Darren 21 years old
I think it [start of depression] was sort of a gradual process, it was, I mean going through school and everything I went through in there, like you know going from all the top classes to the bottom, and like I said the bullying, and I mean even like by my friends you know? Occasionally being bullied and that. All the side effects of the tablets, you know, like the acne and the shaking and the boils and the, you know everything, I got bullied for all that and, it all affects, all affected and like, what’s the word? All affected my…
Yeah, confidence yeah. It all affected my self confidence. It was just gradual through school and through college as well. You know up until that point when I, with my friend you know, done that to me and then meeting that girl, and you know it all just kept going wrong. Oh, so I didn’t really live a good life.
Joanna 20 years old
I couldn’t see myself for who I was, so I’d walk past a shop window or something, and I wouldn’t recognise who it was. And so I sort of didn’t have a mental image of who I was, what I stood for, you know, sort of like this is me, I look like this and I’m like this, and I like this, and I remember used to having to make it up when I was at school, when I was at primary school. You know they sort of ask all these questions like, and you have to write your name and then you have to write what lessons you like, and which lessons you don’t like, and I remember just making it up, ‘cos I didn’t know what I liked and what I didn’t like.
I felt that everyone else knew who they were and knew what they were about and, and stuff, but that I didn’t. I’m sure that other people had feelings like that but, it was sort of, you know I went through a long stage of thinking I was adopted, to a stage where I actually requested my birth certificate and looked at it because I was convinced for a long time that I was adopted that you know this whole life can’t be quite true. And just… it’s, it’s quite hard to explain now sort of, because I’m not, I’m not there now. But it was just sort of like, just sort of like trying to discover who you are, but not really being able to get anywhere. I think I remember describing it once, it was like trying to, like say life is like a jigsaw puzzle, I was like trying to put it together but I just didn’t have all the pieces. It was like desperately searching for those pieces without even knowing what those pieces are meant to be.
For Darren, developing depression was a gradual process and an outcome of many different
Age at interview: 21
Loz 17 years old
I used to think I was sort of worthless, and people, people would tell me, “Oh you’re not worthless, you’re not worthless, shut up.” Sort of thing, but that will, that would make me think well they’re just saying that, they’re not really meaning it. You, if you really meant it then you would sort of do something about it, instead of just saying oh shut up, sort of “you’re not worthless”, sort of thing. But I, I talked to, well like my counsellor with it and he would be like, “Well if they didn’t think you were worthless,” or “if they did think you were worthless, why would they need to sort of say stuff to you to make you feel better?” And I’d be like, “Well, they could be just saying it.” And it would, sort of I’d go around in that sort of circle until I sort of realised that maybe yeah, if they were trying to, if they really thought I was worthless then, they wouldn’t care at all, they’d be like, “pha and?”, sort of cast me asunder sort of thing. But I do, I do think from time to time people care but I, sort of, sometimes I forget that and I’ll be like, and… you don’t care, sort of thing. But, I’m getting better at it, I’m getting better at it. I’m, I’m managing to sort of like put all these things together and be like, hey now I’m happy.
Holly 18 years old
I think it’s [self-esteem] always been quite low, again because I mentioned my sister, and obviously since she’s you know, she’s very articulate and she’s very clever, I always felt, ‘cos our family is, it’s quite an intelligent family, and I didn’t know at the time because of the dyslexia I couldn’t reach the goals and so, whereas they were getting all the good grades, I wasn’t. And that, I think that initially started the self esteem problems ‘cos I felt I wasn’t as good as the rest of the family and I was sort of the black sheep, I was the one that, that wasn’t as able, sort of with GCSE’s I think my cousin got, was in the newspaper for six A stars and five A’s. And I got all D’s and things, so obviously there’s … The same, oh in fact on the same day where I finished, took my sixth form because they said obviously you can’t catch up, so you may as well leave, on the same day as I left that school, my sister got, at the college was awarded Learner of the Year for the whole of [county name], so obviously there’s, there’s a bit of a , you know, it’s not that difficult to notice there’s a difference between us. So I think that started the self esteem problems, and the things sort of like with friends sort, when they were going out and they were inviting me out sometimes it was they were clothes shopping, ‘cos I’m a larger size so I couldn’t buy the same clothes as they were doing, at the same shops so I thought well I’m not going to go to things like that, and that didn’t help my self esteem either.
Sarah 17 years old
The way I think now, it’s, it’s so drummed into my head that I can’t, I can’t change, I can change but I can’t change at the present moment like I’ve got so many like negative connotations to things and you just, it’s really difficult to change that, you’ve got to sort of force yourself out of the cycle and forcing yourself is the hardest bit.
