Despite how far conversation and medical support have come when it comes to mental health there is still a taboo surrounding it. People are discriminated against, too afraid and embarrassed to speak out and then when people are brave enough to speak out they are often let down by those they confide in. Mental health can be complex and mental illness can affect anyone, at any age and at any time. #TimeToTalk is where people share their personal accounts with mental illness and encourage those who are struggling to seek help but it is also a time to support and congratulate those who are doing well in their recovery.
I was 11 when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. There is a big difference between feeling fed up, trapped in a situation and lonely compared to depression and while we as a society are doing well in encouraging people to speak out and seek help, I fear we are becoming a society that self diagnoses and unfortunately uses mental illness’ as excuses to not do things and for attention.
I was a very happy, outgoing and bubbly child. I had lots of friends and my dream was to be a singer so I snapped up and often created any chance I had to perform for people.
Where It Began
Depression hit me when my Granddad passed away when I was 10. He had been unwell for many years and Dementia had taken hold of him, I don’t remember him as he was, only in a quiet non-emotive state. Being young you’re not told of the severity of someones illness and I had no clue that he was dying. One day we went to visit him in the Peace Hospice and we were sat in the residential garden, the Sun was shining and I was in my own little bubble listening to a CD on my portable CD player with oversized headphones while my parents sat on a bench with my Granddad, I didn’t pay him much attention, instead I was daydreaming of singing on a stage and thinking of how amazing it would be to sing my own songs one day. When it was time to leave we all went inside and took my Grandad to his room, my parents said goodbye but I skipped ahead to the exit knowing we’d be coming after school the next day.
The next day, after school I was on the coach home and I saw my parents at a different stop to the one I usually got off at and I knew instantly my Granddad had died but I tried to convince myself I was wrong. I got off and I knew Mum had been crying, I asked Dad what had happened and he was reluctant to answer. I remember crying and looking up at the coach to see all of the school children staring back at me and just wanting to go back in time to a few minutes before I knew, wanting to go back to the day before and pay attention to my Granddad and give him a hug and tell him I loved him but I would never get that chance. The darkness set in immediately, it was more than grief and it was too overwhelming to comprehend. If I’m honest I don’t remember much after my Grandad passed away because of the severity of my mental health but I know I went to a therapy sessions which were useless as I continued to struggle after they stopped. I remember one in particular, I was sat on a big pink sofa with my Mum and she was crying and she asked the therapist ‘what do I say to her when she tells me she wants to die?’ that is all I can remember but it stayed with me, from that day on I refused to admit to my Mum that I wanted to die.
In the picture above I look so happy on my last day of primary school but actually I felt very suicidal and overwhelmed with the changes that had happened and were about to happen. A lot changed for me, I had lost my Granddad which made me very physically and mentally unwell. I developed IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome brought on by grief and stress would flair it up. All of this put an irreversible strain on my family as I was missing a lot of school which also resulted in losing friendships just as I moved up to secondary school. My younger Brother Daniel had to watch me go through all of this as well as experience, and be effected by, all of the family fall out that came with it and I can only apologise that he had to go through it and helplessly watch me decline and our family fall apart.
When I moved up my health got worse, I was bullied and months at a time of school were missed.
When I started secondary school I stopped eating because I was scared I’d be unwell and I felt like I didn’t deserve to eat but looking back I’m not sure why. I know I disliked myself but part of it was also down to feeling so low that I couldn’t bring myself to prepare anything or push myself to eat any food put in front of me. I wouldn’t eat anything until I got home at 5pm as I didn’t want to risk being unwell and school, not that it helped much as I was unwell either way. My relationship with food still isn’t perfect and I tend to over analyse what I eat and when I eat.
I continued to have therapy and family counselling was advised but it never took place. I continued to feel suicidal and planned to take my life many times. My physical health deteriorated and as a teenager I weighed just 5 stone and wore clothes aged 11-12. Apart from IBS I found out nearly 10 years after going to the Doctors for help that I also have stage 3 Endometriosis and when I was finally diagnosed I broke down and wished so desperately that I could tell my younger self that I was right. So many Doctors told me that my physical illness’ were all in my head or that I was pretending to be unwell as I didn’t want to go to school but actually it was the opposite, I enjoyed school and why would I want to deprive myself of an education ?!
I had a social worker and numerous CAMHS workers and I just feel I was massively let down by them. They never took the time to actually understand me or my issues and only went by what Doctors and therapists said which was a load on nonsense. I was made out to be a dramatic girl who made out situations were worse than they were and that everything was in my head and I had no physical illness, despite being on medication for IBS as well as medication for my mental illness’.
