My struggles with mental health are something I’ve always been incredibly open about and happy to share and discuss. It’s something that I believe is the key to being okay with what I’ve been through, and understanding that my mental health issues don’t leave me isolated and alone.
When I was 17 I suffered with my first breakdown. It was something that at the time I had no idea what was going on, and far less understanding of how on earth I was supposed to deal with it. I’d lost all my friends, I was out of work and I’d recently developed Tinnitus – a lovely constant ringing of the ears.
I remember quite clearly the day I realised something wasn’t quite right, and it was the day that I was riding the bus from my house into town and I had some sort of panic attack and literally ran off the bus, pressing the emergency exit button to get off. The world felt like it was spinning at speed, like I was drunk, I couldn’t control my breathing, and I just began running – with no end in mind.
I spent weeks and weeks constantly having these same panic attacks, and feeling in a state of complete and utter hopelessness. I couldn’t do anything without a massive weight of anxiousness sitting on my shoulder, I couldn’t sit in silence without my ears constantly screaming, I felt like I was at the end of my tether.
I can only describe my next few months as the darkest, scariest phase of my life to date. I longed for support, I longed for help. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t seem to make it all stop. The only option I had available, despite my reservations, was seeing a doctor.
I was terrified that the only result that would come of seeing a doctor was being force-fed a load of pills that I didn’t want, or ending up in a hospital that I had no control over. Despite being terrified of the whole situation, I made my way in and delivered my doctor the news that I felt I was going insane, and that I didn’t know what was going on in my head.
The fears I had were taken away in an instant. No pills. No hospital. Just a phone number. The phone number was for a local charity called Lowdown – a service for 16-25 year olds who need support. I gave them a call, booked myself an appointment, and went down to begin talking through my problems.
I never knew what to expect when going in, but I needed to have no apprehension. I sat in a room with a lady, and she just listened. Once I had finished talking she asked me questions based on what I’d said, and then offered me advice on how to fix certain things that I’d felt had gone wrong. From offering me advice and help on how to apply to college, to providing information on places to meet new people in a non-awkward ‘Hi everybody, I’m new’ kind of way.
It wasn’t exactly a straight-forward process immediately. I didn’t instantly develop an immunity to those thoughts; if anything, I might have dipped lower in the next few weeks. I’m open to talking about the fact that suicide was a very enticing idea to me at the time. I spent a period of time wandering around the nearby high-rise car park, desperately wanting to pluck up the courage to be able to jump off and end what felt like a solid misery.
Thankfully I never had it in me to cause harm to myself, or worse. No matter how much pain I was in, I was never able to cross the line of actually doing it. I was lucky. Many people aren’t able to resist that urge, desire or feeling to do so quite as easily.
As time went by, weeks and a few months passed, I began feeling better. I got myself busier, I got myself focussed and I got myself some new friends – a solid support network who were there for me when I needed it, and continue to be there for me to this day.
It never fully went away – it’s still within me now, and over the years has decided to poke its ugly little head every now and then, but now I know how to deal with it much better. It hasn’t always gone well, if anything, sometimes it’s really damaged me, my relationships and my decisions. I’ve made some huge mistakes with people I care about because I’ve been so focussed on, or distracted by, my mental health. But, I’ve come to understand that it’s part of my story. It’s part of who I am. I have days where I make bad decisions. I have days where I frantically hate life and everything going on, and hate myself, but with the right support network, the right amount of focus, I can do it.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to seek help if you suffer with any kind of mental health condition. Whilst it may feel daunting, talking to friends, family or professionals can be hugely pivotal in the treatment and recovery process.