Today is Time to Talk Day, on which we are encouraged to have conversations about mental health, and in particular extend our hand to those suffering from mental health problems, to remind them that they are not alone, they are not weak, and that they do matter.
I silently endured depression and anxiety for four years, beginning at sixteen, shortly before my GCSEs. They were failed for definite, I would tell myself, and I would abuse myself with visions of success that were now apparently out of reach. That, in itself, probably wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. But it spiralled, so massively. When alone, I would cry floods of tears without really knowing why. I would fantasise about my own death, have visions of my funeral, and see so assuredly that the place would be brighter without me in it, so why not hurry that along? It was toxic – toxic in that the darkest thoughts felt good. I kept pushing myself to go to the doctor several times over that period, but each time my mind managed to convince me not to go. I don’t doubt that this prevention was a form of self-harm in itself – beside the sheer embarrassment, I didn’t ever think I deserved to be listened to. It really didn’t help that every time I tried to talk to them, my parents said I was just being silly – there was obviously nothing wrong with me. I was just lazy, grumpy, just a typical teenager. It took a breakdown for them and indeed anybody to realise that something actually was wrong.
Trust me, that is not how you want it to go. As inadequate a warning as that probably is, you really don’t have to let it go that far. The time after that was the lowest I’ve ever been; I gave up my degree months from completion, riddling me with failure; I stopped working, and spent most of Christmas hiding in the dark, under a duvet (never asleep, though), when I wasn’t running away from telephone calls, or locking myself in the bathroom to get out of speaking to the nurse so concerned he turned up unannounced. I felt as though I’d lost all sense of communication, which lead to me becoming disconnected from my family – supportive though they continued to be – and losing virtually all of my friends. In 2013, at my lowest, I did leave the house with a view to never returning, though, thank heavens, something pulled me away from that mindset on the day.
It seemed that, since then, I actually found myself seeking the ears of others more than I had done. I’m not sure exactly what it was that clicked; perhaps a revelation that I didn’t want to die after all? As I’ve said before, it’s all about finding the lights in the dark. People who are not necessarily doctors or professionals, but those that listen, even if they haven’t a clue how to respond. It is the absolute hardest thing I’ve done, ever. But the mere release is huge. Indeed, blogging and the web as a whole helped me tremendously in this regard – I see it as something of an ‘in between’ the silence and conversation, allowing you to speak but with the anonymity that comes with online exchanges – it was an excellent starting block for me and the responses were all so lovely and caring. I also found myself writing letters to my doctor and preparing notes for our sessions, which helped no end in getting it all out.
It’s still difficult – my depression has not gone away, no matter how much I rattle with pills or how familiar I am to my GP. I miss my old friends – well, a couple of them. But what I do know is that I began 2016 feeling stronger than I had for a long time – dare I say, I was even optimistic about it – and that can’t be a coincidence, with some of the outings, revelations and progressions made last year by just opening my mouth, and indeed through wittering on via WordPress to such lovely people as yourself. You never know, I might even find a job soon! Perhaps that might offer just a shred of hope to someone – when you are ready, it will happen. There are so many stories of recovery out there.
A conversation about mental health can be one of the most crucial you ever have – and today is all about educating and removing the stigma, allowing these to become less of a daunting prospect for both parties. Indeed, the purpose of this post was primarily not to tell you about my ordeal but to offer that listening ear to anybody out there reading this – please feel free to comment and we can have a chat. I’ve mentioned already the benefit I felt using the internet as a starting point; a further bonus is that you don’t even have to actually get under the umbrella with that strange chap!
For information about today and for support on both sides, see the Time to Change site; Rethink and Mind have similar material. You can contact The Samaritans if you are in urgent need of help.