My depression started when I was about 15. I blamed myself for a fight in my group of friends, and I started developing increasingly negative thoughts about myself. I was not cool, did not look good, was not worth anything. Depression runs in my mother’s family line, and she struggles with it herself. Because she did not want to burden my sister and me, she hardly ever spoke about it. I could not go to my father either. He does not understand depression.
Because I could not talk about it at home, the threshold for seeking help was high. I thought this problem was my fault, and I had to solve it myself. I then blamed myself for not being able to, which sent me into a downward spiral.
When I was nineteen, I could not take it anymore, and I went to see my GP. He had known me all my life and was very kind. I was so depressed that I thought: please let me get some help, even if it is only an intake interview. I needed a glimmer of hope. But the GGZ (Mental Health Service) had a waiting list of six months. It had been a big step to ask for help, and the prospect of having to wait that long was very hard.
The intake was a deception. They made me feel like I was just a number. The atmosphere was cold and analytical. There was no: I’m sorry you are going through this. The counsellor remarked that I was still studying and even had a girlfriend, so things were not so bad after all. It was probably meant well, but it completely caught me off-guard. He articulated my deep-rooted thoughts that I should not complain and put on a brave face. That I should just go to the gym to pump it out. And go to a party, have fun, right? Just be cheerful, get over it! That was also the advice I got when I tried to talk about it with my friends. As a man, you have to be strong and get over it.
After the intake interview, I ended up on a new waiting list and decided to drop out. Eventually, I ended up at a private practice. I met a young psychologist there who really listened to me and empathised with me. With him, I built up the relationship of trust that is essential for working on recovery. The whole practice was warm and friendly. It started with a kind receptionist. She already knew my name after the second appointment and gave me tea with chocolate. I think such a personal approach is compromised in a lot of places by the extreme workload and all the backlogs that psychologists and psychiatrists have to deal with. They are a huge bottleneck for good care if you ask me.
Bart is 24 years old and a student