On the outside, I doubt you’d realise I
suffer from depression and anxiety (I hate the word “suffer” because I like to think I fight it). Nor would you think I have “anything to be depressed or anxious about.” However, I think this reinforces the fact that mental health doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone and everyone.
If I was asked to picture someone suicidal, visions of medical professionals holding down a hysterical person, kicking and screaming, would flash in front of my eyes.
For me, it was a sense of calmness. Emotional numbness. Our brains work by trying to rationalize situations, but in the case of mental health, our brain can be our own worst enemy. I find it ironic how my suicidal thoughts also brought peace. My self-soothing strategy against anxious/depressive thoughts was “It’s okay if you don’t feel better. The only thing you can do is end it, and that will take the pain away.”
My friends and family, the career I’ve worked all my life to reach, absolutely none of those things came into the equation. I hadn’t eaten or slept for several days and I felt paralysed by anxiety. I thought ending my life would be the only way out of this intense pain, it was like tunnel vision. Fortunately, the (albeit small!) healthy part of my brain fought this. I knew I needed help, and I wanted to seek it. A 3am wake-up to my parents and teary phone call to Samaritans later, the feelings hadn’t subsided. But the difference was I now had a plan.
I apologise if my writing sounds cold or brief. I can’t describe in much detail the events of that night, or the days leading up to it. It’s so painful that my brain struggles to remember and tries to block out the thoughts. The feelings are so irrational and alien, that I don’t have the vocabulary to describe them.
In short. The next day I went to the doctors and began medication. The day after that I went to university to refer myself for counseling. The second I knew there was a pathway in place for things to improve, the suicidal feelings dramatically subsided.
I didn’t, and still don’t really know how to express what’s happened to me this Summer. But the words from a counselor resonated with me, “you may worry you’re a burden to friends/family through discussing mental health. But the impact on their lives from you talking, in comparison to the impact if you were to do something to hurt yourself, couldn’t be more different.”
In the last 3 weeks, I’ve had days where I’ve laid on the sofa and it’s taken me most of the day to muster the energy to shower. I’ve also had days where I’ve been out, enjoyed socialising and completing work. I almost feel guilty for managing to go out and enjoy myself. But, no-one I pass in the street knows how much I’ve struggled to get to that point. I’ve learned during my journey with anxiety over the past year, that recovery isn’t a linear process.
For me, one of the main things that’s contributed to helping myself is through talking. I’ve had to bare all, and accept the compassion and rejection which results from this. But I know that this first step is the hardest and most overwhelming.
What worries me most, is that our mental health system needs to change. Last year, 95 university students committed suicide. I’m fortunate enough to have been urgently referred for counseling, but even then I have 3 weeks before I begin CBT, and I know the effects won’t be immediate.
You’re told in a crisis to go to A&E, but I’ve read many stories where lack of beds and provision have led to people being sent home again with merely a leaflet. Not to mention NHS waiting lists if I wasn’t fortunate enough to receive counselling through university.
It shouldn’t be the stage where someone gets to A&E feeling suicidal before they can obtain help. We need a radical overhaul of education, of investment, of attitudes.
But for anyone reading this, I wanted to write the blog post I wish I could have read. To know there are other people that have felt, and still feel like this. But we still fight to lead ‘normal’ daily lives. And to reinforce the fact that no feeling is ever permanent, even when it feels so.
I know I’m going to qualify as a teacher, and I want to help ensure that no young person ever feels the same as I’ve felt.
And now for the cheesy part (if this wasn’t enough already) – this is to you know who, for being the kindest, most compassionate stranger I’ve ever ‘met’. For showing me I can feel happiness even in the darkest of times. But most importantly, showing me that even those I don’t know, can view me as a whole person and not just a condition x