Depression isn't all about rainy days as in films: "I felt the sun on my eyelids and opened my eyes. I couldn’t find a reason to get up."Lieven Van Melckebeke

One day last year I woke up and realised I was depressed. I mean, getting to the point where I knew I was depressed had been a gradual process. It was as if the tables in the world had slowly turned so I was no longer the child the world was protecting. Instead the world had shat me out of its arse and left me. That’s how it felt, anyway.

It was a nice morning – sunny – not typically rainy like you see in films. I felt the sun on my eyelids and opened my eyes. I couldn’t find a reason to get up. At first I just lay there for hours, thinking, and then the anxiety crept in. Shit. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. I remember almost coming out of my body and seeing this skinny, pathetic-looking girl lying in her bed. She is losing herself. The thought just came into my mind. And it terrified me. I cried, mourning my happy self which had drifted into nothingness.

That morning I called my mum.

Explaining to her that I was depressed wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. She took it better than I thought.

“Is something the matter?”

“I’ve been feeling bad lately, like, really bad.”

“Oh, no, I’m sorry to hear that. Physically…mentally?”

“Both but mentally I guess. I think I’m depressed, Mum.”

“I’m so sorry, Rosa. But I’m so glad you told me.” We chatted about what I was going to do today. “Why don’t you go on a walk? You love your walks.” I started to cry again.

“I don’t love anything anymore.”

“But you know what they always say if you’re depressed? Carry on doing the things you used to love doing, even if you don’t feel like it.”

Not a bad piece of advice, props to Mum. It just makes each day that bit easier to cope with. You get up and you know there are things to do, even if those things don’t give you the joy they used to. Sometimes I’d surprise myself by seeing glimmers of my lost self – the happy one – when I was with my friends, mostly. I knew she was there somewhere, I just didn’t know how to get to her.

But then they’d leave and take her with them.

“The world had shat me out of its arse and left me”

English is a solitary subject. When you get down to work it’s just you, a book, and your thoughts. And when your thoughts are depressed it can make the act of writing an essay simultaneously beautiful and torturous. In Cambridge, it’s normal to work all the time. And working all the time was for me a way to escape. But it was also avoidance. The pain was still there. But in Cambridge no one is going to tell you to take some time. Time is what I needed; time to come to terms with my feelings.

“If work helps you cope for the time being, work even harder.” Those were the words of a member of staff I confided in. Again, the anxiety crept in.

So I was condemned to work. The one week where I didn’t have an essay and could finally start to address my feelings which had been thus forth neglected, I had a mental breakdown. Maybe mental breakdown is a strong phrase, but from the outside it probably looked like I’d gone insane.

My days were filled with writing poetry and crying, which probably did me a lot of good. I’d go on a walk, always to the same place and listen to ‘I See Fire’ by Ed Sheeran on a loop. It kept me going. I can’t listen to that song now.

I never thought I could get better in an environment where your self-worth is systematically bound up in the quality of the work you produce. Depression encourages you to isolate yourself and rather than helping us fight against that urge, and Cambridge thrives off it. I don’t regret for one second being part of this institution; it’s taught me to know myself in a way that I’m not sure I would otherwise, and in doing so has equipped me for dealing with depression.

Knowing yourself takes time, and Cambridge can both help and hinder that process. It also takes a lot of hard work, something which for us is a huge concession given our obscene workloads.

It took me a while to find the sort of help I needed and therapy wasn’t the only factor contributing to my recovery, but gradually something happened that in the middle of my depression I could never have imagined possible: I got better; and I learned to love life again

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