Thinking Your Way Through a Labyrinth of Contemporary Issues
Hitting depression was not something that I ever believed could happen to me, I had been sad in the past before over many things but depression seemed like something that would be a long way from ever happening to me. A few events would ensure that I knew what depression would mean and what it would feel like to be depressed by the end of 2014.
2014 was a year that started off very well, I had already had two holidays by March – visiting the Shetland Islands and Barbados both within three months of each other. Nothing seemed like it could go disastrously wrong. Sure there had been arguments with my then girlfriend and I wasn’t really sure where I was going with my job, but life was simple, I would walk to the train station, go to work and come back. I had enough money to do everything I was interested in doing.
Yet all of a sudden I had a letter from my job saying that I was at risk of redundancy from current job due to a management restructure. I wasn’t really worried as I believed that the correct thing to do was to start looking for a job elsewhere. After a few months of searching I found a new job at a small company, yet after two weeks the job did not work out. You can read my experiences of the post-job situation here and what it felt like to be out of work here.
Two months passed and my then girlfriend decided to leave the house for the last time. She didn’t want to be with someone who was out of work and was not doing their upmost to look for work. So in the space of two months I had lost my job, my then-girlfriend and a large chunk of my self-esteem. Any job would have helped me to regain my life and I remember thinking if I can get back in to work the rest will follow, I will regain my confidence, my self-esteem and my sense of identity. The ‘new’ job never materialised and the weather was getting worse – we were heading into winter after all.
So three months passed, no work and worse weather made me begin to feel strange inside. I remember waking up, attempting to get out of bed, a cold breeze blew under the bed and I thought ‘what’s the point of jumping out of bed, I have all day to do what I need to do’. It was 11:00am in the morning and I thought I will have a walk down to the shop and get an energy drink as it will boost my energy but as we know the effect of an energy drink has a come-down feeling. So a few hours later I felt more drained than before. Also the weather really was unsuitable for having a walk – to reflect on everything that had happened to me and to clear my mind.
Everybody’s first question to me was ‘Have you heard anything yet?’ Essentially this statement was referring to whether I have heard anything from any of the jobs I was applying for, whilst I appreciated the sentiment, hearing this from one person to the next was very taxing on the mind. I felt that all my worth was measured against whether I was in work. It made me feel worthless as everybody around me worked and the only time I would see people in my position was once a week – at an unpleasant meeting at the Job centre. Yet having no money and nowhere to go made this feel like a ‘day out’ for me – to the Job centre.
While I was out of work I did attend two events through the Model U.N society that I was still part of, one was in Manchester and one was in Cambridge, the one at Manchester was really entertaining and I enjoyed being there. I had a good time in Manchester because I went as part of a delegation from my University. The events at Cambridge the following week after Manchester though were about to make me feel worse.
I was probably the only person ever in the history of the Model U.N to be attending a conference whilst on Job seekers allowance and to be attending such a prestigious University for a Model U.N conference made things seem strange. It was as though I shouldn’t have been there and when I then decided to drink alcohol later that evening, the loneliness of my situation began to hit me.
I remember spending nearly all day in bed at my hotel the following day. I had no interest in attending the Model U.N conference after the first evening of it. Being surrounded by students who had all the time in the world to be successful perhaps was not the smartest move on my part and the fact I attended the conference with no delegation made the whole situation worse. There was nobody to speak to and I came back feeling worse than when I had left.
A breakthrough would happen to me though. I was offered some temporary work at the University I studied at and also I was offered a temporary route back in to my old job. I was overjoyed and endorphins surged through my body. It felt great to feel like a human being again. The depression was leaving me as I was back in work and not spending all my time thinking about how bad my life has become. Though I was about to find myself depressed again, only this time much worse.
The temporary work positions came to an end one day after another, I had been finished from the careers centre job the day before Christmas Eve, I had then been finished from my former job at Christmas Eve. Surprisingly though I handled both situations better than I thought and I was initially okay.
