So how did I get to where I am now? It’s a long story, but, I believe I’ve always lived with Depression. From an early age it’s always been there – exacerbated horrifically during my teenage years, and then just struggling on afterwards until earlier this year.

Often as a child, I would know that I was different, would view the world differently to other people… My imagination would always go that one step further than my peers – ET – the supposedly lovely family film gave me hideous nightmares -‘Oh no! ET is sick – what if he passes on the illness to us? We wouldn’t have any immunity against an alien disease?’ My parents bless them – would laugh nervously and just cuddle me, at a loss to know what to say to their terrified 5 year old… But I would eventually get over it until the next terror – Superman being absorbed into an alien machine, UFO’s descending to take over the world to the music of Jeff Wayne… After this period, I taught myself to lucid dream, banishing most of the terrors of sleep, and I also learned another lesson. How to wear a mask. I couldn’t bear seeing my parents so worried about my mental state, so I learned how to pretend everything was ok, to hide my fears, and to protect my parents.

Many times when I was younger I’d hear ‘such a helpful girl’, ‘such a sweet girl’ I always wanted to please and be liked more than anything. To be even slightly rejected or disliked was like a stab through the heart. I’d be told by others that this was normal to feel a little upset, but upset isn’t even close to the feelings that I felt. Truly deep lows, that would cycle round and round my head, ‘why do they not like me? What did I do?’ Even then I didn’t realise how different to others I was and teenage years were no different.

Being a teenager was hell on earth – holed up in my bedroom, screaming at my parents, listening to REM Everybody Hurts on repeat… and then… none of this was enough for how much I despised myself.  As a complete coward to pain, and the fear of upsetting my parents, I chose to hit myself on my cheekbones – if they swelled up it gave my face definition, and I knew I also didn’t bruise there easily at all. I carried this on for a number of years, usually at night and then crying myself to sleep. I don’t quite remember how it happened, but one evening my Mom caught me and threatened to take me to a psychiatrist. Suffice to say it scared me enough not to do it again. My parents were incredibly supportive of my teenage years – many lesser beings would have run screaming and had me sectioned i’m now sure! I never stop apologising to them even now for my irrational, and at times truly despicable behaviour… It’s a testament to my parents that they put up with this and the many other things that I threw at them over the years, even now, I wonder at their patience with me!

I continued my quest to be universally liked all through school, learning to be the comedienne, to wear the mask in order to give people what they wanted, I mean, who wants to see a sad, unhappy face? I learned the ‘stiff upper lip’ retort to ‘how are you today?’ ‘Fine thanks’ whether I actually was fine or not, and spent many hours introverted on my own. When socialising I spent time with select friends who didn’t realise what I was really like, but were just happy with the ‘mask’ persona as I presented it.  Never controversial, completely harmless, affable, funny and just there. My life at school was rather bland.

As successful as this persona was at school, I carried this with me to University – but… My first year at University? Changed me drastically from the eager-to-please, bland, harmless and affable child I was…