Tag: depression

Mental illness is not confined to anxiety and depression

We think we’re destigmatising mental health issues by talking about anxiety and depression more, when we’re really just destigmatising anxiety and depression more, and that’s it.

I can tell you that a lot of people are going to read that sentence and think, “And?” or “What’s she talking about?” You probably thought I messed up what I was trying to say, or maybe you don’t think there’s anything wrong with that sentence. Anxiety and depression are mental health issues, right? Yes, but mental health issues are not confined to anxiety and depression.

You could argue that anxiety and depression are the more talked about illnesses because they’re the most common ones, but we don’t know just how true that is. More often than not, mood disorders that show any signs of depression, such as bipolar disorder, are put down to just that – depression. It can take years for doctors and even patients themselves to realise that there is something more to their problem.

As I said, patients can go undiagnosed for years, because they don’t really know that they have a problem. Personally, I know how that feels. I went until the age of fifteen before realising that there was something wrong with me, that this crippling anxiety I’d been feeling my whole life was not normal. Why didn’t I realise? Well, because nobody ever talked about it. Ten years ago, anxiety was still a taboo. People weren’t sure if it was a real thing, they looked down on people who had it, they didn’t understand it, and they were scared of it. And while I’m so glad that moves have been made to destigmatise anxiety and make my life that little bit easier, I can’t help but think about the people who still have a mental illness that nobody talks about. I can’t help but think about the forgotten side of mental health.

Unfortunately the likes of borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder still have a huge amount of stigma attached to them. People forget that they are a part of the group of mental illnesses, and they know little to nothing about them. Because they know nothing about them, the people who have to live with these illnesses every day are afraid to talk about them. And because they’re afraid to talk, nobody is learning.

When there’s so little information given to us about these illnesses, how are people supposed to recognise that they have a problem in the first place? Would you know the signs of borderline personality disorder if you had them? Most people wouldn’t. Oftentimes, patients are only diagnosed when their illness gets to an advanced stage, and this is what helps make up the negative stigma attached to the illness.

And that’s not the only thing that creates negative portrayals of mental illness. Patricia R. Owen conducted a study on the portrayals of schizophrenia by entertainment media, and in this study of more than 40 movies (released between 1990 and 2010) she discovered that over 80% of characters who were schizophrenic showed violent behaviour, and almost a third displayed suicidal behaviour. This portrayal that people with schizophrenia are dangerous is wrong, and it’s having a detrimental effect on sufferers who are afraid to speak out for fear of having this label slapped on them.

People have a fear of the unknown, but we can help them with that. By speaking out more about the less commonly known mental illnesses, we can break the stigma attached to them and help sufferers feel more at ease when talking about them. We think we’re destigmatising mental health issues by talking about depression and anxiety more, but we need to speak more about mental illness as a whole. We can’t keep leaving certain issues out because we’re afraid of the unknown.

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The February Blues

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I knew February would be a rocky month for me, it has been for the last couple of years. February doesn’t like me, and I despise it just as much, but as low as I feel I’m not letting it get the better of me. I started to notice the changes in myself a few weeks ago. I didn’t feel like going out, I just wanted to sleep all the time, I wasn’t eating properly and I just didn’t feel happy. And that’s scary for me, because I knew just how bad my mental health was capable of getting again. But this time I’m taking control of my own happiness, I’m not letting my mental health deteriorate.

The problem with taking control of your mental health is that a lot of the time, we leave it too late. We fail to recognise the signs that we’re falling down a slippery slope and by the time we realise, it’s too hard to get back up. We feel like we’re stuck in a bottomless hole, and it’s impossible to get out. So many people don’t seek medical help until they’re really bad, which is why it’s so important to help yourself from the get go. This time, I’ve been trying really hard to make myself feel better.

I’ve been leaving the house, even when I really don’t want to. I’m still going to all my lectures, because I know that skipping class makes me anxious and that’s what I want to avoid. When I skip a class, I don’t know what’s going on in the next class, which makes me anxious to go to that one too. It’s easier to just get up off my ass and prevent that happening in the first place. I’m making sure I see my friends, and I’m trying to go out and have as much fun as I normally would. The latter isn’t working out too well at the moment, but hey, I’m working on it, there’s always room for improvement.

