Mental illness is not easy. You cannot simply tell a depressed person to be positive and get over it. You cannot tell someone suffering from anxiety to just stay calm. You cannot reassure a person battling anorexia that if they just eat something it will go away. Mental illness is hard. It’s complicated, exhausting and hurtful. But it’s not impossible.
I cannot speak for everyone who finds themselves in a daily struggle to beat or even just cope with their depression, simply because it affects everyone in a different way, but I can share my struggle in hopes that even one person may identify with it. Depression is more than what it says on the tin. It’s a vicious and poisonous cycle. Although we do our best to portray it in a way that this day and age may understand, like in the likes of a television series to raise awareness, it is never done without it being glamorised. It is a disgusting realisation that it is not uncommon for people who are suffering with a mental illness in this day and age to be called attention seekers. There is a big difference between a calling for attention and a cry for help. The reason mental illness is such a well known issue that affects so many people is because you never hear of stories from other suffers unless they are stories of recovery, which have taken months and maybe even years to have had built up the courage to share, or stories of tragedy, painful stories that add fuel to the ongoing blaze. But most of the time it’s because feelings such as these don’t have words powerful enough to describe exactly what’s going on. Maybe the reason something like this is so serve is because it demands to be felt. Maybe those who don’t and won’t suffer will never really know the extent of these mixtures of deceitful emotions. But I’m going to try anyway because this is the exact reason why these stories of coping and struggling need to be shared. They need to be real. They need to be heard.
Having depression is like walking down a long, dark corridor not knowing when the light will turn on. Not knowing if the light will ever turn on. You hang on to this little thread of hope for as long as you can. Some of us have a tight grip, some of us get through by suffering through the rope burns, and some of us feel there is no other option but to let go. There are no words to describe what it feels like when you find yourself telling you that you don’t deserve to be happy. It’s beyond frightening when the things you used to enjoy, your hobbies and interests, suddenly lose their meaning and value that you used to cherish. It is no exaggeration to say that happiness transitions from an old memory to a myth. Both internal and external factors in your life push you down a ladder into a cold, dark pit before they pull it back up to the surface, leaving you there. Alone.
So at the start, you may ignore it. A temporary headache you’re happy to sit and wait for to pass. But what do you do when this bad day turns into every day. How do you react when you start to feel even the smallest of tasks become struggles and evil acts purposely put in your way almost as if to sabotage you? You get stuck. You get scared. You feel isolated. You feel lonely, and more often than not, embarrassed. But most of all, you feel confused, helpless. You feel yourself falling. But none of that is the scary part. The scary part is when you let yourself fall. The scariest part is that, at this point, you don’t care anymore.
It’s a frightful moment when you realise you’ve become a mere shadow of yourself. Everything you do hurts, every thought hurts, but nothing hurts more than feeling like you can’t do anything about it but agree to the false fragments of the things you begin to tell yourself on a day to day basis. This isn’t living. You’re simply surviving. You’re making it through the day not because you want to, but because you feel you have to. And even in this world of gloom and complete negativity, there is a whisper of hope telling you on day it will go away, things will get better. But how long can one make this whisper live on? Unfortunately, and sadly most of the time, not that long. Some people see the only way of turning this whisper into a shout and that glimmer of hope into a pure, dazzling diamond is by doing it themselves. So they chip away at that little shred of glimmer not knowing that they’re damaging it rather than shaping it, as it’s slowly being demolished before they’re eyes. They may try to carry on like normal, they may pretend to be happy to get through the day, or they may live on a diet of only forced positivity. But then what happens when this glimmer vanishes and they’re led to believe that they have done all they could to preserve it and it still failed them. This is the turning point where most of these stories end tragically. People view their battle as unsuccessful, that they’ve come as far as they can go. But, what a lot of people struggle to face is that the most frightful part of depression, a sickness of the mind where every fibre of your being is convincing you that you are alone, is realising that you have to reach out to overcome. This cannot be defeated by just you. You cannot transform that glimmer into a radiant diamond with just the broken shovel you’ve been using all day everyday to get you to this point.
