As I am sure you are aware, October 10th was Mental Health Awareness Day. I’ve wanted to talk about my own mental health story/journey so I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about it. This is personally going to be a very hard article to write as I’ve had some very low lows in my life but if this helps just one person; I’ll be happy.
Trigger Warnings: depression, anxiety, self-harm, suicidal thoughts.
I guess it all started back in 2012 when I was thirteen years old and going through my second year of high school. For a few months, I kind of felt like something was off with me, I knew something just wasn’t right. I didn’t feel right in myself, I was beginning to feel like everything was a bit useless and that nobody would really notice if one day, I wasn’t here anymore. But, as I was thirteen I believed that I was being stupid and that nobody would listen to me; they’d tell me that it was just hormones and it’s called growing up so I kept silent.
On October 1st, 2012; I self-harmed for the first time. It had been a really bad day and I just felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I just needed a release, I needed to feel something. So, I took to hurting myself for the first time and I felt instant relief. It felt like I needed it and I had to do it and it was the right thing to do. Now, I know obviously that it definitely WASN’T. I should have spoken to somebody and opened up about how I was feeling but I just felt like I couldn’t. My life was a mess and now, within a few months, my body was too.
It was December 2012 when I decided that I should end my own life. I had made a plan. I was going to be home alone because my brother was at school and my parents were at work so I was home first and I was going to kill myself. It was a weird few moments of my life, the moments leading up to what I was about to do. I had everything planned out before my phone rang and Therapy by All Time Low, which was my ringtone at the time, played out into the room and my mum was ringing me. I just stopped what I was doing, didn’t answer the phone and just broke down into tears. I knew that I couldn’t tell anybody what I was planning to do and that it was the last thing I should do because my mum would miss me and I couldn’t do that to her.
2013 came and went. I was still self-harming and just feeling like everything was worthless until one day, at the start of 2014, one of my friends found out what I was doing. I just couldn’t keep it to myself anymore and I had a complete breakdown on one of my friends and felt like I needed to tell them what was going on, I knew that I needed some kind of help. I can’t thank her enough for the fact that she told the school counselor what I was doing because that was the first step to my recovery.
The day I was called into her office was the most daunting day of my entire life. I told her what I’d been doing and she told me that she wanted to set me up with a therapist that came into the school every Wednesday to talk to the students that were struggling and all sounded good until she told me the thing I’d been dreading; she was going to phone my mum and tell what I’d been doing because I was causing harm to myself.
Now, if you’ve ever been in this position, you’ll know how terrifying those words are. The thought of my parents finding out I’d been self-harming was my absolute worst nightmare, it scared me so much so that I threw up. Oops. As it happened, they couldn’t actually get through to my mum to tell her, so that night, I told her myself. We were watching something and I just felt like I couldn’t breathe until I had told her this secret I’d been hiding for a year and a half of my life. And, it was a hard night. My parents weren’t mad like I thought they were going to be. They were upset that it had come to this and ever since that night, I honestly feel like I’ve been close to them and my brother.
In March 2014, I had my first doctor’s appointment about my mental health. My mum had to explain everything because I just felt like I’d frozen and couldn’t speak to them about it. And, before turning eighteen, it’s hard to get a proper diagnosis when it comes to mental health and practically impossible to get medication for your mental illness. But, I knew something was wrong and my doctor knew too. The words depression and anxiety were used a lot and before I knew it, I was seeing a different therapist.
And that started eighteen months of different therapists and arguing with doctors about what was wrong with me and I just felt like my mental health was spiraling out of control. I was miserable and finishing high school with absolutely no friends at all. It was the absolute hardest time in my life. January 2014 – June 2015 were some of the most horrific months of my entire life and I felt like I was dying. It felt like those movies where somebody is sitting there and everything is just carrying on like a blur around them; that’s how my entire life felt like.
In July 2015, I finally got my diagnosis for generalised anxiety disorder and a major depressive disorder and it was the biggest relief of my entire life. I started on a very low dose of medication because I was only sixteen but in September 2015, the best thing happened to me. I met my best friend who to this day, I believe saved my life. When I’m with her I feel like I no longer have a weight on my chest as she just makes me feel so alive and so happy. I cannot thank anybody enough that she walked into my life because I wouldn’t be who I am now without her.
In fact, it meant that the rest of 2015 and half of 2016 were good. I was feeling like I was actually living again, my mental state was beginning to feel less broken and I couldn’t help but smile every single day. I was clean from my self-harm and everything was just good but that’s when it all started to change again. The second half of 2016 wasn’t good at all for my family for reason I don’t want to go into but my suicidal thoughts were slowly starting to slip back into my brain and before I knew it, I felt like I wanted or needed to die again. It got to a stage in my life where Dani had introduced me to a new band; With Confidence and I had to listen to one of their songs every single night to stop myself from killing myself. And now I have their lyrics tattooed on my arm forever which I use as a sign of recovery and that no matter how bad things are then there’s always something that will anchor me to reality.
I told my mum and my doctor and got back into therapy but my therapist was horrible and it only lasted three weeks before I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and I just hated my life. Things slowly started to get better in the first half of 2017 and I was starting to feel okay again.
But, as life does, it challenges you. And for me, that challenge was the first year at the University of Lincoln. I had one friend. I wasn’t coping well with being away from home without my family or my best friend there and I felt completely alone. It ended up with me isolating myself, skipping classes, crying in my room just watching TV. I was miserable. So in January 2018, my mum took me back to the doctors and I got signed off for three weeks which meant missing my exams and I also got a proper dosage of my medication which has been helping me a lot ever since. But, it also meant making the decision to leave Lincoln University in the summer and start again in September this year at Birmingham City but more about that in a minute.
So, where am I now? I am up and down a lot of the time. I’m still on medication for my anxiety and my depression and they really are helping me a lot. My mum wants me to go back to therapy but I’ve had eight different therapists and none of them have helped me so as you can see, I’m reluctant. My best friend is still my best friend and as wonderful and incredible as ever. And I’m studying PR at Birmingham City university. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time but I know that there are still downs and there still will be downs in my future but I also know that that’s part of recovery.
Sorry that this is so long winded but I felt like I really wanted to get my story out there. And what can I say to those of you who are struggling? I know it sounds silly but please reach out to somebody, anybody that you trust and just talk to them. Nobody is going to turn you away or tell that you’re being stupid. At the end of the day, you know your body and your mind more than anybody does so you know when something’s wrong. Don’t stop fighting until you get the help you need. And, please, don’t give up. You are incredible and so strong. All of you are amazing and even if you don’t feel proud of yourself, I’m so proud of all of you because look, you got up this morning, you’re still breathing and I promise you; you’re going to make it.