This was always meant to be a blog which focussed on my writing; on short stories, on essays, on articles. Not my feelings and stuff – I hate sharing that. But, I haven’t written anything for a while now. And if I can’t write about what’s happening in my life on my own blog then where can I write about it?? This was kind of easy to write, but also really hard.
This academic year will be one I will always remember. After getting a first at undergrad, I decided to carry on, and my enthusiasm propelled me into a master’s degree on a subject I loved. I dived straight in without resting or stopping to congratulate myself on what I had achieved already. I hoped that the master’s degree would give me the edge when applying for jobs, bringing me closer to my dream of working for a race equality think tank. I also hoped that the degree would give me confidence in myself. This was my big mistake.
This is sooo dumb but I have, for many years, felt like a little kid compared to others my age at times. I hated my shortness (I stopped growing when I was 11 pretty much lol), my baby face, my body in general, my quiet demeanour. I loved who I was deep down, and who I was with the people closest to me. But I couldn’t be like this with the majority of people.There was so much sharpness in my head, but my general exterior was…I guess just a kawaii potato.
University gave me a lot of confidence; I made a few friends, did quite well academically, tried a lot of new things. But still I often felt not as good as everybody else, out of place. I thought that people saw me as ‘cute’, as young-looking, or even just weird. And this presumption sometimes made me shy around people I didn’t know that well. I wanted to be respected. I wanted to look older. I wanted bewbs.
But seriously though, I pinned my hopes on that masters degree, sure that it would make me feel more adult, more serious, more qualified and confident in my own abilities, more equal to everyone else (ridiculous right?). That it would give me the strength to show people what I knew that I was capable of. (I also hoped it would be fun!) But you can’t expect a masters degree to give you that. You have to find that shit in yourself.
I took on a lot this year. Maybe too much. Alongside the studying I became an LUU (Leeds University Union) BME Student Campaigns Coordinator in August. I normally shy away from positions of responsibility but I wanted to challenge myself. The first term was great. I did things I never thought I would do. I connected with so many people. I felt like life was going in the direction I wanted it to. I was involved in setting up a Facebook group for BME students who wanted to run campaigns. We had meetings. We helped to organise black history month and I interviewed someone and wrote an article for the student paper. We ran a workshop called ‘The Privilege Walk’ and it was an eye-opening success. We collaborated. I learned and felt energised. I worked at Dominoes for a while as well and kept myself really really busy.
However, this all began to fall apart in the second term. I started feeling really drained and dropped the ball. Triggered by a late essay (I thought I had handed it in, but I actually hadn’t, I guess because I was so stressed about assessments), I stopped being able to cope. I couldn’t handle meetings, talking to people, organising or planning. I didn’t want to be a leader or have any responsibility any more; it started to feel really unnatural. I started to socialise less. I became less involved in everything I had once loved. I began to feel sad and worthless all the time. My uni work suffered. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. I pride myself on my resilience; my ability to reinvent myself, cheer myself up, enjoy my own company, persevere and succeed when time and resources are against me. But as the months passed, I ran out of excuses. It wasn’t my period. It wasn’t a lack of new clothes. I couldn’t snap out of it. It wasn’t going away.
Why couldn’t I study? Where was my passion for my subject? Why couldn’t I walk along the street with my head up? Why couldn’t I eat or get out of bed or stop crying? I stopped going to university because it was filled with the echoes and shadows of my failures. I lost motivation. I stopped speaking to people. My bedroom became a prison where my reflection taunted me until I was too self-concious to leave the house. I lost track of time because I was going for up to 3 days at a time without sleep, with the curtains shut all day. I felt like my body was deteriorating; I had no energy. I started mostly wearing dark baggy clothes. I didn’t shower regularly. My skincare and haircare routines stopped.
I gave up. I felt alone.
In March, I started researching my symptoms and taking online quizzes. My family were starting to notice something was up. And I was getting dehydrated from all the crying. Lol. This research seemed to indicate that I was depressed.
It took a lot to accept this. I didn’t want this to be medicalised. I was terrified of talking to a professional – a STRANGER – about my feelings. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be depressed when people I knew had been through so much more and had shittier lives than me; surely I didn’t have a good enough reason to be so down and numb and self-hating. I felt like asking for help was the same as me showing weakness or being self pitying.
I am in the process of working through all of this. I currently plan to drop out of my part-time master’s degree after finishing this year; academia is not for me. I don’t have enough confidence in my academic ability any more. Although theoretically I could do it, and the capability is definitely there, I feel like my de-motivation is a sign that I’m following the wrong path. I can’t express myself verbally in class. I feel like I can’t live up to my own standards, and I don’t even want to. I want to be free from it all, that academic life – no more bullshit, no more stress. I want a break from learning. I want to make positive change in the world and connect to people, and not just live life theoretically. I need to take time out to decide what I want to do; what would make me happy. And I need some sun! Being in cold grey Leeds all year hasn’t helped.
Some days I’m ok; others, I can’t think straight and I feel like everyone hates me and I have no future. It’s been so bad that I’ve gone down a couple dress sizes since December, recently had to turn down a job, and missed countless social engagements. I would be nowhere without the constant support of my caring boyfriend. These past 4 months have put him through so much shit and stress and drama. He’s stuck by me. My sister has been very supportive as well. She even spent her own money coming to visit me, and did my food shopping and cooked for me. My aunty and dad have come to visit me too. Noone else has been that much help, but that’s because I have been too shy to ask anyone else for help or even tell them the extent of my problems. I don’t have the self confidence to approach friends and family or let them in at the moment, even though I want to more than anything. I feel like I’m living in a bubble away from the real world. I know that that will eventually change though. I will remember the things I liked about myself (I can always see what’s good/beautiful about other people but never myself) and start doing the things I used to love (like writing and learning Spanish). I will be my old self again!
I never truly realised what depression was before. I once thought it was just being really sad for a while, and then eventually getting through it. Like, kinda bad, not such a big deal though. But DAMN! No. It fucking stops you achieving your goals. It can make you physically ill. It distorts how you see the world. It convinces you that your whole life will be shit and you are worthless and all your friends and family secretly hate you. It makes you lose track of time and forget things. The longer you leave it, the worse it gets. I doesn’t matter how much chocolate you eat or how many dresses you buy or how many times you fake that you’re fine to other people. It won’t get better until you try and get some help. 3 websites that have helped me help myself though, which you might find useful one day: Happify, Start2, and Blah Therapy. And two books (one I found by chance, the other was lent to me) – The Confidence to Be Yourself (Brian Roet), and The Way to Love (Anthony de Mello).
Hope reading this didn’t depress you too much (ughhhh excuse the pun). I hope it makes you feel less alone if you feel this way. Hearing other people talk about their experiences has helped me, and allowed me to feel less shame in admitting my vulnerabilities and weaknesses, minor though they are compared to some other people’s. There is not only one path to the life you are meant to live. If one thing fucks up, something else will come along. And depression is not a permanent state. It can happen to anyone. You can never tell. So you should be nice to everyone!
Maybe this post will help you recognise symptoms in someone else. Just be there to listen and let them know you are thinking of them. They will probably be feeling too shy/miserable to get in touch first.
Oh god I’m glad I got all this out of my system but I actually kinda hope noone reads this lol…
Next post will be happy shit prooomise