I’ve been keeping myself really, really busy. I have a tendency to spend my spare time lying in bed, overthinking, but I’m not letting myself do that this time. I have a to-do list on my phone of all the things I should have done over the last week, but let go over my head. I’m currently ticking away at those and the shorter the list gets, the better I feel knowing I’m getting things done. Plus, it gets me out of bed and into the library, doing something productive with my life.

If I could, I’d be working my ass off in the gym at the moment. After walking 22 kilometres in the pouring rain in Amsterdam, I have a chest infection that’s caused me to very nearly cough up a lung about five times now. So yeah, I’m taking a break from the gym until I get better, which isn’t doing much for my mental health at the moment. But next week I’m going to get back into it, because I know it’s the one thing that always makes me feel better.

As with all illnesses, prevention rather than cure is key when it comes to mental health. I know that my anxiety is going to get bad again if I let it, but I’m taking small steps to ensure that doesn’t happen. Just because you’re starting to feel down again, doesn’t mean you’ll spiral into a deep depression once more. Just because you’re feeling anxious, doesn’t mean you’ll be too scared to leave your house in two weeks time. Life is full of ups and downs for everyone, and it’s all about doing the best you can to make yourself feel okay again. Remember that no matter how bad things are, they always get better.

Helping a Loved One With a Mental Illness

Dealing with a mental illness can be tough. Learning to accept it as a part of your life can be a struggle, and sometimes it seems like a constant uphill battle. But something that makes it that little bit easier, is having friends and family who try to understand, and do everything in their power to help you feel better. While it can be hard to fully understand what your loved one is going through when you’re not going through it yourself, there are lots of things you can do to aid their recovery. It’s the little things that count, and here are some simple tips that could make a huge difference.

Accept that they have an illness. Don’t patronise them by telling them “it’s just a phase” or that they’ll “get over it”, especially after they’ve had a medical professional diagnose them with a mental illness. While you may have thought it was nothing before, you now have proof that there really is something wrong, and all you can do now is accept it. More often than not, people are afraid to talk about their mental illness for fear of rejection from their friends and family. Show them that not everybody is like that, be that person that they can trust and confide in. They know that if they had a physical illness, acceptance wouldn’t be a problem, but show them that you’ll accept them no matter what the problem is.

Research and educate yourself on the illness. Whether it’s something more common like depression, or something you’re less familiar with like borderline personality disorder, make it your aim to learn about the illness. When a person is first diagnosed with an illness, it can be tiring and stressful telling people the same thing and answering the same questions over and over again. If you show that you have an understanding of an illness, it will make it easier for your loved one to open up to you. For example, if they’ve just been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and are having panic attacks, all it takes is for you to ask “And what happens when you’re having a panic attack? I read that they can cause shortness of breath and shaking” for the sufferer to think, “Yes! Somebody understands!” It might seem small, but it’s one less thing for them to explain to you. Knowing that you’ve made an effort to learn about the illness will help them to open up to you more.

Ask how you can help. Instead of just presuming that you know what to do from whatever research you’ve done, ask them if there’s any way that you can help. Of course you can incorporate what you’ve learned into this, but there might be something more specific and personal that helps your loved one out. After all, everyone is unique and we all deal with things differently. Just a simple text saying, “You looked a little down today. Is there anything I could do to help?” is showing them that you’re aware of what they’re going through and that you care.

Listen to them. Sometimes when your mental illness, whatever it is, has taken its toll on you and you’re having a bad day, all you need is somebody to talk to. What your loved one needs right now is a listener, not somebody who’ll butt in every five minutes with “Yeah that happened to me before but…” or “It’ll be fine as long as you…” Your friend or family member is in a state of distress, and you can’t be of any help to them unless you hear the full extent of how they’re feeling. Let them get everything off their chest, and then you can offer them your advice.mh6

Encourage them to try new treatment methods. Getting better can be a very slow and gradual process, and from herbal remedies to hypnotherapy it can all seem a bit much. If the medication they’re on isn’t working, encourage them to go back to their doctor to see if they can switch it up. Different medication works for different peo
ple, and sometimes it can take a while to find the one that’s best suited to you. Don’t let them give up, and keep reminding them that they will eventually find something that makes them feel better.

