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What it feels like to live with depression

by Ryan Petersen

A little empathy from friends and family can go a long way towards making life a little easier for someone with depression.

So how do we build empathy?

Well, first we need to understand what it is that depression sufferers are going through; what it really feels like.

To help with this, we’ve enlisted the help of Open Colleges’ Counselling student, Ryan Petersen, who opens up about his own personal experience of living with depression.

living with depression

I remember the mornings I would wake up feeling like I had not slept at all. I was 15, and life had become a chore. No amount of sleep seemed to give me any sense of rest or energy for the day ahead. It was a monumental achievement to make the early bus to school. Food and drink had zero appeal. My belongings had become decoration. Most hobbies fell by the wayside. My family would speak, but I had little to say in return.

I felt hopeless.

I remember how it felt to be told I was heavily depressed for the first time. I was 16, and life was nothing but a mere blur of colour and noise around me. I would converse and participate, but more often just sit in silence as life moved around me, as if it were a television in a store; there to add a bit of audio and visual appeal, and to tune into every now and then.

I knew something might be wrong, but not what. I assumed it was a normal phase. A case worker was assigned to me by the school counsellor, who was concerned about my plummeting mood and grades. All I could feel after visiting her for the first time, was that I had failed something badly.

I felt alone.

I remember being hospitalised for the first time. The word ‘depression’ had hung onto me like glue. It was like a tag; a warning label for others that I was defective. A person who hadn’t quite gotten it right, and now needed medication and doctors to re-condition me. Others had discovered my antidepressants, and word spread that I was problematic.

I felt there was nothing I could retrieve from the situation. I planned the only way out that seemed like a solution. I confessed my suicidal thoughts to my case worker, and later that day, I was on my way to a ward in Cairns to “keep me safe”.

I felt broken.

I remember doing what I could to pick up the pieces as my grades and work efforts spiraled downwards. While so many others around me delivered incredible efforts to keep my doors open and help me back up, it felt needless at the time. All I could feel was helplessness.

Life had become static noise, and my body felt heavy and weak. One crushing low after another. I was a pure burden to the world around me. Later one evening, I was in the shower, with a blade in one hand, and a wrist bleeding onto the other.

I felt dead.

I remember the first time I felt happy again. She had come from overseas and had a bright, bubbly personality. Her hair was long and blonde, and danced around as she moved. Her eyes were a piercing, yet beautiful, blue.

If this brand-new person could find me so complete and fascinating, could I really be so broken? A veil was lifted.

A counsellor took over from the case worker, and for the first time in six years, I found dormant strengths.

I felt lifted.

Today, I still remember what precedes me. I still feel the sadness, the anger, and the agonising lows. They are there not as cursed memories, but driving forces.

Through the remarkable support of others, and learning to be honest, open, and invested in my mental health, I turned it around.

The daily efforts to remain in control will never cease, but do get easier every day. In time, I will be the guide for those lost on their path, enriching my own life as I help others return to theirs.

Now, I feel alive.

Are you interested in helping others?

A Diploma of Counselling from Open Colleges will give you the knowledge and the skills you need to help those struggling in their lives.

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