gone through a similar thing. People just don’t tend to talk about it openly.
Talking about it is what gave me the strength to help myself. It took a bit of courage, but it worked. We need people to understand that it’s ok to be down and it’s ok to seek support. There are lots of people available to help, and if you feel you still cannot approach friends or family, there are support networks built far and wide.
That is why I joined Thrive, I believe in what we are doing here. We are creating and refining a digital programme that gives you the confidential tools to start helping yourself without having to even tell anyone, and if you chose to tell someone, it helps you record what is happening so that it is easier to explain it. It’s the sort of thing that, if available to me when I was at university, would have allowed me the opportunity to get help sooner.
Nine years on and -- whilst it’s all behind me -- I can recall easily recall those memories. I now know what the triggers are, how to help myself, and what I need to do to be mindful when stress does hit. I look after my mind as I look after my body, and I’ve learnt so much from my experience that I’m keen to share it if it helps others.
Don't suffer in silence, start helping yourself with tools like our app, reach out to the people around you and seek help early.
If you have been affected by depression or know someone who has, please pass on the below support links for free, 24/7 confidential support.
Numbers to call:
Written by Simon Jay - Commercial Director of Thrive