I closed myself off and made out I was better than I was. I said what I thought they’d want to hear and when I did desperately try to ask for help for bullying and issues at home I was shut down or outed to my school and my family. My school said they couldn’t do anything about the bullying because I ‘wasn’t in often enough’ and my issues at home which were more serve than the ones at school were swept under the carpet.
My school attendance and mental health got so bad that I was to be put in an in-patient education centre. The constant ‘its all in your head’ remarks from Doctors, my school and even members of my family made me believe I was more unwell than I actually was and that entering a psychiatric unit where I would also gain an education was a good option. My family and I looked around the facility and had meetings with the people who ran it. The children in the unit had far more complex mental illness’ than I did and there was just no way it should have been suggested for myself. I was accepted and all ready to go when on the morning I was meant to go my Dad stopped it all from happening. At the time I was very upset as I thought that going there was the only chance I had of ‘curing myself‘ but not going was the best desicion for me.
Off To College
When I started secondary school I was a young girl who although felt suicidal also hoped that moving up would be a new and happier chapter in my life but it was 5 years of absolute hell. I never had real friendships and was bullied online and told to kill myself. I left school with only 3 GCSE’s as I had missed too much time to take part in my other exams and I had lost all of my confidence and was a nervous wreck, a shell of a person who was very much underweight and still suicidal.
I had always wanted to be a singer and I used to write my own lyrics but as my depression took hold it all became just a dream. Had I had the confidence I would have chosen a Performing Arts course at college but instead I chose Child Care and Early Years.
I actually did quite well in college and although my anxiety made me cry most days I slowly gained confidence and began to make friends. Out of the friendships I made I am only in regular contact with one of them. My friend Leanne has been such an amazing and integral part of my mental illness recovery.
My Lowest Point
In 2013, during my second year of college I really wasn’t coping with my depression and while I had been on different anti-depressants in the past I wasn’t taking anything at this moment in time. I found that I always had side effects so I was always wary to take them. I went to my Doctor and told her how I felt and she gave me another anti-depressant to try, and quite frankly it had disastrous consequences.
I plummeted into a depression I never knew I could experience, I felt every emotion and nothing all at the same. I would call my Mum into my room in the early hours hysterically crying, trying to explain that I wanted to die but I couldn’t just come out and say it as 11-year-old me had sworn to never tell her again. I went through stages of sleeping all the time to not sleeping at all, over eating to not eating at all and this went on for a while.
In the early hours one night I had an overwhelming urge to take my own life. I sat there for a couple of hours thinking there was no way out of that feeling and that it was the only thing I could do. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and go mad and destroy everything in my room but I still I sat in silence in a colourless existence ready to attempt to end my life. Instead another idea came into my head and I began to self harm, I thought if I could get the emotion and the hurt out of me then maybe I would feel a relief of some kind and I did but only for a very short time and then the shame set in and a ‘what the fuck am I doing?!’ mentality.
All I hear when it comes to mental illness is speak up, share how you feel, seek help and I did right away, just to the wrong person. I confided in a girl in my college class who I had become really close with. I messaged her to say that I didn’t know what was going on with me but that I needed help and that I came the closest I ever had to taking my own life but instead had self harmed. She had always said to me ‘you can always tell me anything, I’ll help in any way I can’ and that is what I had in my head when I confided in her, big mistake. She was no help and even went as far to say that I was bringing her down a few weeks later despite only telling her how I was feeling when she asked me. I said if you don’t actually want to know the truth about how I’m feeling then don’t bloody ask.
As I had had therapy from the age of 11 I had become a very honest person and hadn’t learnt that sometimes I needed to keep a little bit back so I didn’t leave myself venerable and get myself hurt. I learnt this the hard way over the years and still unfortunately do it now from time to time. Perhaps I’m doing that now writing this.
I tried my hardest to repair the friendship but she turned so childish and either completely ignored me or spoke very little to me in person a few times when I tried to speak to her and it honestly broke me. I still feel a guilt for some bizarre reason, if I had never told her how I felt we’d still be friends, and while I know none of it was my fault at all it hurts me to think that she just dropped me so easily.
I later told my Mum what I had done and she was amazing, as always. I stopped taking that medication and tried my hardest to fight my suicidal tendency and self harm urges but I struggled for 2 years with self harm and still get the urges now whenever I feel low or frustrated, its like my brain re-wired itself to choose that as an outlet instead of something less self-destructive.