Again, I can only speak for myself rather than speak on universal term as this is the part that I found most difficult. It is truly a petrifying and personally onerous thing to open up about something in your mind that even you fail to understand. How do you explain how you feel the need to apologise for everything you do, that everything is your fault, that you feel worthless and unworthy of a good and happy life? What’s worse, how do you open up about all the emotions that go with it? To do this seems impossible without seeming like becoming a burden on those you tell and even everyone around you. But this is the positive turning point. To talk about it most definitely lightens this gruesome and heavy load. What I had difficulty with is understanding that opening up benefits the problem, it does not shift your problem onto those you tell. One of the hardest things I had to overcome is coming to grips that those around me wanted to help out of love, not pity. And again, this is of course something I couldn’t do on my own. Sometimes all you need is one blunt, existing voice to shut down the 101 voices floating around in your head. You cannot overcome something this powerful without having an outlet. It was and sometimes is hurtful and difficult to realise that I find myself moving in slow motion. I can’t help it when I don’t feel myself. For a long time I thought that it was stupid and tiring to listen to and that it wasn’t normal. A big thing for me was constantly going back to the past. Over thinking and getting upset about things I’ll never be able to change. You get stuck in this mindset. You get trapped in thinking this is the way things are always going to be. So the next point of action was thinking how could you change that, how can you have a say in stopping this dominating thoughts and incontrollable hurt on your own. How do you make everything stop? It’s easy, you think. You stop.
Before you know it plans start unconsciously forming in your head. White, red, blue, green, orange. Just colours right? No, they were the mixture of little altering shapes mixed together in an unlikely and tragic recipe. Or maybe next time you cut your leg shaving you find yourself staring, watching the blood fall and start thinking that didn’t hurt that much, and start looking at other parts of what you see as what’s left of you. Or maybe it’s the homemade swing in the back garden, complete with old, yet functioning, rope that you find yourself fixating on. This was the lowest of the low. This is the point when the blunt voice is absolutely futile. I’m glad my blunt voice appeared in front of me just half a month later and it’s the same beautiful voice I’m now lucky enough to get to listen to everyday.
The hardest part of opening up is understanding that the people around you are there for you no matter what. It’s hard because you feel like depression happened to you because you were alone when it’s indeed the opposite. You have the illusion of loneliness because depression forced you to back away and separate yourself because you felt there was no other choice. When you realise you’re fed up of simply fed up, it’s important to know that you can turn to others, not to a mirror in a dark, locked bedroom.
Once you do this, this is when the recovery starts. I’m still on this path. So what did I do? To come out of this standing is to come out with an endless list of insecurities. So when I couldn’t put the value back into myself, I put it into little things like drawing, writing, simply watching a movie. Putting value into these and finding the strength to do it made the enjoyment come back into them, slowly yet surely. What I didn’t notice is by doing that, and the outcome making me feel even that little bit better, the value was going back into me. It’s undoubtedly the small yet sentimental things that help this aftershock of the battle. You need to realise that sometimes it’s okay if the only thing you did today was breathe. I’m proud of myself for the little things. I’m proud I got up and out of bed, had a shower and looked today in the eye. When the going gets tough, you need to separate yourself from the situation. Go for a walk, find a distraction. My ultimate relapse was coming off my antidepressants, not once, but three times and this is perfectly okay. Once again, I personally, choose to come off my medication. This does not go for everyone. Everyone has their own way of coping. Some people may feel comfortable being on their medication for years or maybe even chose to keep them for the remainder of their life. Any form of resilience and persistence is something to be proud of. You are here. Right now. That is the ultimate success.
Last week I found the mixture of what would have been my tragic end nearly a year ago. I sat and I stared but smiled as I put them into the bin. Every time I put one foot in front of the other and carry on I am indescribably proud of myself. It is true that you cannot complete this journey alone, whether it be friends, family, or even a hotline, but you pushed yourself to come this far. There will always be bad days, days where you feel like you’re back at day one, but these are the times you put in everything you’ve learned to get to where you are today. I still don’t like being on my own, and feel more comfortable being in the company of others for as long as I can but it’s okay because I’m here. Anything that gets you through the day is worth it. I believe in the person I want to become, I believe that I have a future I deserve to experience because I didn’t come this far to only come this far. The tough times never last, everything in this life is temporary. It’s the tough people who come out of these times that last. As painful as my experience has been, how hurt I’ve felt and the amount of tears I’ve cried, I wouldn’t trade my battle for the world. In something so tragic, It seems almost a sin to not see the good in it. My experience with depression has taught me things about myself, and even those around me, that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. It has transformed me into someone I am unconditionally proud of. I thank it for bringing me to hell and back to give me the ability to help, comfort and advise those in pain around me. I like to believe this happened to me in this point of my life to strengthen me for what’s to come; Something that I know that I can now handle.
My name is Rebecca. I am 19 years old and I’m living with a mental illness.
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