Depression, Anxiety, Self Harm – My Story
First of all I want to apologise for the length of this post. I am also including trigger warnings : Discussion of self harm/depression & suicide. For a very long time I’ve been debating about whether I should talk about this on the blog in more detail or not. It’s an extremely personal post but I am not ashamed. It’s me.
Mental health has a lot of stigma attached to it. Taking antidepressants is frowned up but most of us don’t think twice about taking paracetamol for a headache. People still don’t really understand it. Just the other day I saw the hashtag #justgoforawalk on Twitter where someone was suggesting that people suffering from a mental illness aren’t really ill. That they just need to go for a good walk. You wouldn’t say that to someone with a broken leg or cancer, so why say it to someone with an invisible illness. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Depression is very real. Anxiety is real, and it can ruin lives.
“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced. . . . It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”
― J.K. Rowling
My first wave of depression started when I was 15 and continued until around the age of 21. You go through a lot of different emotions, feelings and experiences during that period of your life. Exams, leaving school, starting college, more exams, more leaving, possibly going to Uni, entering the big world of employment, moving away from home, family, relationships.
I struggled to cope with a lot of those changes and pressure so I turned to self harm. At first I didn’t even know what I was doing was classed as self harm. It was just scratching and picking my skin. But it was, and I quickly become obsessed. It was addictive, and I started to take more risks. Taking it slightly further to see just how far I could push it.
By this point I was failing college, I’d lost most of my friends because they didn’t understand and I shut myself away from them. I didn’t tell people, I once made the mistake of taking off my hoodie in the college cafeteria, forgetting I’d worn a t-shirt which meant my arms were out. As I rushed to put my hoodie back on, thinking no one saw, I could tell by the looks on their faces they did. No one said anything.
I thought I did a pretty good job at hiding it and looking back I did to some people. I hid it from my mum for quite some time. Instead of talking to people I knew I actually spent my nights online talking to others going through similar things to me. It was good to know I wasn’t alone. I was in various MSN chat groups, anyone else remember those? They weren’t places that encouraged it, more the sort of place you could discuss how you were feeling. A bit like an online therapy group. I’m actually still in contact with someone I met in one of those groups.
When my mum eventually found out, she forced me to go and get help. I was put on antidepressants and sent to CAHMs. However they only deal with you until you are 18 and I was almost that. But I didn’t want to get better, I didn’t seek out any other form of counselling. However I carried on taking the tablets, I found they helped for a while, but I was still self harming and getting more self-destructive. I was still at college, there were parties and night outs. I would get stupidly drunk, binge drinking was the norm. Everyone drank way too much, it’s part of the reason I don’t drink now.
Yes, I am made of scars – Stone Sour
Alcohol was another just another way to self harm. I would drink so much I couldn’t walk, I’d be sick, the room spinning. I didn’t even like the taste, it was just a way of trying to fit in with everyone else. A way to feel like I was normal. Drinking made me feel great and terrible at the same time, it definitely wasn’t a good state to be in. I will admit I did have thoughts of ending it all. I was about to drop out of college, my life was a mess. What was the point in it all. No one would miss me, I didn’t have any friends.
Luckily after speaking to my online friends they talked me out of it. But those thoughts were still there. Today is #WorldSuicidePreventationDay which you can find out more about here. The World Health Organization estimates that over 800,000 people die by suicide each year – that’s one person every 40 seconds. Up to 25 times as many again make a suicide attempt. The theme for this years day is connect, communicate and care. By writing this post I hope that it shows that you can get through this. Talk to others, seek help, you are not alone, people do care about you even if you think they don’t.
Since then I’ve been to see another counsellor and I did feel better for a while. I still have scars on my arms and legs, little reminders of my past. I used to hate them, hide them under long sleeves, cardigans, trousers. But not any more. I’m proud of them, they remind me I can get through anything. Lately my anxiety has been getting worse, I’ve been picking up on little signs that my depression is slowly creeping back in. I’ve not been going out as much, I’ve lost interest in pretty much everything I liked doing, blogging included. So this is why I have a doctor’s appointment booked for next week. I’m terrified of what they are going to say but I need to do it. I’m not on my own this time. I have a loving partner and a daughter who I didn’t have last time. I need to get better, for them.