I intended this to be a very frank and impersonal post about the importance of mental health and acknowledging its existence in both our own lives and of those we love, but even as I sit here to write this, I find myself constantly trying to find ways of underplaying my own mental state and the repercussions of it on my day-to-day life. Now, obviously I know that in general I am healthy and well and good things are happening for me in life (whether I want them to or not), but for some reason I can never quite shake that feeling of discomfort which plagues my every thought. And so I have realised something: until I am honest about my own mental state, I will be unable to help others through their own.
Some of the people who will read this will already know who I am, while for others, I’m a complete stranger. Either way, this is a new story I’ll be telling today. Since taking on a personal responsibility to be more transparent and a truer version of myself, I have been sharing small snippets of my life, and I hope that this one will inspire you all to avoid doing the things I did because frankly, they messed with me in the long run.
Between the ages of 13 and 14, I started to become immersed in the world of social media and the ability to make friends online came as second nature to me, and so naturally I amassed a large group of ‘friends’ (I literally only know one of them anymore in real life) who always timed their online presence with each other and just hanged together like a small clique. Eventually, I got really close to one of them (will be referring to this person as N for the remainder of this post) and we became best friends. We met up frequently and were pretty solid as friends, but as time went by I started to normalise some of N’s habits despite their levels of toxicity, and one of these unfortunate habits was self-harming in times of emotional duress. What originally began as a one-off tester grew to become a way of release. By this stage I’d already turned 16 and was very well aware of the fact that something was amiss deep within. Things from my childhood had definitely left their mark but for the first time, it was all coming to the surface and by running the blades across my skin and watching the blood spill, it somehow felt as though the bad things were rising to the top and leaving me with the blood, you know?
The self-harming went on until a few friends started to pick up on some tell-tale signs that I didn’t realise I was giving away. At this point they insisted that I see my doctor. Fast forward a little: the doctor was stumped, sent me straight through to A&E because self-assesment questionnaire scores were through the roof, spent the day in the hospital trying to convince them I was cool, finally got referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). This should have been a good thing, but the problem with me is that I’ve never been a talker. I’ve always been so concerned with what is expected of me that I’ve never really bothered to speak about myself and so being at CAMHS just blew me entirely and I spent my first appointment in silence and the remaining 5 by pretending to ‘miss’ them. (In hindsight, I should have gone but let’s be real, if I hadn’t been convinced that mental health was something to be ashamed of and hidden away, this wouldn’t be happening now)
School finished and college began. A-Levels hit hard but I’d always been pretty comfortable in the world of academia so it was less about the work load and more about the personal expectations on me. As the only girl I was expected to maintain the house as well as balance anything else I was doing in my life. First year went swimmingly and while I was still self-harming at this stage, it wasn’t as frequent and could only be triggered under extreme duress. By second year, the self-harming stopped in the form of cutting but lo and behold, I found myself a less obvious route of destruction. I grew an obsession with my weight: extreme exercising a minimum of three times a day, double dosages of laxatives, an exclusive strawberry milk diet, and the unnecessary use of medically-prescribed fat binders. Of course alongside all this, I was still working through college and taking care of the house (of 6 members). About 2 months away from my final exams, I decided to then stop going into college because I felt like nothing really mattered. The days were spent in bed pretending to be either sick or as though lessons were cancelled.
There is a lesson to be learned here and it is this: life stops for nobody. My friends were getting on with their life and the only person left behind was me. I should have seen the signs then but I didn’t. Slowly the self harm stopped in the form of cutting and extreme weight loss, and instead I just stopped existing in others’ lives and disappeared into a bubble of my own. Things went from bad to great and all of a sudden to worse.
I found that my depression was threatening to cripple me no matter how hard I tried to pretend it didn’t exist. I went from studying for my degree and working 3 jobs to leaving everything (except studies) all at once. Without beating about the bush, at the crux of it was that I very much wanted to die. Under the very watchful eye of my best friend, I returned to the doctors (and after a very disastrous appointment) was given my first set of antidepressants. I’m not going to lie, they helped. Obviously not in the typically happy pills kinda way, but in the feeling nothing rather than everything kind of way. However, because it was such a disastrous appointment, I never returned for my repeat prescription and have essentially avoided my doctor since.
And here we have present day me. Still self-harming except not as obviously. Still crippled by the desire to die and definitely not under any medical care. Still suffering from anxiety attacks which basically feel like minor heart attacks every time. So yeah, I’m not the vision of mental health you were expecting, but I am trying. I am trying so hard not to be defined by my thoughts, but I am slowly learning that this is impossible. I need to do something real about this before I adapt to living in these constant states of either extreme apathy or self-depreciation.
So what I suggest you take away from this disgustingly long post is this, there is help out there, but nothing will be available unless you choose to open yourself up to it. It is always easier to continue to damage yourself than it is to step out from the darkness of your thoughts and into the light of daily life. I am taking small steps daily to move towards a better version of myself for myself and my loves, I know we can do this together no matter how hard it may seem.