This post contains mentions of self harm and suicide. Read at your own discretion.
Another year, another Mental Health Awareness Week. Now I’m not going to go into the statistics of how many million people are affected by mental illness and what we can do to support them. There are a billion more informed websites who can do just that. I’m here, writing this post, to talk about a) what I’ve learnt about myself and the cocktail that is my mental health over the past number of years, and b) to answer the question posed by the Mental Health Foundation: ‘surviving or thriving?’. Hopefully, some of you will be able to relate. If not, hope you’re interested in learning a few more things about me. I’ll try not to ramble, but I’m not promising anything.
So my mental health story begins . . . I want to say childhood? According to my mum, I had to go to therapy when I was in school because I would have an incredibly difficult time speaking to people or participating in class. I didn’t know if this was due to the fact that I was painfully shy or something else entirely. I had a thought about this from time to time in the past year, like maybe I had selective mutism back then. I couldn’t rule out that possibility. After all, selective mutism usually co-exists with not only shyness, but also social anxiety. And, boy, did slightly older me had social anxiety (not that I was officially diagnosed with it, but I really think I have it). My excruciating shyness held me back from getting involved in many things—both in school and out. And if it wasn’t for my mum forcing me into playdates or signing me up for loads of out of school activities, I wouldn’t have had a very fulfilling childhood.
Then we fast forward to year eight, wherein my mental health took a massive turn to the dumpster. So if my childhood consisted of me not speaking, therefore friendless by default, then year eight was the year people showed some interest in camaraderie. Or so I thought. Maybe they did intend on becoming my friend at first (mostly thanks to the one person who pretty much knew everyone in the circle and thus brought us all together). And as someone who was (unbeknownst, at the time) flattered and happy with the friendships I was finally having, I got clingy. The circle grew overtime and, by that point, it was clear that some preferred hanging around others. Others other than me.I didn’t realise it until much, much later, but I abandoned and changed so much of my personality, even my hobbies, just because I thought they would remain friends with me that way. Lesson learned: don’t do that. What makes matters worse was that one of us held an intervention, wherein we all stood around a chair and a person has to sit in the middle whilst everyone said what they most didn’t like about them.
I don’t know what this person’s intentions are, really. Maybe to get our feelings out in the open and be honest to each other? Sounds plausible. Honestly I don’t even remember half the people who were there. All I remembered was when my turn came around, all I heard was how annoying people thought I was and that they don’t particularly enjoy my company. That destroyed me. At the time, I was dealing with a lot of other shit as well, like my extracurricular activities (that my mum, once again, made me join)—and they were also all breaking apart due to fallouts.
With all of this happening and with my self-esteem sinking ever lower into the negatives, I became depressed. Though I sometimes self harmed, mostly I just spent a lot of my days isolated. My mum was my biggest supporter—and she did so much to repair the damage. Externally, anyway. Inside, I didn’t know what to make of anything. It even blinded me to my mum’s support at the time. I thought to myself, if no one wants me around, anyway, then what was the point of being around at all? This led to more dangerous thoughts, death and suicide included. But I never got around to any of that. I couldn’t. Because whilst I didn’t see the point of being around, there isn’t a good reason for me to leave, either. So I was basically stuck in ‘purgatory’, in a sense.
Thankfully, things picked up in the coming years. I made more friends, friends who are truly there are for me and who will communicate with each other (nicely) to overcome issues. My passion for reading and writing was reignited. My bond with my family has only gotten stronger since. I learned what depression was when I was sixteen, but was in denial of it for so long because I didn’t think my situation was that extreme. That is, until I met and talked to people about it, most of whom I met in university. Then, and only then, did I accept depression as part of my past. I know I was never formally diagnosed with it—at this point, it would be way too late—but I can’t just outright deny it, either. Not after I’ve done it for four years.
Since university, I’ve learned a lot about my mental health. I’ve also accepted the fact that I have some degree of social anxiety. I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me sooner, but considering my childhood, everything clicks. And thanks to a good friend—and I’m sure I’ve mentioned this on my blog multiple times—I am currently in the process of getting my ADHD diagnosed. There isn’t much I can say about this one in terms of my past and all because it’s never occurred to me, my parents, or anyone else, that I may have it. I don’t blame them for not realising. I doubt I exhibited symptoms at all. Hell, I didn’t speak during most of my childhood. As soon as this goes through, this would be my first official diagnosis. Which is more exciting that I anticipated it to be. Having a professional diagnose you is always more confirming than doing it yourself based on information collected from multiple sources.
So back to the original question: surviving or thriving? For me, I was surviving mostly in the beginning. Or barely, since I could hardly get a hold of myself in any way. I began thriving when I finally accepted myself and grew in more ways than one—physically, mentally. It hasn’t been the easiest journey. Though I’ve found ways to conquer my anxieties and fears, some days they get the better of me. Even so, I can happily say that these days, I’ve been having more good days than bad ones.
If you’ve made it this far into my post, then thank you for reading! I hope some of you found this helpful in any way and that you’ve enjoyed reading about my unfortunate past. Just remember that there’s nothing wrong with reaching out or seeking help and that things will eventually look up. I’ll see you all in my next post. And remember to stay kind.
Until next time,