I was first diagnosed with depression in my first year at university. (Guessing January 2005, which makes me 19.) I went to see the doctor because I wasn’t sleeping. I was upset and stressed about my exams and I asked for something to help me through. He asked what was bothering me, and I mentioned a situation with a boy that was I was really struggling with. The doctor gave me three sleeping pills, said that I was borderline depressed, and asked me to come back when the exams were over.
Bird and I were quite good friends. I really, really liked him. I didn’t want to jump into a relationship but one of my friends encouraged me to ask him out for coffee so that we could get to know each other. I did so, and Bird freaked out. He eventually found me later that evening and said he didn’t like me as more than a friend. I was confused. That wasn’t what I’d asked. But Bird had spoken to my friends to ask how he should let me down gently and that was the first time I had been shown respect by a boy. I didn’t sleep that night. I stayed up, crying and thinking because I was so happy. I’d found my first shred of self worth in years. Bird was amazing, because he cared enough to want to treat me the right way, even though he was letting me down.
The problem was that what Bird said and what he did were two different things. He said that he didn’t want a relationship with me, but he flirted with me constantly. We had a very physical friendship – he would grab hold of me and pull me close against him sometimes. Looking back I see the submissive in me was alive even then, because that used to turn me on. (Not that I understood what that meant then, because I was still playing at relationships then. I didn’t have anything approximating a physical relationship for another two years. I didn’t have my first orgasm until I was 22. I was late 23 when I first had sex. I’m still learning about my body responses!) It’s not like he flirted with everyone else either – he was socially awkward and I know that he struggled to talk to me about serious stuff a lot of the time.
My friends said that Bird liked me a lot. I protested that he said he wasn’t interested, but everyone else said otherwise. I got caught in the middle. What was I supposed to think? I remember talking to my best friend one time about it and he said “isn’t it obvious that he’s in love with you? Obvious to everyone but him.” I didn’t choose the best path of dealing. I chose to try and believe Bird, because that was the thing that made sense. If he didn’t want a relationship, then he didn’t. That was all there was to it. His flirting and his actions towards me must not mean anything sexual, and my friends were wrong. I tried to believe the lie.
And I ended up at the doctors. Because the lie ate away at me and I didn’t know my own thoughts. I couldn’t trust my feelings. I couldn’t trust people. I was tired and stressed. I would generally stay up til 3am of a night because I didn’t want to go to sleep. The doctor said that if I felt out of control I should come back and we would work out a plan to fix me. I was stunned. I’d never had a diagnosed mental health problem until then. I think I probably felt low a lot as a teenager but nobody had ever told me that it was depression. Depression was a genuine thing, not a rough patch. I cried and cried. I told Bird and he didn’t know what to do. He was little better than a child.
I’ve seen him since the end of that first year when he graduated and left and he generally doesn’t seem to have grown up. I don’t know what I really saw in him. We’re okay now, but it’s not without an edge of confusion that I see him. I still wonder exactly what was going on in his head. And I will never know. I don’t think he knew. We were still growing up and you make tons of mistakes trying to figure out who you are.
In lots of ways, I feel like our story hasn’t ended. Because that was just the beginning of my battle with depression. It is a battle which is ongoing, but every time it happens I get better at dealing with it.
To be continued….