If you know someone with a mental illness, then I really hope this post has helped you see how you can help. If you have a mental illness yourself and your friends and family are struggling to understand, show them this. Whether you plonk the laptop in front of them on the kitchen table or just send them a link on Facebook, the chances are they’ll read it, and hopefully learn a thing or two.

Choose your words wisely. If you want to be a good friend, don’t say things like “cheer up” or “there’s people out there who have it worse”. Chances are, your loved one has heard this all a million times before, but does it help? No. If anything, saying something like this to a person with a mental illness will drive them further and further away from you, it will be clear to them that you don’t understand what they’re going through.

Dropping Out – When Mental Illness Becomes Too Much

A couple of weeks ago, the results of the National Student Survey were published, and there was one statistic that really stood out to me. Out of the 41.7% of students surveyed who thought about dropping out of college, the top reason for this was mental health concerns. I can’t say that this shocked me, but I thought it was something that needed to be talked about more. More often than not when we hear of somebody dropping out, we can roll our eyes and label them as “lazy”. But 99.9% of the time, this just isn’t the case.mh1

In my second semester of college, I had serious thoughts about dropping out. My anxiety was at an all-time high, to the point where I was barely leaving my bedroom. I’d lost interest in everything, going out was no longer fun and I was struggling to enjoy my lectures the way that I used to. I missed the comfort of my own home and all I wanted to do was go back to Mayo, for my mum to comfort me and remind me that things would be okay. After speaking to a counsellor in UL, I decided I’d take a leave of absence from college. But I was too afraid to say it to my parents, to my friends in college, to my friends back home, and soon the closing date for leave of absence submissions had passed.

mh4I stayed in college, and although it was a very tough semester I managed to get through it. Now my mental health is a lot better, I’m finally enjoying going out again and I’m writing more than ever, plus I can’t wait to go back to Limerick in September. But having experienced the turmoil that comes with making the decision on whether or not to drop out, I know just how hard it can be. Out of the 41.7% of students surveyed, the top reason for thinking about dropping out was mental health concerns. So I spoke to two students, one who dropped out of college, and one who dropped out of school, due to their mental health.

Hannah Murphy is an 18-year-old from Swords, in Co. Dublin. Last year, she started a History course in Trinity College, and ended up dropping out in February, which was ultimately the best decision for her health. Speaking about her mental health, Hannah says that there were concerns from a young age:

“I had a brief history of pyschosomatic illness when I was about ten or eleven, but I had ‘recovered’ fine. Despite being quite extroverted as a kid, it became the opposite at fifteen and I started getting pretty bad anxiety around most social situations, including school.” mh3

Having experienced panic during her leaving cert exams, Hannah didn’t do as well as she thought she would, and felt that this had a huge impact on her mindset going into college. She was disappointed that she didn’t get her dream course, and felt as though she had failed.

Her mental health issues had a huge impact on her college attendance, and Hannah says she skipped at least half of her lectures, sometimes arriving outside the door and backing out at the last minute. She left work until the very last minute, so that she was almost forced to do it. She says that this got even worse by the second semester, adding “By then I really just didn’t care anymore”.

mh2Hannah had contemplated dropping out from the very start, but it took her until February to come to her final decision. With the support of her parents, who knew just how much she was struggling, Hannah decided to leave college for the sake of her mental wellbeing.

Talking about the stigma attached to mental illness, Hannah acknowledges that it’s still there, although it’s now a different type of stigma to before: “I think it’s a case where most people will acknowledge mental illness and sympathize with it, but when actually directly confronted with it from a friend/family member it becomes something they don’t want to really face.”

