Guest author Shannon Ingrey tells her story about dealing with depression since childhood, her experiences as an inpatient in a mental hospital and how she feels let down by the lack of support given to her during her time under medical care.
“I have suffered from depression from the age of around 8 (I am 20 now). Unsure about what ‘triggered’ the depression, I often sway towards the starting point of my troubles being that my father was both mentally and physically abusive towards my mother. Having to deal with the utter terrors I witnessed is the only event I can somewhat blame for my breakdown.
Depression is something that is so difficult to describe – how can you describe to someone that you’re in a state of paralysis that prevents you from doing some of the most basic daily tasks, when they themselves have never experienced it? I have the same conversation with my mother most days; I get told I am not trying and that I am lazy, and to the ignorant eye that must be what it looks like, but it takes so much energy each morning to just get out of bed – by the early evening I am exhausted and it’s the same day in and day out. Over the years I have tried many different treatment plans and medications, all of which have fizzled out after a while.
“Up to 20% of people experience symptoms of depression.”
Not long after my 10th birthday, I began treatment with CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health service) which for a 10 year old girl was absolutely petrifying. I had no idea what to expect and quite honestly I feared the worst as I was very uneducated on mental health at this age, so imagined them locking me up and throwing away the key, due to me being (in my eyes) ‘crazy’. This was far from what I experienced. Looking back, the clinic I attended once a week was a welcoming place with coloured rooms in which sessions took place in. However, at the time my fear and paranoia had gotten the better of me and I completely shut down, sitting for the one hour session in complete silence whilst the member of staff delved into my earlier life referencing information my mother had given beforehand and took notes. After my first session I left the clinic feeling worse than I did before I entered.
I began taking an ever-changing mix of medication including anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, mood stabilisers and medication to help my concentration. Even though my peers had no knowledge of the medication I was taking, I began to feel on edge when attending school, like my classmates knew that I needed these pills to function in everyday life. After a while my medication became ineffective and I began to experience outbursts of extreme emotions (anger, sadness, fear) especially at school, and after an event which ended with me throwing a chair at a fellow classmate, earned me the nickname of ‘Psycho Shannon’. It is safe to say that this did not help my condition in the slightest, as people began to avoid me and I began to notice even my own friends distancing themselves from me.
“In a recent study by the Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre in Western Australia, of 400 children aged 9 to 12, 16 were found to be clinically depressed, with 112 assessed as being vulnerable to future depression.”
When I was around 14 I started to self-harm and made my first (of several) suicide attempts and spent many occasions being carted off to A&E only to be discharged and then for it to occur again (thank you underfunding). After my most severe attempt on my life, when I was 16, I was admitted to a young person’s mental health hospital – which unfortunately was over an hour away from my home. Being told that I would be taken away from my family and put in to a hospital took the life out of me, I was so scared that I couldn’t even speak. I was not allowed to go home before leaving for the new hospital, so I was unable to say goodbye to my brothers or dogs before I left.
When I arrived at the hospital I had no idea what to expect, all I knew was that I did not want to be here – in my head I was fine. The social stigma of mental health hospitals made images of 1950s asylums and old fashioned electroshock therapy ran through my head. I had my bag and person searched for objects that I could use to harm myself or others, which scared me even more, creating the image of hardened criminals who would hurt me if I looked at them wrong.
Contrary to my beliefs the hospital was a fairly nice place, with friendly staff and other patients – although this is did put me at ease slightly I was still scared to be on my own without my family. Just being in the hospital had triggered my anxiety and paranoia to go into overdrive causing me to experience very intrusive thoughts which caused abnormal behaviours like talking to myself and scratching myself.
Each day was very structured, we would wake up and get in a line to be given our morning medication (which we had to prove we had swallowed) and then we’d be allowed to have some social time before breakfast – although once we had woken up we were not allowed to go back to sleep. We were watched through the entire day and night which honestly made me feel like a prisoner. There was so many things we couldn’t do – depending on the level of observation you were on. Some of the patients couldn’t even go to the bathroom or shower on their own. How degrading is it that you can’t even shower without a member of staff in the room? I understand now that it was for our safety, but at the time I was less than happy about having a nurse in the bathroom with me and sitting next to my bed whilst I slept.
There was a point during my stay where I was sent to a special wing of the hospital used for separating ‘disruptive’ patients after a dispute with another patient. Nothing was done after the dispute to try and calm any of the parties down, we were just left to our own devices. I was in a state for days after this and even ended up cutting myself to the point I needed to go to hospital to have treatment. I can’t help but think that if I was given some form of support, rather than a punishment this might have been avoided. To be quite honest, I did not feel like I received any treatment during my time at the hospital – I was just given different meds and passed around from pillar to post.
“About a quarter of suicides in the US are felt to be due to undiagnosed, or misdiagnosed major depression. Up to 80% of suicide deaths are in sufferers of major depression.”
I self-harmed and attempted suicide whilst in hospital, and even ran away on one occasion and I feel like nothing was done to tackle why I did these things. Was it lack of training for the staff? Was it lack of funding? I still don’t know, but I do feel let down by the staff at this hospital. When it came for me to be discharged at the age of 16, I went back under CAMHS in my home town and had weekly appointments and even went in to the mental health hospital attached to the facility for a short time. I was under CAMHS for another 2 years, until I turned 18, and went through the same routine of an appointment once a week to talk about the same things and be told the same every time; ‘let’s see you in a week and see how you are then’. However, I never really got better – sure I had better days, weeks and sometimes even months, but the darkness always came back.
I am now 20 years old and have had to leave my dream university course due to my mental health and because my problems were never solved. I’m currently waiting for a psychiatric referral, but who knows how long that will take – I mean I’ve already been waiting since I was 18.
The system only seems concerned with making sure people do not commit suicide or become a threat to society, rather than concerning themselves with combating the cause of the problems.”
But, if you are unsure, what exactly are the symptoms of depression? How is it different to just “feeling blue”?
Symptoms of depression are usually:
- Exhaustion on waking
- Disrupted sleep, sometimes through upsetting dreams
- Early morning waking and difficulty getting back to sleep
- Doing less of what they used to enjoy
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Improved energy as the day goes on
- Anxious worrying and intrusive upsetting thoughts
- Becoming emotional or upset for no particular reason
- Shortness of temper, or irritability
If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression check out the following sites for more on how you can help: