Mental Health: Living with Depression & Anxiety
Those who know me well will tell you that I am a big believer in ending the stigma on mental health. Even as I sit here and type this, there is an ugly voice in my head telling me to ‘shut up’ because no one cares about what I have to say, and that if I post this, then people will think this is ‘all for attention.’ This makes me so angry because I fucking hate people taking notice of me or looking at me, or anything like that. I’ll get to why a bit later, but I can’t begin to tell you how untrue this is.
So why am I writing about my mental health ‘story’?
I am writing this because I have read so many ignorant comments directed towards those who suffer from a mental health illness, and I want relief for myself. I need people to understand that we are not ‘weak’; nor do we have to ‘get over it,’ and I want people to understand how I feel. Writing is the best way I can relay my experience to you, and it’s the only way for me to feel comfortable in doing so. In this post, I’m going to be as honest as I can but I have to warn you, this will be a long post. If you’re not comfortable in reading any further, then click away now.
How it began
I had an interesting childhood. It wasn’t a terrible experience by any means, and I was happy until I reached the age of 12. Things got especially weird when I was about ten, but for those couple of years in between, none of what I was experiencing was harmful to me. As much as I would like to delve into it, it would make me uncomfortable to do so, so I’ll skip past it.
It was during my first year of high school that things got very difficult. In the space of a year, things changed. I was being bullied at school, but I was also having problems at home. During this time, I found out some things about my dad that were hard to deal with. I’d never really known him as we’d moved away when I was 7, but it really upset me to hear the truth.
Previously, I’d had visual hallucinations, but during this time I began to have auditory hallucinations. They were very negative and I would hear nasty things being said to me on a daily basis. It wasn’t something that I could cope with on my own. My mood got low, and I was diagnosed with clinical depression by the time I was 13.
To escape the bullying, we moved house (I’d grown up moving around a lot, so this didn’t bother me) and I went to another high school. At this new school, it wasn’t as bad, but I was bullied by a boy in my class when I was 14, and that upset me. I also had friendship problems on and off right up until the second year of sixth form.
I struggled a lot during my adolescence
During my adolescence – between the ages of 12 and 16, I was experiencing auditory hallucinations and I was experiencing delusions – mostly when I was at home, by myself. I wasn’t just hearing voices, I had built these voices up into characters – people who I thought were very real – which made everything they said to me hurt a lot more. I remember one time when I was 14 and lying in bed, I kept hearing voices whisper to me as the water ran from the bath taps. It was telling me to ‘let it in’ and to ‘get the key.’ I thought there was something outside of our house, standing in the street, wanting to be let in. I got really scared and went downstairs to tell my mom. She tried to reassure me, but even as I was back in bed I still felt scared.
My stepdad came up to talk to me shortly afterwards, to see if I was all right.
A few of the things I can remember this voice saying to me during this time is that ‘I was staring too much,’ ‘I smelt,’ and that, ‘I was a bitch.’ I think it called me the n-word a few times. Mostly, though, I felt as though it was laughing at me – at whatever I did. It made me feel self-conscious, and it’s the reason as to why I hate when people laugh at me now.
I could never feel as happy as I did when I was younger
I have no idea if the depression went away or not, because, at the time, I didn’t really have as much of an idea about what depression was and how it could manifest itself. However, I can say that from the ages of 14-16, I always felt low. It was just a feeling that was there most of the time, wherever I was. I can also quite easily split my life into two parts – there was a ‘before’ and an ‘after.’
‘Before’, I can remember feeling happy without it being shadowed. This is the easiest way to put it. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I experienced this kind of happiness when I was 11 and younger. ‘After’, it was as if I couldn’t feel happy, happy. I wasn’t incapable of feeling happy, but it wasn’t (and isn’t) the same. I can’t tell if this is because as a kid I was sheltered and wasn’t as upset by things, or if this is because of what I was going through, or both. I still don’t know if my not-quite-as-happy was what everyone else felt, and was a result of getting older and knowing more about the world.
I still worked hard at school
Despite the problems that I was having with my mental health, I studied hard and I got good GCSE results (8 As and 2 Bs – although I was annoyed with them at the time because I wanted 9 As, ha!). I put a lot of effort into my studies but not so much into my friendships. I always felt like a second option; I felt as though I was left out. It got to the point where I began to dislike who I was spending time with, and at the end of year 11, I was relieved to walk away from most of those people without saying goodbye.
I also tried hard at my A Levels – and even took two extended qualifications during my two years of studies. During my first year, I got 4 As and during my second year, my grades suffered and I ended up leaving with one A* and two Bs (but I got an A on my EPQ, which I was pleased about!).
Your judgements hurt
One thing that always gets to me is when people tell those who suffer from mental health to ‘get over it.’ Some may call us lazy, if we can’t do as much as other people – whether that be because of impaired functioning or drained energy – for me, it was (and is) the latter.
Let me say this now: people who suffer from mental health; who can’t do as much as others, are not lazy.
We also can’t just snap our fingers and ‘get over it.’
Believe me, if it were that easy, we would damn well do it.
I still worked for my grades, and it seems stupid to say, but it was hard with everything that was going on. Particularly during my last year of sixth form. That was when I really, really struggled. It took a lot out of me.
Please don’t make these kinds of judgements about people who are suffering with their mental health, because unless you’ve been in their shoes you can’t imagine what it is that they’re experiencing.
It got worse towards the end of sixth form
I’ve already said it, but sixth form was fucking hard.