It’s really, really difficult to do that, especially after such a long time of thinking in certain ways. It definitely makes it more difficult because I’m used to thinking like this and now all of a sudden somebody says it’s not normal, it’s not how you’re meant to be and that’s really, I don’t like it. But there is something, it’s not just me, it’s not, everybody doesn’t act like me, not everybody thinks the same as me, I, it’s hard to know that you don’t function the same way as other people do. It’s harder for you to get along with people, it’s hard for you to make friends and trust people, and just do things everybody else does every day.
Ruby 27 years old
I read somewhere, quite a few places actually, that when you come out of addiction you’re the same age mentally that you went in. So when I was 18, 19 I was still technically a 12-year-old, so that 6 year period in adolescence where you learn to interact socially, oh no, I’d have my face down a toilet, I didn’t have a clue. Like you know so I was still that 12-year-old who didn’t have a clue what was going on, when I was 18, 19 when I should’ve been having the time of my life and stuff, I was sort of 6 years behind because all my growing up had taken place in public toilets and sweet shops and stuff, you know and like lonely, lonely times in sweet shops and stuff you know, not the sort hanging out with friends or anything like that. So I did find it, incredibly, because you know ‘cos at the end of the day I was the equivalent of a 12-year-old trying to articulate a very adult problem.
Jennie 19 years old
I want everything to be done right, and to my best ability, and like I said I got all A’s and A stars at GCSE, and then all A’s at A’ level. And just doing everything I do I want it to be done to the best of my potential, and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do that, and just with everything like the counsellor used to say to me, “You, you see failure as a bad thing, whereas sometimes failure can be a positive thing.” Like last year when obviously I didn’t enjoy, like my course, I saw that as a failure whereas she saw that as a positive thing because it gave me a chance to rethink and have another chance, whereas I, that was like the end of my world for that moment in time, because I’d failed and everything’s got to be like successful and an achievement and like done 100%.
I just feel like as well my little brother, like I always said I want to have independence so I can look after him, and ‘cos I’ve not got that independence it’s failing, and they’re like, “No it’s not, you’re 18, 17, 18, how can you be independent at 17, 18. You’ve still got to be a child for your parents, and they’re not going to see that as a failing because if you, like if you’re going to university and it’ll give them opportunities in the future for you to look after him, so it’s not a failing. You are doing something successful at the end of the day.”
But I mean I still am a perfectionist, I mean my Uni work like I will do it always to the best, and sometimes it does get on top of me like, I’m stressed because I know I’ve got four assignments before Christmas, and I want to get them done and, so I still have that, but I have a more, when I do get stressed instead of like it leading to being depressed sort of look at it more positive and find something else to do.
Emma-Jane 20 years old
I do have no kind of belief in my own ability, my own kind of worth, like I am capable, I am really capable of academic achievement, but I still I didn’t believe it. And like I’ve got loads, I’ve got loads of groups of friends, if you write it down on paper what’s like my life is like, like you know, where I’m from, the grades I’ve got, things like that, I look like everything should be fine. But at the same time I felt that I just couldn’t live up to that ideal. I couldn’t live up to that point like that, this bubble that, this kind of fictional person that to me seemed completely separate from me, that everyone kind of looked at and sort of like expected so much of. I just, I couldn’t, I didn’t feel that I would be able to match that, and that I was worthless and that I just couldn’t like I couldn’t like, my parents and like my teachers all kind of like, “You’re going to go far,” and all this kind of thing, which is lovely to hear that, that you know people believe in you, but at the same time it was that pressure that I think also kind of sent me down because like I was just kind of like “I can’t do this, I, there’s no way I’m gonna be able, I’m gonna let me down, they’re gonna be angry at me, they’re gonna be disappointed in me, they’re gonna be this, this, this.” And then that would send me of into like a different thing.
Over sort of my second year of college, I remember being just a bad time, like to anyone that sort of knew me at the time, I would’ve seemed fine, I mean I was voted to like the bubbliest person in my college, but like behind that kind of façade of just being able to cope, and being able to kind of like handle everything and get everything done, and sort of still manage to like see people and do this, like everything behind it was just crashing. Like I felt really, really bad, and I felt bad for not telling people, but I, but because it was, I was restricted ‘cos I didn’t want to, it would go back to, I didn’t wanna burden them, I didn’t.
If I’m perfectly honest because both are sides of me, but I prefer the smiley side. I prefer the smiley side, I prefer that upbeat side but the downside is like is just, it’s just been there, it’s just what I’m used to. It’s kind of like it always has just been there and it always has like just been a part of who I am, what I do. All that kind of thing, and it is, it hasn’t been till like probably recently that I’ve kind of noticed the distinction between the two.
