My life, goals and depression
My personal life is something I don’t tend to publicly talk about. I’m pretty reserved. But the last 12 months have tested me as a person. It seems to be a combination of things I’m dealing with because of the usual crossroads a 19 year old has, and the problems I have because I’m me.
I’m disabled. Have been since I was diagnosed with Polio in January 1998, 9 weeks after I was born. It’s left me in a wheelchair, I subsequently have other disabilities too, but for now that’s irrelevant. I’ve been pretty positive despite it, despite the problems I have. I struggled when I was younger. But by the time I was 18, I was a pretty happy person. I had great friends, I was just as passionate about film then as I am now. When deciding my next steps, I knew I was happy going to university, I didn’t seem to think I couldn’t do it. We live in the UK; the UK are renowned for how well people with disabilities do, right?
I got into my top choice university. I was ecstatic, all of my friends did too. I was getting ready to say goodbye to them as I was having my gap year. While others travel or work during their gap years, I decided to have a bit of a break. Don’t get me wrong, I did want to do work experience. I knew I had a placement waiting. But I also figured that because of my situation, I’d need time to get university ready.
I started a placement in August, I would provide script coverage for a production company. I wasn’t making any money, no credit, just the experience. I loved it. So much so, that I continued it for most of my gap year. It reaffirmed my love for film, and surprised me that I could love it even more. It had me excited for the future.
In life, I’ve only really idolized one man. Walt Disney. Any regulars here are probably fully aware of that. He was a man who wanted to change the world while bringing everyone closer together. Whether it be Snow White, or Epcot, his ideas were visionary. He inspired me as a child through his films and parks, but he inspires me as a man through his self (and films and parks). The biggest take away from him I find is that he was constantly looking at tomorrow, while remembering yesterday with fondness. He’s taught me to never forget where you started, because it played a role in getting you to where you are now.
Christmas rolls around and things start to take a tumble. By November, I had lost contact with my best friend. This is an age thing but it was unexpected still. He got into his first relationship. He prioritized the relationship, lied about it and let me watch as it happened. By all means, I’m not trying to assassinate an old friend here. This is more about me and the effect it had. Losing, essentially a brother, is hard. It was a difficult few months. I knew by October that we were never going to be close and keeping the illusion going was incredibly hard for me. But I reached breaking point when he started to mistreat my other friends, as I watched the old person he was disappear. It’s engraved in who I am to never forget my beginnings, and I thought he would be the same. But he wasn’t. I had to accept that, tell him and leave. It felt like a breakup.
January would be when I tried to get university sorted. I contacted a social worker and an occupational therapist to try and get the ball rolling. But January turned into February, February into March. All without progress. I’m not rich. I don’t have the money to just pay for everything to be ready. I need the support. Finally, in May, I start having meetings, visiting my future university and getting things ready. These three things I just mentioned, are still in progress today. It’s taken three months to get a few forms signed and a few phone numbers sent to me. The process of university is stressful for any student. But as I’ve learnt, the process for a disabled student is demoralizing.
The experience has truly tested my character. I’ve had depression before. When I was 13, I just about put a lid on it. The culmination of stress from this situation, along with loneliness, meant it came back. I thought CBT could help like it did when I was 13, but it didn’t*. So I was put on an anti-depressant. I’m still taking the anti-depressant. But there are times I’m extremely low. For me, the line is drawn when I feel worthless, when I begin questioning my own life. When people who you thought you could rely on to get help, don’t help you is horrible. Especially when you’ve got a timer set for two months before you’re meant to start your new life in a new town.
Social care is in crisis in the UK. Not just for the elderly, but the disabled too. I live in Devon. The social care in this county has been under fire recently. Rightly so. They’ve tested me multiple times. To the point, where I’ve questioned taking my own life. I felt like there is no point going through this much stress, that people with a disability simply cannot go to university. There is no human response from these services, it’s about the money and I’ve been made to feel like it costs too much to be independent. That I may as well sit in my bed all day, under my family’s care, wasting my talent and knowledge. All because it’s cheaper. I started my gap year wanting to entertain people through an art-form that inspired me. But it’s ended with me considering the end, hoping it would come.
It didn’t need to get to this point. It could’ve been handled easily. Business politics has no place in the public sector.
Despite this, I guess I’m lucky. My family have been beyond supportive, have helped me beyond words for which I’m eternally grateful and forever indebted to. While I lost one best friend, I grew even stronger to another. I have someone who I can share my whole life with. Before I had a best friend who I’d just joke around and share music with. I now have a best friend who inspires me, she can make me laugh sure, but she’s successful in her own right, independent and strong. I look up to her like I do to my biggest idols. She’s someone who I can count on as my closest friend for the rest of my life.
Even when I’m tested, I look at Walt. He lost his beloved Oswald, but made Mickey. He was told that no one would attend a theme park, then built Disneyland. When I get told I can’t go to university, I will. When I get told I can’t work in this industry, I will. He overcame his hardships, so I guess I can too.
“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all the troubles and obstacles have strengthened me… You may not realise it at the time. But a kick in the teeth can be the greatest thing in the world to you.” – Walt Disney
*Always try CBT before assuming it doesn’t work. If you’re in crisis, talk to someone. Samaritans: 116 123. Mind.org.uk