Hannah isn’t surprised by the statistic from the NSS, and adds that the system kids and teenagers go through right before college isn’t one that breeds mindfulness and self-care very well.

Since dropping out, Hannah says that she’s doing a whole lot better. She’s now being medicated, and is still in therapy but is realising more and more that college wasn’t and still is not for her at the moment. She adds, “I’m not even sure what I want to do, so maybe when I’m a little older and stronger mentally I’ll go back.”

Amy Golden is a 19-year-old from Bonniconlon, Co. Mayo. She attended Gortnor Abbey secondary school, where she dropped out in the September of her leaving cert year due to the toll it was taking on her mental health. mh5

For as long as she can remember, Amy has suffered from depression and has been sent to child psychologists from the age of five. It was triggered again when she was in second year, after the sudden death of somebody she knew, and what continued was a downward spiral for Amy’s mental health. It got to the point where she had to be hospitalised for two months at the end of 2014, after being admitted with self-harm injuries and suicidal thoughts. During her stay, Amy was finally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.

Dropping out of school was a difficult decision for Amy, but the mere thought of her leaving cert created stress and led to her self-harming. She reflects back on her final day of school, when she’d hit a breaking point: “The bus had just started, and I could feel this pain in my stomach. I could feel the tears coming, and my arms started to pulse and itch for me to harm myself again. I didn’t take any heed, and when I got to school I went straight to the toilet and bawled my eyes out, and then I self-harmed.”

Although she knew deep down that she needed to drop out, it was hard to come to that final decision. Amy knew it was the best thing she could do for herself, and adds, “if I did stay in school, I would have definitely have been dead By October.”

mh6Like many people who drop out, Amy was petrified about what her friends and family would think, “All I could hear in my head was people saying, ‘She’s only going to go on the dole and do nothing with her life,’ or think that I was a complete waster.” Luckily for Amy, her family were very supportive, and did all they could to learn about her mental illness. However her ordeal also separated the true friends from the fake ones, and many chose not to stick around.

Amy agrees that there’s still a stigma attached to mental illness, and recalls on one particular incident where a family member wasn’t exactly supportive, “I’ve had a family member of mine tell her friends that I was in hospital for a bad tummy bug, because she didn’t want to put up with the ‘shame’ of being related to someone who was ‘mental’.”

Amy feels that there’s nowhere near enough support for students with a mental illness in schools, and says that on a scale of one to ten, she’d give it a three. She adds that a talk about mental health in SPHE for a day or two is not substantial.mh7

Since making the tough but necessary decision to leave school, Amy’s mental health is stable. She’s currently on a high dose of anti-depressants, and sees a clinical psychologist every few months. But it’s still an uphill battle for Amy, who was supposed to receive Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) months ago, which was put on hold when her psychologist went on maternity leave. Her psychologist is the only one in Mayo who specialises in Borderline Personality Disorder, and Amy says the wait has held her back in more ways than one, “I cannot do anything until I start DBT, as it basically gives me life skills, which I need to continue in education or work. There isn’t enough resources for me to even meet someone once a week to speak to while I wait.”

However, Amy recognises that she’s come a long way since September 2014, and adds, “It gets better. Not quickly, but step by step.”

Next time you hear of somebody dropping out of school or college, don’t be so quick to judge. There are many reasons that people leave education early, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t return to it. When you could potentially lose a grant, or even a scholarship, dropping out is no easy decision, but sometimes it’s one that just has to be made. If someone dropped out of college due to a physical illness, there’d be no questions asked. Your mental health is more important than anything, and if you need to take a year out to look after it, then that’s what you need to do.

What It’s Like To Cope with Inheriting a Mental Illness: An Anonymous Story

What It’s Like To Cope with Inheriting a Mental Illness: An Anonymous Story

The one thing I’ve learned, and mostly definitely learned the hard way, is that suicide and depression are nothing to joke about. Depression is a serious matter and is becoming incredibly worse in society today.