Sara 20 years old
When college started, university, everyone’s just known me to be a confident person, because once I left my old school behind it was just easy to move on and pretend like I’ve always been confident. But obviously it was kind of you know it was, it was actually worse than it was before, I wasn’t just feeling bad, it was I was doing things, to, make you know actually damaging me, so it was, it, yeah I got more confident I suppose in a way, but, I still even now I prefer doing things on my own.
But you know, I know when I was younger as well I was quite quiet, I am naturally a quiet person, I get, I like acting confident but the majority of the time I don’t feel very confident. So, you know I’ve become quite a good liar, it’s just not a great thin, I mean, I mean it’s not a great thing to admit, but I’m good at hiding like my real feelings. ‘Cos you know I can’t lie, really I’m a terrible liar, I couldn’t possibly steal something and then pretend like I hadn’t done it. I definitely, you know I’m definitely better at not being the real me, I can definitely hide the real me more now. So as a child I was probably quite quiet, and I was probably quite, I wore my heart on my sleeve, like if I was upset everyone would know it. And now it never happens like I wouldn’t, you know people, if they catch me on a really bad day I might be sitting there quite quietly going, “Go away, I just want to sit here on my own.” And I might, you know, that might be as far as it gets, but generally I’m not gonna, I don’t want to push my low mood onto everyone else ‘cos I know it’s quite contagious sometimes, if someone’s feeling sad I mean, they’ll make someone else feel sad, and it’s kind of, I don’t want to be the person that sets off a bit of a sob fest like sitting amongst a circle of friends, everyone started crying, and I was going, “No it’s okay.”
Blondel 21 years old
Do you think depression’s affected your, your self confidence?
Oh yeah definitely. Definitely. I wouldn’t say shy, but and, in turn I wouldn’t say I was ever really that outgoing, but I wasn’t afraid of meeting new people, I wasn’t afraid of letting you know, to be heard and to stand out, and you know to stand up for myself. If I didn’t necessarily agree with something I would’ve immediately said, “Well, you know I don’t agree with that,” and, you know and argued my point, and now I’m, I feel a bit like a doormat, since I’ve had the depression and I just feel like I’m being walked over and used, and even though I’m aware of other people’s behaviour and how I’m being treated, I haven’t necessarily got the confidence to stand up for myself anymore. And I just, I feel quite vulnerable. I think depression does make me feel quite vulnerable, and you know I’m quite low.
Sophie 17 years old
When I was younger I used to do loads of activities, I did dancing and went to scouts, beavers, cubs, I did loads of things, it’s just as life’s got, ‘cos I think as well, I used to be different as well because I used to be like a real girly, girly, but now as I’ve got older I feel insecure so I have to wear like tracksuits and stuff like that and just to make myself feel a bit safer and, a bit more confident. But at the minute I’m just trying to get out of that habit and just start being back to the way I was again.
So what did you used to be like? If you described your personality then?
Funny and bubbly and didn’t care what anybody said, and didn’t let anybody upset me, went to school everyday when I was in Year like 5, 6, 7. And then just leading a normal life really, going out with my friends after school, inviting them round for a sleepover, going out, chilling on the streets, just normal. But now life’s getting on, I’ve just changed. When I’m on a high my personality’s always been the same, I sit there and make them all laugh till they’re crying, they just basically have a laugh, but, I don’t know it’s just changed for some reason. Like I can’t see, I can’t see when it did change ‘cos I’ve always been up and down my whole life really.
Mandy 20 years old
ve always sort of as I said, sort of through half way through primary school I found it hard to make friends. I was okay till probably about year 4, so I should probably be I dunno, age 8, which was when a lot of stuff at home kicked off, which was when I, you know, started to feel different and everything started kicking in. So really you know I was, I was self harming from then, sort of the trivial things that people put it, but you know sort of the, I was very in inverted commas accident prone. That I was just you know, I was doing stuff to hurt myself rather than anything else, but it wasn’t picked up on till I was sort of 14 when I started cutting, so. So you know from age 8 onwards I was different as I would term it. You know?
What does accident prone mean?
I suffered a lot of injuries that I passed off as accidents mostly. You know sort of, you’d sort of throw yourself down the stairs with sort of at, I fell. Or you know you’d bang your hand against the wall and go, “Oh no, I just caught it.” You know, you just do stuff or you’d not stop yourself from doing stuff that you could see might happen, that you could easily prevent but you know it was all termed as accidents when I did them so.