In mid 2013 I briefly dated a boy I had gone to secondary school with and really I was in no mental state to enter a relationship but I hoped it would be good for me. It lasted a couple of months and he ended it by text saying he felt he liked me better as a friend and I just felt so used and dirty. I began self harming again and after college gave up on myself completely and didn’t leave the house.
Time was passing quickly and my anxiety worsened. I felt suicidal again and called my Doctor and asked her for help. I told her that I couldn’t leave the house and that I had stored up my anti-depressants and that I felt that I was on the brink of taking an overdose. She told me that she’d call me in two weeks to see how I was doing but to call 999 if I felt I was at risk of harming myself. My anxiety made me think that I couldn’t take my life because my Doctor would be phoning me in two weeks and I wouldn’t want to let her down. Two weeks passed and I sat anxiously with my phone waiting for her to call but she never did and that was at the end of 2015.
I wasn’t keeping track of how long I was staying in for but towards the end I was housebound for 9 months and then again for 2 months. The whole time I was housebound Leanne kept me in contact with the outside world and when I did leave the house for the first time in 9 months she was the first person I called and I cried when she told me how proud she was of me. While I was at home Leanne told me about her friend Jack and that when I’m able to get out that she’d want me to meet him and even said we’d make a great couple.
A New Start
2016 was the year everything changed for me. I had slowly started to get out of the house in 2015 and venerate into town with Mum closely by my side. I met up with my friend Josh a few times and cried when I left Watford to meet him as I was so anxious but Josh and I had become quite close and he, like Leanne, kept me in contact with the outside world and was someone I could confide in. 2015 soon passed but I still wasn’t leaving the house much. At the start of 2016 I tried really hard to leave the house and focused on being well enough to celebrate my birthday in April with friends.
In April I wanted to meet Leanne and our friend from college Sam for my birthday and with Mum accompanying me I even went and got my nose pierced !! As time went on and I felt a bit more comfortable going places and Leanne suggested a girl’s night at her house. I hadn’t left Watford for over a year and I was so anxious but excited too, Mum and I even made a cake for me to take. Once there Leanne suggested we nip to Tesco to get some food but I wanted to stay at hers with her dog Bella but I went anyway and thank god I did as that is where I met Jack for the first time. Leanne got to scheming right away and demanded he come to the pub in a weeks time and he agreed. I didn’t want to go to the pub but I knew I wanted to see Jack agin so I went and we awkwardly sat next to each other and didn’t say much that night but he messaged me on Facebook and we spoken for days and I kept forcing myself to go to the pub to see him. Fast forward and in June we will be celebrating 3 years together !!
I was very honest with Jack about my issues and expected him to leave me too but he never has and has never judged me for anything that I have been through. He has loved me in a way nobody ever has and while love can’t cure my depression it definitely pulled me from a very dark place. I have struggled throughout our relationship but he has always given me the support I need and I would be lost without him.
As I’d been able to leave the house, reconnect with friends and make new ones and find myself a boyfriend I thought I’d jump right in the deep end and get myself a job too !!
I started working for Lush Watford in August 2016 as a Christmas temp. I struggled with my anxiety, lacked a lot of confidence and would often cry on my way to work thinking I’d made a huge mistake and took on a job too soon but didn’t want to let anyone down so stuck with it and I’m so glad I did. The staff there are amazing and although the team has changed a lot over the years, new amazing people have continued to join and their support has helped me through so many difficult times.
How Am I Now?
I entered 2019 feeling very low, lots of events had taken place in a short space of time and my mind couldnt cope and pretty much shut down. I was signed off for a month and I’m just getting back into the swing of being back at work but I’m not doing as well as I’d like and wish I had more time to sort myself out but I need the money and I need to stay active. I barely left the house when I was signed off and felt myself slipping back into a comfort zone that my anxiety had created for me years before. Work gives me a reason to leave the house and surrounds me with good people who will always help me.
Endometriosis can make it difficult and sometimes impossible to have children. Finding this out was hard enough but to be told I have low Ovarain reserve and an AMH level of 10 has been something that still doesnt seem real. I go through stages of high emotion and devastation feeling trapped and that I wont ever be a Mum and then I’ll think, if its meant to be it’ll happen. I’ve always wanted to be a Mother and as a child I spent years in my room thinking of a better future and hoping I’d still be alive to one day have a family of my own so the thought that it might never happen is something I’m still trying to come to terms with.
I’m proud of how far I have come. I am a strong person who is very resilliant and strives for a better future. The events of my childhood will always haunt me and still have an impact on my life today but its not about what happened, its about how I deal with it and how I let it impact my life now.