I know from family history that with any sign of depression at all you were sent straight to a mental institute. No treatment or visitors, just sent away until you were “fixed”. What most people don’t understand is that it’s an illness, a long term one at that. Not something that just springs up in life when you have a bad day. It develops as you age.

I’ve been surrounded with depression and suicide since a very young age. I’ve heard stories of my grandmother who suffered from bipolar disorder and was a manic depressive. Then when it was coming up to my 2nd birthday, my father took his own life as he too suffered with depression for a very long time. At the time he was just sent away, no counselling or call centres were around, and the institute just made him worse. I’ve grown up with a father figure as such but I always wondered how life would be with him. I always wonder if things would be different if he was still around, what life would be like, etc. Although people might think that I’d be different if he was still here, I know for sure that I wouldn’t have my younger sister, baby brother and my stepfather, some people who I am extremely grateful for every day. Things like this are what have made my family stronger. Now at the age of 15, there’s a possibility that my little sister could be bipolar. I still remember the day she told me and the feeling of my heart dropping to my stomach as I soon realised what could come; the dangerous and unpredictable future that lies ahead.

Dealing with mental illness and suicide is very difficult for anyone to go through, believe me. I find it disgraceful how people use it and alter it for their own advantage to get “likes” on Facebook, or a double click on their Instagram picture of their wrists slit for a celebrity, or when their relationship fails. Of course you’d be hurt, that’s natural, but they don’t realise that their family would have to go through being put in my shoes. Being confused, depressed, hurt, and lost at what has happened. Wondering why this person had to go through these lengths to think that this was the only answer. It wasn’t their only answer. Maybe yes if they thought this was how they could get their crush to give them the attention they wanted, or for people to notice them more but it disgusts me that our future generation act in this manner.

Whilst I was in my final years in secondary school I began to research more and more about my father’s illness and I realised that I too have felt and gone through what he has, of course not at the same lengths. It scared me to think that I could be dealing with this illness too. Yes I do have horrible bad days where I don’t even want to leave the bed or eat anything, but every time I even have a small thought of suicide I know that I could never put any other member of my family through it again, especially my mother.

So if you’ve ever dealt with depression or are now dealing with it, I want you to know that you shouldn’t be afraid to tell your family. They’re the ones that are going to be effected the most. They know the people who could help you. Even if you feel that they won’t understand there are counsellors and community group talks that too are only there for your health and support. I hope and pray that suicide won’t be the answer for anyone feeling this way.

What It’s Like To Struggle with Self-Harm: An Anonymous Story

What It’s Like To Struggle with Self-Harm: An Anonymous Story

“It’s easy to turn on yourself sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy”.

Self-harm is my not-so-secret addiction. It is difficult to keep a secret when it is written all over your body. No, I am not a goth or an emo. This is not another crazy trend. And no, I am not attention seeking. The only thing I am seeking, is comfort. Self-harm helps me by providing relief when no one else is there for me. Sure, people may physically be there; but I truly feel alone. Self-harm makes me feel more alive. I need to see physical evidence of life. I pour my emotions out through my skin rather than speak of them. Every scar I have is a reminder of how I have failed myself and everyone around me. I cut because I feel numb. The physical pain makes me forget the mental pain for a while. And that is the addicting part. I want to eradicate the mental pain completely. It’s like when people were desperately trying to beat their high score on Flappy Bird. I desperately want the mental anguish to disappear.

I have very visible scars on my arms, from years self-harming. People will occasionally ask how I got them, and I find it slightly intrusive when people ask this. If I trust the person my answer usually is, “it’s easy to turn on yourself sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy”. When I was questioned about a scar on my arm, I recall saying that I was acting stupid as a child and that led to me falling out of a tree. I was ashamed to tell the truth. The excuse of acting stupid as a kid was more socially acceptable than telling that person that I have a mental illness.

However, self-harm makes things much, much worse at the same time, sending me cravings throughout the day, reminding me how much I need it. I need comfort. Control. Peace. Self-harm is the physical evidence of my depression and anxiety for me. It shreds me to pieces, quite literally. I cut myself if I get overwhelmed with stress. And there is an abundance of it. I crumble when under immense pressure.

