The Long Road to Diagnosis (Part 3)

Things had been improving all week. I was out of the strict confines of my bed and back into the perils of civilisation, embracing the ease of socialising once more. I had regained the identity I had so violently lost and eager to get back to the books, making up for the valuable time that had been spent in a fiery fit of rage. The library soon became a second home, as I began to spend the twilight hours sifting through the pages of textbooks with meticulous, and utterly unnecessary, detail. It began, as you would expect, with the books most beneficial to a law degree, but I soon found my thirst for knowledge greatly satisfied by the likes of Schrödinger, Planck, and Bohr in the enticing world of quantum physics, just as I have done since the age of 11. Although entirely useless for my course, it was a temptation I could not resist, and soon I was not only enjoying the scientific greats but the irresistible lure of classic novels too. As the week wore on, I spent longer and longer in the library, and before I knew it I was leaving at 4am or 5am rather than midnight or before as I had so intended. Again, time was becoming an abstract concept which held little meaning in my day to day life. The difference now was that it was the time spent outside of my bed that was passing by at a rather alarming rate, although I cannot say I was unsettled by this. At the time it felt completely natural, and as I was functioning perfectly well on just an hour or so of sleep a night there seemed to be no reason to fight against it.

However, what felt natural at the time certainly wasn’t. Not only was I avoiding sleep, but I also found myself to be physically unable to do so even if I tried, and soon I could only rest peacefully once the sun had already risen, and even then only for an hour or so. Before that time I was kept awake by a powerful compulsion to keep myself occupied at all costs. It’s an extremely difficult sensation to try and describe, but perhaps it can be most likened to an itch you’re being forcibly restrained from scratching; every atom in your body is focused on that itch, and only once it’s been scratched will you feel any form of relief. For me, that itch was the desire to be constantly learning something new. A burning desire that ran through the very blood in my veins, and that unfortunately, no matter how hard I would try, I could never quite satisfy it. It seems a ridiculous notion when articulated in plain English, and one I don’t particularly expect to be well understood, but it was the fuel that I was becoming unnervingly dependant on during this exciting rush of activity, and it was certainly proving to be efficient.

It had now been about 10 days since I had started to recover from the disruptive bout of depression, and I was instead facing the opposite end of the spectrum. At this point ignorance was still serving me well as I continued to hold this new found motivation as no more than a genuine enthusiasm for life. I failed to recognise the extent to which I was being driven, and the increasingly abnormal behaviour I was presenting. My head had become filled with an abundance of racing ideas that made concentrating on anything in particular almost impossible, and I became very conscious of myself shifting between speaking a hundred miles an hour to being uncharacteristically quiet for I found that the endless quarrel of conflicting thoughts severely inhibited my ability to formulate coherent sentences. Even sitting in lectures I would spend the time filling notebooks with mindless scribbles and childlike doodles, tormented by the unrelenting bombardment of redundant thoughts that had now dominated every corner of my mind. I had yet again become unproductive, unsociable, and completely preoccupied for reasons I was utterly unaware of, and as frustration built, and coursework deadlines drew ever closer, something had to be done. 

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The Long Road to Diagnosis (Part 2)

So there I was, drowning under the weight of my own fabricated reality. I willed myself to be rational, but reason was quickly escaping me and it wasn’t long before all that remained was raw, destructive emotion. Fear, anger and depression became one relentless force determined to sever me from my own being, to the point where I no longer recognised who I was. Instinctively I shut myself off from the comforts of everyday life, and locked myself away in my room to suffer the physical torment in a place where I knew I couldn’t hurt anyone else. I lay there, defeated, accompanied only by screams of self-loathing and vicious taunts that echoed in my head for hours on end, until it truly felt as if time itself had become a redundant concept. But then things began to change; the hateful screams became distant whispers and the heavy weight of unhappiness and despair that had so greatly burdened me was ever so slightly lifted. Just as quickly as I had rapidly deteriorated, things were picking up and I soon went from strength to strength.

Within just a few days I was back to feeling as normal as ever, and I quickly dismissed the episode as a one-off occasion. Excuses were made to friends about the complete lack of communication and general absence over the previous days and no more was said on the matter. In all honestly, I could barely remember quite how severe the incident had been and for many reasons it was easier forgotten about than spending time dwelling over what could have possibly caused it. I was happy again and for me that was all that was important, and for something that seemed so very unlikely to ever happen again I thought myself lucky to have only had to endure it for little over a week. Unfortunately for me the period of normality only lasted for a very short amount of time and I was soon faced with another indication that there was something very wrong.  This time, however, the warning signs presented themselves in a way that couldn’t have been further from the initial wave of depression I had become so lost within, and consequently proved to be far more perplexing.

The Long Road to Diagnosis (Part 1)

So it all started last October when I found myself hurled in to a depression I’d never felt before. It was now a month in to term and up until that point I couldn’t have felt happier: I was studying what I loved, I had met some wonderful people who were quickly becoming close friends, and I was loving every second of my new found independence. I felt invincible. On reflection this was most probably another symptom I had failed to spot in the moment, but at that point I had no reason to. At the time the elation felt genuine and so very justified by the circumstances that it raised no suspicion whatsoever. Then it hit me. I started to fall in to a place of darkness and isolation at an alarming rate; each day waking up feeling more and more distant from the rest of the world. Friends became strangers, hobbies became burdens, and passion for life itself began to die away. I couldn’t make any sense of it, and amongst it all this was one of the hardest things to come to terms with.

The strange thing was there was a certain familiarity about the situation. It’s no secret that I’ve suffered from depression before, having spent 2 years enduring a crippling condition that left me physically and emotionally fatigued on a daily basis. There were good days and bad, but the simple fact was that the majority of time I didn’t have the energy left in me to be happy. I think perhaps it was the persistent pain that really took the greatest toll on my mental wellbeing, and I was nothing but grateful that I began to recover shortly after finishing my A-levels. There were definite parallels between how I felt then and how I was feeling now, but still I was left with so many questions. What had triggered the depression this time? Why was this all happening so suddenly? It was frightening. I had lost all sense of control and even the memories of how content I had felt only a matter of days ago became fleeting. It was obvious something was wrong, but it would be a little while yet before I could begin to take steps in trying to understand what exactly was going on.