So, something extremely devastating and shocking happened today. A friend of mine committed suicide.
To be fair, I was never really very close to her. She’s one of those people you would pass in the corridor and say hello, and maybe sometimes have a short conversation with. But I don’t know her very well.
But it doesn’t matter if I know her, really, this news still affects me so, so much.
Because I relate to it so deeply.
It was World Mental Health Day a couple of days ago and I was actually debating whether or not I should open up a little about my own mental health struggles in conjunction to that but in lieu of this tragedy, I think I will.
I have suffered from depression and (still suffering from) anxiety for most of my teen years. It started out with something small. Actually, I don’t even know how it started. It just sort of crept in until it’s too late to escape. Until they had such a strong grip on me.
And I started hiding it. I started hiding it behind a mask I so intricately wove to make myself seem carefree and happy all the time, so that no one will suspect a thing or ask too many questions. I may have been the quiet girl, but I forced myself to laugh a little harder at jokes, to smile a little more all the time, to always be conscious about the expression I’m wearing on my face.
I made sure that no one – and I mean no one, not even close friends – knew about what I was going through.
I’d have days where I felt so numb and horrible that the only thing I want to do is curl up into a ball and do nothing. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to school. I didn’t want to do the things that I normally love doing, such as reading and writing.
I just felt so empty.
It started to get more prominent when I was about 14 and just went downward from there and it hit an all time low when I was about 17, which was only last year, in 2015.
I don’t think I’m ready to disclose how hard it was for me at the time, but know that it was really, really bad. I could barely find the motivation to do anything.
My mind went to really dark places at that time and if I had acted on any of those thoughts, I don’t think I’d be here today.
And, while I’m glad to say that that horrible period of depression has since passed, my anxiety hasn’t exactly gotten any better, both social anxiety and anxiety in general. If anything, it feels like it has gotten worst, though I’m sure that is not the case.
I’m fairly certain that the reason why it feels worst now is because I don’t have any close friends and family in Australia with me to support me, unlike the friends I’ve made since the beginning of my school years (I’ve been studying in the same school since I was 6 so I never really had to force myself to make new friends). The problem has just become more prominent now that I don’t have anyone to rely on.
But that’s beside the point.
My anxiety has prevented me from doing a lot of things. I tend to decline invitations to hang out with potentially new friends and would find all sorts of excuses not to go.
I’d use the self checkouts and, if none were available, I’d just completely skip out on buying whatever it is I wanted to buy, no matter how crucial. I’d just put something down and never get it to avoid asking the salesgirl if they had stock of that item.
I’d find a reason to avoid any parties that are held in my dorm and run away just as church ended to avoid talking to the other international students, or give an excuse as to why I can’t stay back after church.
And, recently, I’d buy stuff online and have it delivered straight to my room to avoid meeting people.
Every time I made a mistake, I’d think of the worst possible scenario. No matter how much I scored in a test, it wasn’t enough until I had a perfect score. I worry about whether I can get into university, even if my current grades way exceed the minimum requirements.
I’d think about everything I do way too much, be extremely self conscious about every single word I say or action I take.
Of course, that’s not the extent of my anxiety. It’s gotten really bad to the point I’d even get panic attacks recently.
I mean, I guess to a certain extent I’m getting better. There are times when I’m just completely anxiety free and can go through the whole day without overthinking at all and just live it one day at a time. But then, my anxiety would come crashing down and I feel like it’s never going to end.
Once again, there’s a lot more dimension to my struggles that I’m not quite ready to share yet but I will someday.
I’m not better yet, but I’m getting there.
I know I don’t have a success story, where my anxiety and depression are completely gone and that I’m better now. Because the truth is, I’m not. And I don’t think you’ll ever be completely free of them, not in that sense anyway. I think it’s something that may come back at any time.
But you can stop letting it have a grip on your life.
You can learn to let go, to stop letting your mental health define you. I know it’s hard, but I think the most important step is to acknowledge it. And be willing to change.
I think it’s crucial that you want to get better. That you want to let it go and to stop letting it dictate what you do and how you feel. And from there, I think it’s important to do things that scare you everyday or will help you deal with it, even just a little.
Keep a journal. Go for a walk. Catch up with that person you’ve been putting off. Visit a place you’ve never been to before.
There are so many little things you can do to help yourself.
Of course, the best thing is still to seek professional help, especially if it’s extremely bad, but there are also little things you can do to deal with it.
And of course the worst thing you can do is avoid situations that will trigger your anxiety.
There’s a whole lot of psychology thiing that I could add here to explain it but I won’t.
Please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You never are, and you never will be. There are always other people going through the same things you are, even if you don’t know it. More often than not, these people could be right under your noses. Keeping quiet about their struggles as well.
Just speak up. Open up to a close friend. Or if you don’t want to talk to someone face to face, there are always places like 7 Cups of Tea or eHeadspace (if you’re in Australia; I’m sure there are local hotlines and online chatrooms too) where you can talk to strangers anonymously or professionals for free.
Draw or write or do whatever it is you do to express yourself and sort out your thoughts.
Please, darling, don’t keep it in. Promise me. Never keep it in. That’s the worst you can do.
It’ll get better, I promise.
Life will get better, no matter what you think. You still have the whole world out there, right at your fingertips, just waiting for you. You have your whole life ahead of you. Your mental health will not have it’s hold on you forever. You’ll let go, and chase the thing you love, find people of your kind, who will love you for all that you are.
Life will get better, I promise.
Death is not the answer. It is never the answer. My child, there are still so many things waiting for you out there. The pain, the sadness, the struggles, they’re not worth your life. No matter how bad they may seem at the moment, no matter how much you want the voices to stop and for the demons to go away, it’s not worth dying for. No matter how crippling and how horrible and how consuming the darkness may be, it’s not worth it.
Your life is worth so much more than that.
It may seem tough now, but it’ll subside. It will get better. And you’ll finally have your life back. The only thing is that you push on and you hold on.
You are not alone. You are never alone.
You are worth it.
Promise me, you’ll always remember that.
PS Zoe Sugg, or Zoella, has also written a blog post outlining her experience with anxiety with I will link to right here. It’s worth a read. It’s very inspiring and motivating and I think it’s good to read about other people’s experiences too.