I will be sitting my Leaving Cert in June. And I know already that by then my self-harming will be at its peak. The stress of orals, learning essay after essay, quotes, vocabulary… The list goes on. The Leaving Cert is tough enough as it is but throw in depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal tendencies and it just gets a whole lot worse. Being in school physically and emotionally hurts me. I hate people staring at me and I hate hearing everyone’s stupid opinions about me. I hate the look the teachers give me when I haven’t done homework because I wasn’t mentally able. When they talk about how people don’t work enough, I feel like its directed at me and it makes me want to self-harm even more. I don’t think they understand how much of a workload I have to manage. I get so much homework and am expected to study also, it’s impossible to complete it all without losing sleep. My emotions and hormones are already a lot to deal with, then the teachers start throwing ridiculous amounts of work on top of me and it quickly becomes unbearable. The stress is eating away at me. I go home and cry myself to sleep most nights because of stress. It is so unbearable that I feel the urge to self-harm to gain some sense of control back into my life. It is a vicious cycle.

I recall telling a friend one time about my stress and self-harm, and she panicked. At the time, coming out with this ‘not-so-secret’ secret, made me feel ashamed and disgusted with myself. I felt like a burden and that I was worrying everyone. This is why I think that many people refuse to open up about their self-harm. They are afraid of worrying people. Afraid of the negative comments. As I’ve already said, people sometimes call those who self-harm “goths”, “emos” and “attention seekers”. The last thing I want is attention. I don’t like people fussing over me. I don’t go around showing everyone my scars. I have not worn shorts in 5 years. Why? Because I am wary of others. The staring, the dirty looks and the stereotypical comments. However I cannot avoid concealing all of my scars. After all my body is like canvas. My skin is riddled with fine horizontal lines, which glimmer in sunlight. Opening up was very difficult but my friends and family were extremely supportive when I told them and helped me through that tough time. I thought I was alone but there is always someone willing to listen. Big problems or small.

When everything became too much and all of these feelings combined, it led to perhaps the biggest demon of all. Suicidal ideation. Yes, this is a very sensitive topic, but people need to know how much it haunted me. Suicide was in my thoughts. More than I would like. It was an escape, an end to the demons and feelings. I considered accepting this escape route many times.

Too many times. I am now being treated with medication, I rely on it for chemically induced normality. It’s funny how people assume I am the happiest teenager when in reality, they are seeing the effects of an anti-depressant. Not me.

This is why I’m encouraging Ireland to talk about their issues. I know that I couldn’t see myself getting better at all, but look at me now! If telling my story helps someone realise that they need to reach out, then I know I’ve done something worthwhile with my life. It makes me feel more at ease to remain anonymous, but I’ve reached out and I am trying to let people know that it is okay to seek help.

Living With Anxiety and Depression: An Anonymous Story

Living With Anxiety and Depression: An Anonymous Story

I normally cope very well in stressful situations, I didn’t bat an eyelid going through the Leaving Cert while those around me were losing their heads, but settling in to college was rough, Very rough.

Of the 120 students in my class I had spoken to 3 of them in the first few weeks. Out of my depth with the sheer volume of people here I spent many of my classes on my own in the back row, avoiding eye contact with everyone else. I couldn’t make friends, I lost my voice and found it impossible to speak to anyone. I wanted nothing more than for someone to come talk to me, invite me to go get tea, or just acknowledge I was even there. I was alone in a crowd.

While trying to make new friends was hard enough, it felt like my friends from school had left me behind as they thrived in the new environment. I would hear from them rarely and see them even less. They took to student life-like ducks to water, going out on a Thursday having fun and embracing the new lifestyle in the pubs and clubs of the City. The idea of clubbing terrified me; huge crowds, post pubescent drunks and the noise. I was in a relationship at the time and had no reason to join my friends on the prowl. They invited me along, but when I say invited, it felt like I was hounded with a chorus of “You should come with us!” .. Should. Said like It was something expected of me from day one. That made me feel isolated. I declined the invitation every time, knowing I’d be abandoned like an unwanted pup at the side of the road.

