Claire Miller is a student who battles with depression. She hopes to help end the stigma of mental illness by sharing her own experiences.
I have been battling with clinical depression for a while.
I am also currently in my longest ever relationship.
Three years may not seem like a big deal to some people, but it is for me. My past relationships (if you can even truly class my couple of high school tonsil-tickles relationships) lasted a maximum of about two to three months before I became bored and broke up with them. I'm pretty certain my exes thought I was a heartless bitch and perhaps I was. I was too self-centred for a relationship and it's something I still struggle with. After all, if you don't look after yourself, who the hell will?
It's kind of impossible to not be self-centred when you're struggling with depression. You've been swallowed into a black hole and it's hard to focus on the people around you, because you're hiding behind an act to protect yourself, and you're too busy focusing on the act and trying to ignore the darkness behind your lids to be able to be anything more than self-centred.
To be honest, I gave up on the idea of having a serious relationship. In my head, I wasn't mature enough and I was mentally broken. I hate myself a lot. And if you don't love yourself, how can you expect anyone else to love you? At least that's what some of my counsellors have told me in the past.
I am broken, self-destructive and clinically depressed. And yet I have an incredible boyfriend who has stood by me through some of my roughest moments. He has been there for me for three whole years - and counting.
When we first started dating, I was a wreck. I don't think he realised what a mess I am before we lived together back in his third year of university. In second year he had been going through a tough time and I had been there for him. I was only too happy to lock away my own problems and have cake night with him and listen to his problems. I would much rather deal with other people's problems than my own, because I have to deal with my problems 24 hours a day, 365¼ days a year. It's refreshing for me to focus on someone else's problems and pretend to be the strong person from time to time.
And then I suspended my studies and we moved in together with two other friends, and I was no longer able to conceal the worst of my anxiety and depression from him. And it got worse when we started dating, because he wanted me to stop hiding from him. He wanted me to be open and honest because we were in a relationship and that's what you do. But I had been protecting him from me.
I was in a very dark place and I probably shouldn't have started a relationship. I could go from laughing my head off to bawling my eyes out in a matter of minutes. There have been times when I have curled up in his lap and cried for no apparent reason. I have pushed him away and wanted to hurt him, without knowing why I was so angry in the first place. I get his hopes up when my mentality improves, only to self-sabotage later. He never gets angry with me. I've asked him on countless occasions if he gets angry or fed up of me, or sometimes regrets being with me, and he looks me in the eye and I know that he means it when he says no.
Honestly, I have no idea how he copes with me, or how he can possibly still love me. But he does. He loves me. I have no idea how, but he loves me.
The amazing thing is that his patience and support is healing me. When I look back at the creature I was two years ago, I can see that I am so much better now. It may still sometimes take me over an hour to haul myself out of bed, but I'm now getting up in the morning, even when I'm not working. I do things like laundry and showering, and I eat better. My anxiety attacks are few and far between. I know a lot of people would think that being in a long distance relationship would be more of a strain on us. If anything, it prevents me from leaning on Phil too much. I know that he is there for me if I need it, but I still have to stand on my own two feet. It balances things out more.
There is not a day that goes by that I don't have a depressive thought. It's always going to be there. And depression is constantly trying to tell me that I'm not worth it. That one day he will clue up and leave me. But every day, whether it's via a text, or a cuddle, or a hot chocolate, he makes it clear that I am worth it to him. I am so lucky that I have him in my life, and for the first time I have thrown myself into a relationship. I am well and truly committed. And that scares me but it feels amazing at the same time. I love him. He loves me.
It's so simple and yet so immense and miraculous.
He loves me, regardless of my depression.
He loves me.