Erika-Maye 17 years old
It’s addictive. It’s not one of these things you can just stop doing. I think people don’t understand that at all. It’s not as easy as, “Well I shouldn’t be doing that, so I won’t.” Because it’s difficult and it’s not attention seeking. It’s not one of these things that people do to, “Hey look at me I’ve got problems.” It’s, “I need a release; I need some control over something.” Because that’s what it’s for. And it’s not just me who feels that way, it was a discussion I was having at the unit the other day, it’s because everything else just feels so crazy, that way you’ve got some control over something. Even if it’s not exactly the most sensible thing in the world to be doing. A lot of the time, I mean I have attempted suicide in the past, but a lot of the time it’s not as a suicide attempt it’s I need some control. I need to let this out. And I really think that needs to be more understood. Obviously not, it it’s never gonna be one of these sociable, socially acceptable things which is perfectly understandable, but at the same time it should be understood that just because you’re doing that to yourself, you’re not doing it for attention.
It’s the general reaction to it. They completely ignored it at my old school ‘cos I wasn’t the only one that used to self harm. I used to do it in obvious places, but people used to do it blatantly obvious and that was cries for help and I was going to say I don’t see anything wrong with that, but I guess that doesn’t make much sense. I think that if someone’s having to cry out for help that loudly then something has to be done. I think even at the psychiatric unit they don’t really know how to deal with it, because when I came in the other week and my arms were covered in marks the reaction I got was, “Oh you shouldn’t be doing that it’s really bad for you,” [laughs]. That’s really helpful, why didn’t I think of that, thanks guys.” I think that people generally don’t understand mental health and they don’t understand self harm because of that, ‘cos it’s such a common thing and people do it in so many ways, and it’s just, I hate the fact that people associate it with attention seeking. It’s not, of course there are always going to be some people where they just want the, want the attention whatever the cost, but if someone’s honestly having such a difficult time that’s the only way they feel they can let out how they’re feeling, then they need help.
Sarah 17 years old
I was different and my friends were different and the majority, we were the minority in the school so we’d have like just loads of abuse hurled at us all the time like, dictionaries chucked at us and “Have you goth the time?” and, stupid stuff like that, and I remember one lad turned round to me and he goes, “Who lass, what’s that on your arm?” “Oh it’s nothing; it’s none of your business.” And he goes, he turns round and goes, “I wish my front lawn was like you and cut itself.” And I just looked at him, I just could not but laugh, just thought, “It’s great that you’ve got to pick on somebody for having something wrong with them. You wouldn’t pick on somebody in a wheelchair why pick on somebody that self harms. It’s the same thing. If anything you’ll probably gonna, I know self harm’s not, got nothing to do with killing yourself but like you’re going to drive them into doing it more aren’t you, you’re just making the problem worse” but…
People got really invasive and wanted to know constantly what was wrong. And the school would always phone my parents up and say, “Sarah’s got marks on her arms,” and as my parents would ask me, “Oh I hurt my arms, I hurt myself in woodwork ‘cos I’m clumsy.” So I always did have like bruises and that but I just said, “Oh I’m clumsy,” oh I’ve done this or I’ve done that, and they believed it.
That’s when it really started going wrong and I realised I could get away with it and I realised that nobody noticed how I felt and nobody really cares if like, it’s obvious what’s happening so why is nobody doing anything about it, so I thought why should I try to stop it if nobody else is gonna? Why should I care?
Sara 20 years old
Cutting didn’t start until I was about 15 although I do remember times in between that were occasionally maybe a scratch or two, or, purposely doing something which I know really hurt. So the cutting didn’t really get regular till I was doing my GCSEs when I was getting really stressed. And it was just, it was it was very regular like, it definitely started off first of all as a coping mechanism because it just became it’s own thing, I was just doing it for the sake of doing it, and then when I got upset I did it even more, so it was kind of at least a couple of times a week I’d cut, the majority of the time it was because I was upset, because I was upset all the time, but if there wasn’t, anything major then it was maybe you know maybe a couple more than usual, and that went on through the whole of GCSE’s and sixth form college. And then because my Mum find out, found out it was quite, you know it was quite, she was upset, it was, you know, “Stop it. Don’t do it anymore.” And I did stop but I did kind of, I stopped cutting my arms, it would just moved it onto like shoulders or legs but it wouldn’t be so obvious, but then when she found that out as well it was kind of, “You know you have to stop this now,” because you know threats of, you know you’re gonna kill us all mentally or whatever, it’s kind of, I just had to, because, and because my parents didn’t like the concept of me going to see a doctor about it, especially Mum, she was like, “You know you’re clever enough to sort it out yourself, just sort it out.”