On a trip away with the college surf club I had my first experience of panic from people. While there was a party going on in the hostel we were staying in I was lying in my bunk and content to stay there. One of my friends however tried to convince me otherwise so I decided to join her in the party room. I stood awkwardly in the corner, strobe lights, loud music and a tight knot in my stomach. I stayed for less than 10 minutes and ran from the building. I couldn’t deal with the people, the expectations and sideways looks I got for just standing there cowering. I ended up on the beach at 1:30 in the morning on my own just listening to the waves and the wind in the dark. I stayed there for 2 hours fighting with myself and pacing the promenade and the shoreline, I was too afraid to go back in.

Come October I came to terms with the fact my mental health was slowly deteriorating, the stress of my academic life coupled with the isolation of my social life was taking its toll. And one Thursday, after a long day of college, it all came to a boil.

It was one of those days, nothing went as I wanted it to and the world seemed against me. I had just finished a 3 hour chemistry lab which I hated to even think of doing. I nearly lost myself in that lab, staring at a list of measurements and words I didn’t understand. One of the girls in the class I had managed to make friends with must’ve noticed I was distressed, she came over and asked “You ok?” to which I gave the only answer I could manage: “I’m fine”, while on the inside I was screaming. Now I was on the train home at 8:30pm after being on the go for nearly 12 hours. I wanted to cry, I just wanted to go home and cry and never have to leave again. My brain felt like it was trying to break out of my skull, I had bottled up 2 months worth of stress and negative emotion and it had come to a head. I had to drive home that night in the dark with my head swimming and mind crumbling and it showed, I stalled every time I had to stop and narrowly avoided causing a side-on collision. Driving that night was a very bad idea. Half way home that night I had a terrible, horrifying thought: “If I just swerve into that wall, I won’t have to go any further”. It was at this moment I realised how bad I let things get, I didn’t care what happened. My own self-preservation had been blocked out and it scared me. It made me even more determined to get home, I didn’t want to just give up. At my house I didn’t bother turning off the ignition I just went inside and did exactly what I wanted to do in the first place: Cried. I collapsed against a cupboard in the kitchen and broke down completely in front of my parents who didn’t have a clue what to do. It was the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. Needless to say, I didn’t go to college the next day.

Following this episode I knew I needed help, there was no hiding it anymore and no denying it either. I had serious anxiety. I was afraid to go to college, afraid to go to lectures, afraid to face the crowds, afraid to face my friends, afraid to face the outside, afraid to look my parents in the eye. In the weeks that followed I slowly fought a bout of depression that had reduced me to a shell. I didn’t feel anything for a few days, no joy or sadness, just emptiness. Anyone that tried to get through to me got one word answers or a nod. It was especially frustrating for my parents, when I came home every day I’d curl up on the couch and stay there in silence. Dinner wasn’t always an option, I struggled to eat sometimes and was unable to stomach food no matter how hungry I was.

On my return to college I met with my tutor, the staff member assigned to help me should I ever need it. I also met with some close friends over a few days, which helped more than I was expecting. Just knowing that others were aware of what I was going through made me feel much better. I’d like to say this is an isolated and unique incident for me, but it isn’t. I still struggle with stress, anxiety & depression and managing my emotions. With exams coming up and not being able to see some close friends over next few months it’s going to show. Even as I write this my head is just emerging from that difficult place again. Living with a mental illness isn’t easy but it doesn’t have to be crushingly hard either: I have a close network of amazing friends that understand and care, they check up on me when they notice I’m acting differently, and always offer help should I ever need it.

If I could offer any advice to someone reading this that is going/gone through a mental illness, It’s to have at least one friend that understands. Let someone know, be it your parents, a sibling, a friend, a neighbour, girlfriend, boyfriend, a trained professional, a teacher or colleague you’re close to, or even your pet (Never underestimate the healing powers of your pets!) It’s true what they say that a problem shared is a problem halved.