Darlene's story

When I was nineteen-years-old, a middle-aged psychiatrist told me I’d talked myself into a state of depression.

For a long time I rejected his diagnosis, and the responsibility it placed on me for my less than well mental health.

Now, however, I think he had a point.

I was sitting in his office because I’d cut my left wrist horizontally with a ladies’ razor, which in my glibber and more honest moments I thought ensured a clean, feminine cut and no chance of inflicting real damage.

The doctor gave his appraisal; prescribed what he said was a mild anti-depressant called Prothiadan, and sent me on my not so merry way.

The next time I talked to him was during a telephone call in which I conceded I’d popped more than the prescribed amount of pills in one go (wanted to be really happy I suppose) and gave some to a young woman whose life was like a script for one of those brutal and sad films about Britain’s working-class.

After an attempt to be corrected by a social worker, who bizarrely asked whether I’d read Jean Paul Sartre when I’d failed remedial English, amounted to nothing, I succumbed to the idea I was useless and spent too many days isolated and on the dole.

I didn’t see a therapist for ages after that because I was going to make everything okay, but predictably things deteriorated because I couldn’t do it on my own.

Of course, instead of listening to despairing music and not getting out of bed I should’ve tried to counteract the negative beliefs that infected my brain, while also trying to get out of my head by studying, volunteering or some other activity more worthy than playing folk songs and crying.

It wasn’t until I did that the slow process to something approximating recovery begun.

I added a few now barely-visible scars to one of my arms over the ensuing years and engaged in other self-harming behaviours like eating excessively and hitting my head with my fist.

Unfortunately, these pastimes became addictive and were paradoxically calming, although lacked the glamour of snorting cocaine with anorexic supermodels or desolate artists.

Being socially awkward, I failed to meet any mannequins or writers, and I certainly didn’t make the acquaintance of any members of the opposite sex, a reality which has stunted my poor old romantic life to this day.

It wouldn’t have mattered if I encountered someone I was keen on because I pushed anyone away who came near.

I was still talking myself into a state of depression long after that specialist told me I was.

After exploiting a university’s offer of counselling, paid for by the students services charge Dr Nelson, I progressed somewhat and managed, after screwing up more than once, to make friendships that lasted even when I felt more unhinged than not.

I also found an interest that gives me more satisfaction than a punch to the head or a blade across the skin ever could.

Cliché it might be, it wasn’t until I challenged the rut I’d got myself into that my life changed.

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