Mental health takeover: ‘You must never lose hope for a brighter future’ - woman tells of her depression recovery
- Credit: Fiona Waters
It was just a few days before her 16th birthday when Fiona Waters was admitted to an adolescent psychiatric unit.
Fiona, now 20, had been struggling with her mental health since the age of 11, but was only diagnosed with depression and anxiety at 15.
Fiona, who is now an English student at the University of Suffolk, said: 'I hated attending school and felt completely unsupported there, and I became more and more withdrawn and isolated. I remember feeling there was no point in being alive, and that nobody cared about me except my mum.
'I remember that back then I felt exhausted all the time; depression had manifested itself very physically and I had stopped eating regularly and lost a lot of weight.
'None of my friends at school were very sympathetic at all, they stopped wanting to spend time with me, Feeling rejected by my peers was awful. I recall feeling quite paranoid too, and I often believed people were staring at me. Being a teenager is hard for everyone, but my confidence was so low that I believed it impossible that anyone could want to spend time with me. Now I'm older and so much better, I find it upsetting to think that such young teenagers like I was can feel so alone and hopeless.'
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For three months, Fiona was in hospital alongside other young people - an experience she said completely changed her life
'It was an intense environment to be in,' she said.
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'But realising that there were other people with similar stories and feelings to me made me much more accepting of myself, and going through the highs and lows with them made me determined to get better.
'People find this hard to believe, but we often had a lot of fun in hospital, playing games, doing each others' hair, and watching films made me feel like a normal human again. Most of the staff were great too, I still think about them a lot.'
Fiona said maintaining a steady day-to-day routine helped her when her brain felt chaotic.
'For me, getting myself into a really regular sleep cycle has been very beneficial. As has going out of the house everyday, even just for a short walk,' she said.
'When my depression was at its most severe, I remember people telling me that things can get better, and I never believed them.
'But, now I am older and recovered, I can honestly say that they can.
'It's a hard road to recovery, and the path is often bumpy, but you must never lose hope for a brighter future. Five years ago I never would have thought I could be a full time student, living independently, in a happy relationship and with so many reasons to live. But it's happened to me, and it can happen to you too.'
And she said friends and family also had a role to play.
'To anyone who knows someone who has mental health problems, or suspects they know someone who is struggling, don't ever forget about them.
'Knocking on their door, sending them a text, taking them out for a coffee, or just being there if they want to talk you is so important. These things don't need to take much effort from you, but small gestures such as these can make the world of difference to someone who thinks nobody is there for them.'
• For more from the EDP's mental health takeover special edition, click here.