I started puberty early and was the only girl to start my periods at primary school. Puberty also came with clinical depression. I was a diligent student and sought happiness by achieving good grades. This also meant that when I didn’t get the grades I thought I was capable of, I would berate myself for being stupid and go into extreme lows that I couldn’t get myself out of. I felt that I had no connection to the outside world, that my thoughts were out of my control. I now know that in psychiatric terms, this is known as depersonalisation.
I was lucky enough to have a loving family and felt safe at home but I sought additional comfort in food. This would lead to weight gain followed by panicked dieting. Throughout my teenage years I was either bingeing or dieting. Fortunately I was unable to make myself sick after bingeing so I was spared the horrors of bulimia but it wasn’t through lack of trying.
It took a couple of upheavals for my clinical depression to become so severe that my mother took me to the doctor. The first of these was losing the friendship of someone I had come to value greatly (this will be covered more when I come to talk about my autism). The second was the change of pace in my studies going from GCSEs to A-Levels. I was prescribed the tricyclic antidepressant amitriptyline. It had the immediate effect of making me so sleepy that I couldn’t function at all. I managed to get through my first year of sixth form effectively. In my final school year I managed to get my head together enough to not only succeed in my A-Levels and get a place at my top choice university but also to get my eating under control and finally reach a healthy weight. However I found going to university and leaving home very traumatic which caused my depressive symptoms to return with a vengeance.
My time at university was confusing. On the second day I met David who was to become my soul mate and life long partner. I think we both knew within a few days that we were kindred spirits. Our experiences growing up were very similar; both of us were misfits. I fell in love hard. Being clinically depressed and experiencing love for the first time I suspect would be difficult for anyone. I would go from being deliriously happy when I was with David to being almost suicidal when I wasn’t. We became engaged 4 months later and shortly afterward I discovered that I was pregnant. I left university and returned home. My depression wasn’t too bad during the pregnancy but returned six months after Charlotte was born.
I returned to a university nearer home when Charlotte was eleven months old. Studying for a science degree and being a new mum was tough. With the help of my family I was able to cope with the workload and actually enjoyed it. However during the second year my depression worsened. I started to self harm by repeatedly cutting myself with a scalpel and I didn’t really understand why I was doing it.
David and I bought our first home together in the spring of 1995 and married in the September. I graduated from university with a 2:1 honours degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 1996. I then began what I consider to be my adult life.