Confiding in people – part 2: friends and what happened while I was at university

I split my last post Confiding in people because it was far too long.

By ‘confide in’, I mean talk about the worst of my mental health symptoms in particular suicidal thoughts and the things I am ashamed about in my life.

When I left home and moved to the city where I live now, I didn’t have any contact with psychiatric services. I went to university and my first year went really well. I felt like I fitted in so much. I loved being one of the hundreds of students and felt like I was just like everyone else. I had a boyfriend, I made friends easily and liked my student halls. As sad as it sounds, it was the best year of my life. At the end of first year I moved in my ex-boyfriend, R, which in retrospect was probably a mistake and I should have waited. He’d bought a very small studio flat with a combined living room and bedroom and the kitchen had nowhere to sit down. So if we were both in the flat then we were both in the same room. Each of us found that stressful and I found second year more stressful too I think. Or perhaps it was mainly my relationship and where I was living. As the winter started, I felt like I was getting depressed again and went to my new GP and asked to start antidepressants. So I started paroxetine. I hadn’t researched any drugs and just accepted the GP’s suggestion. But that didn’t worry me and I felt pretty in control of what was happening. But the paroxetine didn’t help a great deal and even though I asked for the dose to be put up, my symptoms didn’t get much better. By the time my end of year exams came around, I was badly depressed and very freaked out. My thoughts were very confused as well as all the depression symptoms. I was convinced I would fail all the exams. Ironically, I got distinctions like I had in first year… my perfectionism had made me over-work and I’d lost any sense of perspective at all. I’d never been very good at taking care of myself and by then I wasn’t looking after myself at all. I would work all night and have hardly any sleep only to sleep far too much the next week. I don’t think I was drinking alcohol but I was probably fucking around with my eating and not exercising or making time for socialising or any kind of relaxation. I hated my body. It was awful and it didn’t really occur to me to talk to my ex-boyfriend, R, about it. Or maybe I tried a little but then gave up. I don’t think I knew how to start to confide in him. Immediately after the exams I changed antidepressants: I came off paroxetine at the same time as starting venlafaxine. Paroxetine is now known for it’s particularly bad withdrawal. And venlafaxine is known for having difficult side-effects too. So that really didn’t help. As I was waiting for the exam results, everything seemed to fall apart. My ex-boyfriend, R, hadn’t know what to do with me for months and we were barely talking I think. I ended up going to one of my friends from student halls, D, and confiding in her how bad it was. Or at least some of it. She believed me and took me seriously and made the phone calls to see the emergency GP. She came with me and helped me talk to the doctors. I’m incredibly grateful to her and I don’t know what I would have done if she hadn’t believed me. But I’ve never in confided in her again. We’re still friends though we are less and less in touch. That is down to me not replying to her messages or making the effort to see her. I’ve made plans and then backed out so often because I couldn’t make myself go. She has kept trying to keep our friendship going over the years and I’ve been shit. I apologise to her but I keep disappearing over and over again. I’ve not been there very often for her at all. The only other time I’ve sort-of confided in a friend was by accident when I mentioned to another friend from university, S, about a suicide attempt. I didn’t talk about any details and was kind of shocked that I’d even said it. I remember that he thanked me for telling him. When things were particularly bad, I used to think about talking to one of my friends but I never actually did it. Just thinking about talking to them would comfort me though. I make friends easily as I’m (or was then) a classic extrovert. I’ve drifted apart from so many friends over the years just because I never get around to or can’t bring myself to get in touch with them. I’m still in sporadic contact with three friends from university. Plus even more sporadic contact with a few other friends. And I’ve made online friends then drifted apart from them too though I think that’s pretty common. I can’t ever bring myself to talk honestly about my symptoms to them and just talk around it like I do with my mother. Actually I did begin to talk about things more honesty with one gaming friend last summer. But I abandoned that MMO for a different reason and I’ve never gone back.

So I’m often not a very good friend either. Well, sometimes I am. I like to do things for people and I’ve often got the time and make the effort to do things for them that I can’t do for myself. But that’s only half a friendship really and I know it pisses people off that I either won’t let them help me or never ask them for help.

After that severe depression at the end of second year, I went straight back to university at the start of the next term. That was a ridiculously stupid mistake as I was still ill and still hadn’t really worked out what was happening. Plus trying to recover from the embarrassment of some of the things I did (like booking a very expensive foreign holiday in a pretty unusual place and going there for three days then coming home). I ended up having to withdraw from that year at university. But the person who was in charge of third year, Dr N, was very kind to me and I confided some things to her though I lied about the suicidal thoughts and said I hadn’t any. I’d been seeing the psychiatric services since seeing the emergency GP and had a CPN and a psychiatrist by then. The psychiatrist was awful, didn’t talk to me or explain things and swung between making me feel like I was over-reacting, attention-seeking and a malingerer or I was severely ill. I was very confused and while at first I’d talked to him as if he was my old GP, Dr I, I quickly changed and censored myself and started over-thinking and trying to work out what this new psychiatrist would think of me if I said this or what he would think if I said that. In a way I was being manipulative because I didn’t want him to think I attention-seeking and so only mentioned things that didn’t risk that. He sent me for an EEG and a head MRI because of the possibility that I had a brain tumour and I was terrified because I didn’t have any idea of what was going on. Even though I’d withdrawn from third year, I was still seeing the year head, Dr N, occasionally and I told her a bit of my problems with this new psychiatrist. She somehow arranged that I was transferred to a different psychiatrist, Dr D, who was an NHS psychiatrist but also involved with the university. I didn’t realise the behind-the-scenes politics or consequences of changing psychiatrists and it caused me a lot of problems a few years later. Different story though. I liked Dr D and trusted him a lot. Actually a few years later, I got overly reliant on him but again, that’s a different story. So I had two people who I was sort-of talking to and sort-of confiding in: the year head, Dr N, and my third psychiatrist, Dr D. I started to find out one of the problems with confiding in doctors or nurse though. Confiding suicidal thoughts meant that I ended up in hospital and while I found being sent to the hospital validating and reassuring in a way, it made me feel frightened, out of control and ashamed too. I was also still very wary of talking about anything that I thought risked Dr D, or my new CPN, from thinking I might be an attention-seeker.

I moved out of my ex-boyfriend R’s flat back into student halls and while we were supposedly still a couple and were having sex, I was putting the relationship behind me and starting to move on from it and from the trauma of the severe depression and having to withdraw from third year. R had told me before I moved out of his house that he had found my illness very difficult and that “[he] was never going through that again”. I felt guilty and ashamed and that was part of why I moved out and wanted the relationship to end. In the summer, I moved in with my friend D and some other friends. Actually, from when I moved out of R’s flat, the next year was a pretty good year for me. I was back at university and while I struggled with the course and ended up having to redo parts of it and having to sit my exams at the resist diet during the summer rather than at the end of term, I passed the year. I finally split up with R for good, after a year of on-off drama, and a couple of months later started another long-term relationship with J. He had been depressed the year before we got together and was starting to get better. It made me feel good to be helping him to get his life back together and I felt okay about confiding in him. I continued to confide in him for the seven years we were together, as my illness got worse and worse and I dropped out university and started to become the recluse I am today. We split up over four years ago and we carried on having sex until the end of last year. I kept on confiding in him up until about two years ago. That saga and rant is for another post I think.

Part 3 of this post is here.

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