And, “You know, you’re kind of intelligent enough, you’re, you’re mature enough,” ‘cos I’m the elder sister, then like, “You’re old enough. You, you can do this, just fix it yourself. Like I don’t want to have to worry about this problem with you.” And it’s kind of, “Okay.”
So I, you know I did what I could, I did read about self help things and it was kind of you know so I started writing in a journal, it, it worked but it didn’t work. And even now, if, you know, it take, it might be like six months in between, like the time of one cut and another, but it’s kind of, it’s not, I personally don’t feel like it’s ever gonna go away completely.
Holly 18 years old
The only time they [parents] only found out about the depression and the self harming when I went into hospital obviously, and because I’d taken some tablets I had to have a blood test, and you can’t wear long sleeves when you’re having a blood test and so they saw obviously. and they were quite good about it in fact, I was surprised how sort of okay they were, because, because I’ve got eczema as well we had a dermatologist so they booked an appointment straight away and said what can we do about the scarring, how can we make them heal better, and I was expecting them to go completely mad but they were, they were quite good about it.
So they were kind of trying to think what we can do and how we can help, rather than being you know angry?
There was that part as well, but it was initially how we can help her, and then once things were sorted in their eyes there was sort of, “Right why the hell are you doing this”, and so.
Were they sorted in your eyes at that point?
They sorted out the sort of you know the cuts and things, and once, and medically I was fit and well, then it went onto the, “Why are you doing this,” and a more aggressive approach to it, sort of, whereas on the outside I was all healed up, on the inside I wasn’t and I was still you know, I was still self, wanting to self harm and I was still quite depressed, and so getting angry about it wasn’t the way to help.
Stacey 17 years old
‘Cos I was self harming, because it like, I wanted to work with children ‘cos I been to [college name] for two years, and I’ve got NVQ1 and entry level 2, and I think, something like that. And I wanted to go back to college this year and do childcare, but then I’m thinking, well do you know what I mean? Working with kids, having scars on your arms, not really right is it really, do you know what I mean? But I was told when I’m angry, to hold ice in my hands, in the palm of my hands and close it because it will hurt, it will sting, but it won’t leave you marks, it won’t leave any or there’s elastic bands, I was told loads of it do you know what I mean? But I haven’t actually ever tried any of them out.
Tasha 18 years old
Do you think you realised that it’s a problem and that you needed maybe some support for it?
No. Not, not until it sort of, it did come into the media a little bit like, there were, I saw in the newspaper like reports that this amount of young people do it and things like that. And then I sort of thought, oh yeah, oh yeah it’s really bad. And then it, when it got worse and it looked bad I realised, like ‘cos it started so small it didn’t. So, I don’t know. I didn’t realise what I was doing was, I knew it wasn’t right but I didn’t realise it was a problem. But, I think there’s quite a lot out, out there like to help with depression, but self harm’s a bit taboo still. Like, no-one really wants to talk about it, and help you with it I don’t think.
Sophie 17 years old
But like with my self harming I’ve done well ‘cos that’s one thing that I wanted to start on, I don’t want to self harm anymore. ‘Cos obviously it’s a scar for life really. But you know I stopped doing it, I ain’t done any yet, and I don’t want to do any more.
What do you think has helped you stop that then?
I’ve just put a stop to it. Like I just thought one day look, I’m gonna, ‘cos someone said to me the other day that I didn’t realise I’m going to walk up an aisle one day, getting married, the best day of my life, and then people would look at all these scars on my arms, and I don’t, I didn’t want people to look at me and think, they’re not, they’re not the best things to look at. But…
Yeah. So you kind of made a just a conscious decision yourself that I don’t want this. Does it make you feel good to think that you’ve been able to do that?
Yeah, but there’s sometimes I think it’s not gonna last. Like I could still, I could still do it. But I just got to have that, that hope that I’m not gonna do it.
Lisa 19 years old
It’s calmed down at the moment, I’m 19 at the moment and it’s calmed me down. But it was worse, the worst year I had was last year and the year before, that was terrible I felt like self harming which, my way of getting, my way of coping with that now is when I feel angry and frustrated I listen to music, I put my music on, now I’m into metal and rock, so you can imagine what it’s like when I’m depressed. So I put my music on and that’s, that’s how I cope with it. And then after I start listening to my music for a while or sang along to it, my frustration and anger usually goes away. And then after that I don’t feel like self harming. So I know that’s a weird way of coping with it, but it, you know it’s my way of coping with it. I think everybody has a different way of coping with things.
Yes, well the important thing is you’ve found something that works for you.
I think I found that when I was 16. When like you know, I was 16 I thought, oh, so angry and feels like metal and rock is like shouting and screaming. Like I felt like you know my anger is gone listening to that. And it’s been like that ever since.