Out of everything I’ve ever written on this blog I think this may be the most candid and one of the ones that I’m most proud of, it’s something that I’ve never talked about before and although it’s different to what I intended to write it’s no less relevant.
Today I’m going to be writing a post about how my depression first started and also why I choose to blog about mental illness. I’m writing this as part of the Mental Health Month Blog Party 2012, which is part of Mental Health Awareness Month (which is May in the US- yeah, I’m hopping across the pond to join in the party) and as a little warm up to Mental Health Awareness Week here in the UK which is running from 21st-27th May.
I have a strong memory of being about ten or eleven and watching a documentary on depression with my Ma, I remember how angry I was at the woman on the TV, how I wanted to smack her around the face and tell her to suck it up and get on with her life. I’ve aways felt a little like what’s happened to me in the last three years has been some sort of karma for that.
Looking back I’d say that I had my first bout of depression a couple of months after my thirteenth birthday. It was triggered when two boys at my school began to bully me. I’ve always struggled in defining what they did as ‘bullying’ and although I’ve spoken a little about it on this blog before I’ll recap for the purposes of this post.
They sat either side of me in a couple of my lessons and began to touch me, they would stroke my face and hair and down my back. I didn’t know what to do or how to respond the more I tried to get away from them the more persistent they became. Eventually they started putting their hands under the table and pushing up the insides of my legs.
I started to become numb, I blocked off all emotion and wandered around like a statue, all I could feel was this horrible pain in the middle of my chest, it sort of felt like an ache that just wouldn’t stop hurting. It hurt more and more, I had problems sleeping, I had nightmares, I was exhausted all the time. I cried and cried when no-one was watching but otherwise wandered around like I was in a dream. Every night I would cry and beg whatever God there was to kill me. I prayed that I’d get hit by a bus or die in my sleep. All I wanted to do was go to sleep and never wake up.
Eventually I took about four or five paracetamol (or something like it- I can’t remember the exact medication) and ended up being a little sick. I deliberately stopped at the fifth one, I realised that if I died my parents would find my body and for me that thought overrode everything else.
Things moved on, the school year ended and the boys got bored of me- I had a chance to move on with my life and I tried to forget about it all.
The story really starts a few months before I turned fifteen (about three years ago now) my life went well and truly tits up on the Autumn Equinox 2009. I’d been really down for about a month, I was sleeping too much, crying all the time, the ache in my chest was there to stay and all I could think about was how much I wanted to die.
I’ve lost a lot of family members (Grandpa, Great Uncle and two Uncles) to cancer, and a few days before the Equinox I found out that my Uncle had just been diagnosed, it kind of felt like my world was crumbling.
At the time I was with my first boyfriend, we’d been together for about six months at this point and I’d honestly just really started to fall in love with him. I was fighting against the depression and trying to shield him from it, on the Equinox we walked out of our last lesson together and down to the end of the hall- I’d been feeling a little better lately and so pulled him to one-side to try and explain about why I’d been so distant and down. I was going to tell him that I was falling in love with him but that I was going through a tough time- I needed his support.
Instead he got in first- he told me that he didn’t feel anything for me anymore and that he was dumping me.
I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The only thing going through my head was my mantra of don’t cry, don’t show weakness so I bit down on my lip, nodded, and walked away to the ladies where I sat and sobbed for ten minutes.
I have a really clear memory of wiping my eyes after my massive crying jag and saying ‘and that’s all I’m ever going to cry over that boy’ to myself before leaving the toilets. I then bumped into my friend Callum, he knew what’d happened and we had a chat about stuff. I was emotional at the time and told him that I was worried about my mental health, I said that I thought I might have something like depression.
We talked and then I went home, I was now determined to talk to my Ma about it and try and get a Doctor’s appointment. I went into the kitchen and started to talk to her, telling her that I couldn’t feel anything apart from this pain anymore, that I wanted it to stop more than anything and that I needed her help.
She completely lost her temper- I remember her standing up and telling me that if I wanted to die I should go and kill myself and stop being such a bloody coward. She listed off ways that I could kill myself; stepping in front of a bus, overdosing, etc. She then went quiet, asked me what I wanted for my tea and told me that a hot meal would fix everything.
I can’t put into words what I felt at that moment, it was like my entire world had just broken in front of my eyes and I was left with one solution. It was the most sickening feeling, like something cold was trickling down my throat and filling my stomach. I knew that there was only one solution.
I went up into the study, which is three storeys up looking down onto the front of our house which was paved. I stepped up onto the windowsill, unlatched the window and stepped out. I remember that it was raining so the paving slabs looked shiny, I thought that if I fell head-first it might kill me quicker.
I was about to jump, I’d taken a few deep breaths to calm myself and was counting down when my Ma hammered on the door to the study and called out that my tea was ready… it was such a stupid, mundane thing that I paused and looked up. In doing that I looked into the kitchen across the street where my neighbours were having tea, the rain running down the window and softening the scene (sorry about the language; I write fiction novels as a trade… it shows :P) I watched them talking to each other and laughing and I didn’t know what to do, all I could think about was how they would react if they looked across and saw me at that moment.
My Ma opened the door to the study and I stepped back inside, not turning to look at her. She told me again that my tea was ready and I followed her down to the kitchen.
As you can tell I didn’t kill myself that night- not physically- but I did die. The person that I used to be left that night, looking back I can tell that more than anything- in the months that followed things got worse and worse, I started self-harming and became confused and delusional… but I also got help. I got to a point where I knew that if I didn’t get help I was going to kill myself, not necessarily on purpose, but more likely through my self harm getting out of hand.
About eighteen months after this I started hallucinating and having delusions, I’ve been dealing with those ever since.
I haven’t got better, things aren’t brighter for me, especially at the moment- but I am stronger and more capable. It doesn’t matter how shit things get, just so long as you can cope with them. I’m tough as old boots and I get through, I’m fiercely independent and if mental illness has taught me anything it’s that I am an incredibly strong person, it doesn’t matter how dark or difficult things get for me I have this little thing inside that makes me keep going.
I choose to blog about mental illness because I strongly believe that it’s a subject that needs to be talked about I believe this because of my own life experiences but also from the comments that I’ve received on my posts. We’re not living in the dark ages, we’ve gotten rid of asylums and lobotomies but we haven’t gotten rid of the stigma that surrounds mental illness. It seems like the general public are stuck firmly in the past and that’s something that annoys me beyond belief.
I don’t broadcast the fact that I’m mentally ill. In real life I never tell anyone, only a handful of people know that I even have slight mental health problems, but that doesn’t mean that I’m ashamed of it, it just means that I don’t want people to judge me on something that’s only a small part of my life.
I wouldn’t be the person that I am today if I wasn’t mentally ill or lived through the things that I’ve lived through, as horrible as it’s been I wouldn’t go back and change things. They made me who I am now and I’m happy with myself.
I said earlier on in this post that I eventually got help because I knew that if I didn’t I would die- the thing that stopped me from getting help before it got to this point was quite simply that no-one talked about mental illness. There were no lessons on depression or self harm, it was never mentioned anywhere- it was like the whole concept of ‘mental illness’ didn’t exits.
The real reason why I blog about mental health is that I don’t want anyone to be in the position that I was in, alone, desperate and facing their own death. No-one should ever have to be in that place- least of all a fourteen year old.
Thank you for reading, feel free to comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org