We went on holiday to Devon frequently during my first year, and while it was nice, this was when my anxiety became more noticeable. I’d seen psychiatrists for my mood (and other issues) during high school, but I’d stopped when I was about 16. However, I went back to the doctors because my mood was getting much lower and it was at the point where I was lying awake at night scared to go to sleep because I was convinced that I would wake up blind. I was worried about loads of different things. At this time, one of my closest friends got me involved with her local church. While it was comforting, it also changed the things that I was experiencing – and made them sinister in a different way.
I thought that my voice was at one point the devil speaking to me, and it was telling me things like, ‘I was going to hell’ and that ‘I was going to die’ when I was lying in bed at night. I would get heart palpitations and it would feel as though I was breathing too slowly, and that my heart was fluttery and not beating fast enough. I would get scared and try to control my breathing because otherwise, I would jolt myself awake (I thought this was happening because my heart kept stopping), and it would make me nervous to go to sleep.
My anxiety spread
I took fluoxetine to get my mood back up, but I wasn’t convinced that it was working so after several months, I stopped. I also went to group CBT sessions, but I was also very anxious in front of others (this had started in my sociology class after I sort-of panicked and felt the need to leave the room, but couldn’t), so I had to stop CBT too. Shortly before we moved home, I experienced a vivid hallucination while I was lying in bed at night and it scared me so much that I couldn’t sleep with the light off for a couple of months. This feels never-ending, but crap kept getting thrown at me!
At university, I thought everything would get better. I was wrong.
We moved to the south part of the country, and I was so glad to get a change of scene. When I realised that things weren’t better at uni and that I was isolated, my mood dropped again. I started to use self-harm as a coping mechanism, which I’d done before, but this time it was done more frequently. I felt so rubbish after I’d had a seminar or workshop because I wasn’t able to engage properly or talk to others because I was scared to be in a room with other people. My friend had to record some of the sessions because I found it very difficult to attend. My grades suffered again. I felt useless.
I had thoughts of suicide
I found it very hard to cope, but because I usually keep things to myself (except for now – 0-100, much??), I didn’t really tell anyone. I’d never, ever told friends the full extent of anything that I’d experienced, and this time was no different. I kept thinking that I would be better off dead and that I would be able to feel peaceful if I died, so I made a plan.
I researched easy ways to die, and I considered sleeping pills but there was a risk of brain damage if it went wrong, so I chose not to go down that route. For a lot of the time, my thoughts weren’t serious; it was a fantasy. But soon, it got to be more serious, although I was still scared at the thought of dying. Things got dark and I decided that I did want to die. I wanted to remove enough blood from my body to kill me, so I researched the amount of blood that I would have to remove. I bought the equipment that I would need from Amazon, and I made a plan to do it in my bathroom when no one was home. I still don’t know if I would have done it or not, but I didn’t get the chance to find out.
It was at this point that I got some help
For some reason, my parcel said that it had been delivered, although nothing had arrived. I was annoyed when I saw this, and suspected that my mom had hidden the package from me (she’d been checking up on me a lot on the days running up to this). I went down to confront her about the parcel but she told me that she hadn’t received it. She noticed that I was really upset and asked me what the parcel was. I told her it was makeup but she knew that I was lying. I eventually told her (my mom is just really persistent and I knew that she wouldn’t leave me alone), and she got really upset.
When the parcel did come, she took it from me and we went to the hospital and got some help for my mental health. I was reluctant to go because I’d been given help before and I didn’t think that any of it had worked. I was put on antidepressants again (I took one, but it was giving me heartburn so I took another, but that didn’t work). I still wanted to die, but I was also a little bit relieved that I wasn’t able to. Then I went through CBT again, but this time it was just me and a therapist.
It was nice to be listened to
I found that I was able to talk to her openly, and I hadn’t experienced this with any mental health professional that I’d spoken to up until that point. I spoke to her for a few months, and we talked about my social anxiety and my low mood. It would be nice to say that she made me better, but she didn’t. However, she was the only person that I spoke to about what was happening, and while it made me a bit uncomfortable, I was also glad that someone was listening to me.
Five or six months down the line, and here I am, writing about my experience on the internet. There’s so much that I’ve skipped because there is just too much information to write about. A lot of it is about my family members, so I am in no place to talk about it.
Sometimes, I still think that I want to die and that I would be better off dead, but I’m not going to act on it. Because I’ve caused my mom (who has already had a lot of shit happen to her), a lot of pain, I still feel very useless. I have very little energy a lot of the time, I find it hard to leave my bed and I oversleep, but now I feel a bit better about the future. Mainly because I am trying to become a writer and blogger and to be in a career that I love, but if this doesn’t work out then I have no idea what’s going to happen.
I wrote this to raise awareness and to help myself
I wrote this to tell people the truth about what it’s like to have problems with your mental health. It gets romanticised a lot, and in truth, too many people are ignorant about the subject. I hate the stigma attached to it, and I hate how people think that having mental health issues makes you weak. It doesn’t. If anything, I think I’m resilient and I’m determined to live a better life for myself and for my mom. I also wrote this because, apart from ‘Hailey’ (my old therapist), I haven’t told anyone this.
I used to pride myself on keeping everything a secret. I thought it made me strong.
Sometimes, though, it made me sad to realise that no one knew what the hell was going on with me, not even my mom.
Posting this may bring me a lot of criticism, but it’s nice to let it out. All I want is for people to understand. Hopefully, this has shown you what it’s really like to have a mental health illness. If it has, then I hope we can all treat those who are suffering, with more kindness and less judgement. It can take a lot for people to speak out (for me, it’s much easier to post online than to speak to someone face-to-face). Also, this shit is really hard to go through.
As always, thank you so much for reading this far, I really appreciate it.
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