It was in late January 2015 that the foul weather coupled together with having dis-interested employers made me feel much worse than ever before. There was optimism the first time I was depressed, there was a sense that this will one day change and I will look back at it all as just a bad memory.
The depression that hit me in late January was without a doubt the worst I have ever felt in my life. I simply had no energy to do anything, even turning up at the Job centre was becoming a difficult task, there were a few times I was late to my appointment, though fortunately due to the very negative view of the people who work at the Job centre of those who are unemployed – they were not surprised and I wasn’t told off.
Drink this time didn’t actually help. My thoughts were becoming more radical I was seriously contemplating working abroad and elsewhere in the UK. Again though I did not have the energy to be filling out ridiculously long job applications. As well I still felt I was being punished by the people who had finished me from my job after two weeks employment back in 2014. ‘Why should I be looking for work abroad just because I’m having a difficult time looking for jobs in the UK’ – I thought to myself.
During our deliberations of when I would get my remaining items back from my ex- girlfriend’s apartment, she informed me that her new job would be paying £25,000 a year. Meanwhile I was earning £290 a month on Job seekers allowance. It was black and white the difference between where our lives were heading. It must have confirmed in her head that she was too good for me and it confirmed in my head what a waste of time I was. It was confirmation to me that she had made the right choice in ending the relationship.
This at least explained why I was in a depression, everyone else seemed better off. I can emphasize with someone who has critical illness but each situation is unique, and by other people telling you that there is someone else always worse off, you begin to feel even more depressed because that message is thus saying to you that ‘you shouldn’t be depressed in the first place simply because it could always be worse.’
The worst time in my depression was finally coming. I had an argument with my mother who I was living with about searching for an item late at night. I had lost my phone and was frantically looking for it, it was nowhere to be seen and the noise I was making in my bedroom unbeknownst to me was affecting my mother’s sleep. We had a bad argument and I went out of the house late at night in the freezing cold willing to give in to the cold elements outside.
Fortunately, my new acquaintance of whom would become my new girlfriend came for me and gave me a lift to her apartment. I now know because of that one act of help when I needed it, I am able to write this today.
Something I can describe depression as, is like being in a completely white room and wherever you run there is only more white space, there is no apparent ending. The odd good thing may happen in the white room such a job interview whereby you visualize the job interview as a proverbial door to enter, you fail to get the job and you not only take it personally but your back in the white room with nowhere to turn.
I do to this day believe the weather can have an effect on your depression. The cold miserable day that you see day in and day out is what makes the depression all the worse, you wish not to enter outside because you have a cold breeze blowing at you (at least from a UK residents point of view during the cold winter months). You stay in the house and you know your family cannot afford the heating bill so the house remains cold. Every single thing that happens can affect your mental health. Your state of mind is reduced to wishing that you did not exist. At an extreme you may consider suicide as it would end the feeling of emptiness inside of you.
I personally have never attempted anything that would be defined as ‘self-harm’ the thoughts were there for a long time but not for any other reason than to end the misery that is felt day in and day out by feeling you have no place in society. I do though understand why someone could be pushed to take their own life. It seems unthinkable if you are not depressed but suicide offers you a choice, of which you have few.
Like myself I believe many people do not end up turning to this extreme act for two reasons, firstly because of the effect it would have on their friends and family and secondly because of its irreversible effect of taking one’s own life – where there truly is no second chance.
Over a year later and a job better off I now understand what it feels like to hit such a low that you are zapped of all your energy and truly live in a void. Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel. After all this time I can say I am out of a depressed state. I have at most a depressive realism on how I see the world but it neither upsets me nor does it make me feel worthless. The real depression you can exhibit in yourself is unlike anything you else you could experience. Nobody who is depressed does it for attention, they simply have hit a real low in their life, that will take all of their remaining energy to get out of. Energy of which friends and family need to help to support people in this terrible situation.
Oliver Wilson, (2016)