I’m Jemma, I’m 22 and almost a veterinarian in little Ol’ NZ. I’ve battled depression and anxiety for a decade. I’ve experienced countless rises and falls trying to beat this beast. I’ve seen numerous counsellors, psychologists and doctors. This time I’ve had enough, this time feels different. I want to beat this. I’m going to beat this. This is my journey and I hope it helps someone else a long the way, as I learn to help myself.
This is the first thing I wrote, and I wrote it a few weeks ago. It’s about my life and my battle. It’s where this new battle begins. It’s something I’ve shared with those close to me. It is a bit deep, but hey, isn’t that what depression is all about? Read if you wish.
As a pre-teen I used to lie in bed at night envisioning dying and how much better off the world would be without me. I wrote goodbye notes to my family in my head almost every night. I didn’t realise until I was seventeen that wanting to die was an abnormal thought. I had accepted these morbid thoughts as normal and assumed these thoughts debilitated everyone else too.
I’ll never forget the moment I realised I was in fact suffering from depression. I had to be told by a good friend, as I hadn’t recognised myself just how unwell I was. That day changed me forever, my whole world as I knew it, came crashing down. In my last year of high school, this crippling realisation rocked my already fragile pubescent self quite significantly.
Everything hurt, everything was hard and I cried for no reason, all the time. I self-diagnosed myself using JK’s online test and was shocked at my honest answers to the questions. This was confirmed by doctors and counsellors making me fill out endless questionnaires that only rubbed salt in my deep, raw wounds. All of this felt like an earthquake opening the ground up beneath my feet. I felt that the last few years of my life had all been a lie – I should’ve realised how damaging my thoughts and feelings were. I began to understand that my mind was in fact unhealthy and I felt like a freak. I always thought I was different in some way, and I realised this was what that feeling was – a hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach.
I didn’t understand all of this because I had and have had by all means an incredible life and a wonderful childhood, with no issues whatsoever, so realising my diagnosis and having this confirmed was quite hard for me to wrap my head around. “Why me?”, was a question I asked myself and would continue to ask myself for years to come. But this paralysing question only made me feel increasingly wounded.
I fought this for a few months, with some support from my then boyfriend, my mum and a select few friends. I was distracted heavily by my newfound university workload and the intense competition of getting into vet school. But suddenly, as a successful vet school applicant, I was flung into a world of overachieving extroverts and I didn’t know how to handle it. I was completely out of my depth and really struggled to connect with anyone in my class. I knew I wasn’t being myself, I was putting up a protective barrier, intimidated by all the walks of people I was now surrounded by. It took a long time for this barrier to come down.
My first experience flatting was with a group of girls who I had befriended in the halls. They were bullies, but I’d call them ‘secret bullies’. The type of people that everyone else though were “so lovely” but in fact seemed to thrive off belittling and intimidating, making me terrified to come home at night. They were the type of people that confirmed my suspicions that no one liked me. This led me to my first suicide attempt. In hindsight, I guess I didn’t really want to die but I wanted them to feel shit for how they had made me feel. For some reason, I continued to live with them, enduring the torture until the end of the flatting contract.
Breaking up with my serious boyfriend, shattered me. As did my realisation of his manipulative everything and unfaithful nature – he had degraded me to what felt like nothing. He was the sole source of my unhappiness for two years to come. I couldn’t believe I had let someone I loved so intensely reduce me to almost annihilation. And now I had to rebuild myself from scratch, learning who I really was without the overbearing shadow of someone else looming over me.
I began to feel so much better as I relieved myself from the clasps of his grasp. This was the most positive period in my life where gradually I began to grow as a person and finally felt free from the repression I had grown accustomed to. It wasn’t all easy, as summed up by my diary entry on the 23rd of August 2016; “My mind is like a mad jumble of strings, like a scribble on a piece of paper and I can’t seem to grasp anything. I’m not sure if I know who I am, I feel like I haven’t really known who I am since I was 16. I’ve let myself depend on boys for so long that I can’t seem to completely establish who I am without feeling a bit empty… I don’t feel sad, I guess I just feel like I’m stuck in limbo and I need to get out. My chest feels tight all the time like I’m panicking in this weird place I’ve found myself. When I try to talk to my friends about how I’m feeling, I don’t really know how to explain”. However, I haven’t had a period where I flourished so much since.
Fast forward to today. I had tasted the good life but now I’ve lost it all. I feel empty and I have nothing left to give. How can someone feel so much but feel nothing at all? Another suicide attempt failed and friends and family telling me that I will get through this. I just don’t know how. Everything is hard, even opening my mouth to speak, picking up my phone to type and of course opening my eyes every damn morning. A decade of feeling like this makes it seems like I’m never going to get better. It seems that this demon will haunt me for the rest of my life.
Each day is a day of uncertainty. “What am I gonna do to screw up today?”. I ruminate on everything, even stupid things like what I said when I was on school camp at age fourteen. I have now come to realise I ‘post mortemise’ my every word, action and interaction. “Why did I say that?” or “I should’ve said…” are the sorts of questions I ask myself when I lie in bed at night. It’s exhausting caring so much. I just wish I could turn it all off.
It’s incredibly hard living in a world where all you seek is the approval of others. I have always felt that no one likes me, even my own family at times. This was and still is a huge conflict in my mind constantly burning inside of me. Are people being my friend because they feel they have to? Or because they feel sorry for me? Or am I actually a likeable person? Still to this day, I am still battling with these thoughts. But I willingly take on other people’s problems so it consumes me and so I don’t have to face my own, putting myself on the backburner.
The idealisation of falling in love is all I am living for, for the feeling that I once had but hopefully ten-fold. I just want someone who will love me unconditionally and be my best friend. I have to hold out for this, I have to believe I will find it, otherwise I will die. All I want is to build a happy life with someone and be a successful veterinarian fulfilling my passions. I know I need to learn to love myself first but the thought of this seems an impossible and exhausting feat. Tell me how I am supposed to create a bed of flowers from nothing; no dirt, no water and certainly no sunshine? I am at a loss.
I’ve come a long way since I wrote this just a few short weeks ago. Since being in this dark, dark place I have slowly crawled a few steps out with the help and idealisation that things will get better. I’m starting with falling in love with myself.