Wednesday 10th October, is World Mental Health Day. It is a day to remember those who have fell victim to poor mental health, those of us that have been lucky enough to beat our demons and also to raise awareness of mental health in all genders, ages and races. The internet can be a massive pile of shit, but in times like this the internet can help us spread our stories to help other’s battling similar issues and to end the stigma on mental health. So here’s my story:
EXCLAIMER: Before I start, this post will include triggering subjects like disordered eating, self harm, suicidal thoughts. I also wrote a piece on my disordered eating last year, which is here. My thought process has come a long way in a year since that last post, so some points will be told again in a different way. This might turn out to be an essay.. I’m sorry!
I was born to a single mum, an only child. I was extremely shy and introverted from a super young age, I remember sometimes not even being able to open my mouth and say bye to family friend’s when we left their house.. it’s like my mouth was sewn shut and the words couldn’t escape. People thought I was rude or weird for not being able to speak to certain people, think it stressed my mum out a tonne too. Going to playschool wasn’t any different, I begged my mum to stay when she tried to drop me off, the anxiety of being left on my own overwhelming me. She had to stay at playschool with me for months before I felt comfortable enough to start my schooling journey on my own. The same problem arose when I started first school, although this time my mum couldn’t stay, so I found comfort in the teaching assistants in the classroom. Months went passed and I finally found my footing with the other kids, I started to make friends and started to enjoy school slightly. Although any type of show that I was forced to be in or having to stand up in assembly was a constant strain on me, I was still very shy and didn’t like all eyes to be on me. It still makes me feel nauseous and this is 20 years later!
School was a constant battle, although I loved learning and was a really good student, my shyness and the fact I was bullied by some girls I considered friends at the time really hindered me. When I was in year 7, so ages 11-12, was the first time I had suicidal thoughts, I used to look in the medicine cupboard and wonder if I would be able to sleep for a long time if I took loads of tablets. The bullying got worse throughout the rest of the year and to make it worse only one teacher, who was the deputy Head, believed me and my mum about the bullying from this one girl (she was a shy kid too, so was an unlikely bully). I was receiving nasty texts from her, she would turn my other classmates on me and the more I tried to stay away from her, the more nasty she would get. I finally left that school to move up to Secondary school where I thought things would get better, a fresh start.
It wasn’t a fresh start at all, secondary school is a huge jump for a shy, introverted, anxious girl. I started getting involved in what other girls were doing: dating boys and then getting down when our obviously too young and flimsy ‘relationships’ broke down because they kissed another girl, starting puberty and the hell that came with periods and a changing body, complicated friendships and the biggest one of all – the start of my disordered eating and self harm journey. I was actually introduced to self harm by some friends at the time, the thought never ran through my head until I saw them take apart a sharpener and use the blade to run lines down their arms, it started to become a coping mechanism amongst the pressures of general teenage life and my on going obsession with my weight and looks. This wasn’t helped by the fact I was harassed and stalked by an older guy for a few years, he’d send me dozens of horrible text messages, call me 50 times a day, find out where I was to confront me. I was honestly petrified of going out in case I’d see him and he would start on me in public. I was so sick of being harassed by this guy that instead of calling the police I tried to befriend him, the harassment stopped but he ended up being super needy and tried to talk to me all the time. When I wouldn’t reply to texts or agree to meet up with him the harassment started again, this was an on going cycle for a few years before I finally got the courage to break off the ‘friendship’. During all this I got my first proper boyfriend in this year, it was an intense relationship that spanned a couple of years on and off. I was honestly heartbroken when it ended, my mental health deteriorated a lot during the months we broke up and I found comfort in pro-ana sites online.
I found school hard, it is not something I would go back to repeat, even if you paid me, but nothing could have prepared me for my two years of College. I was forced to study a-levels instead of going to Media College, instead of being within a walking distance of home, I had to travel for 40 minutes on bus to get to lessons. I had never had freedom like it, in some way this freedom led to me to start being a tad rebellious and doing things I would never normally do. Although I didn’t want to be there, the start of college went okay, I started to make a group of friends, me and my ex got back together and my mental health improved. It wasn’t until around Christmas that things started to get bad again, a few people I was friends with turned on me, my boyfriend left to visit family for a while and I was left feeling excluded and craving the attention from the friends that were isolating me. I did some stupid shit to try escape my problems, which only lead to me being even more excluded. I started trying to make a whole new persona for myself, wanting to be anything but me, the self harm started again and the disordered eating was on overdrive, I even started carrying around a notebook to track calories everywhere I went. Me and my ex broke up again for good, and being the insecure, lonely teenager that I was, I jumped into another relationship with a friend of mine. I wouldn’t say that relationship was toxic, but we were toxic for each other. He has issues with self harm and depression which only exaggerated my own self harm and insecurity issues. The bullying at college calmed down a little, I was still being semi-excluded but I stopped being the rebellious, party girl and began to calm down and in the end the bullies were my ‘friends’ again. The day before my 18th birthday in February my friend told me that my boyfriend at the time was sexting other girls, it took me months to come to terms with it and I still stayed with him even though it was making me more insecure by the day. We finally broke up in the Spring and I jumped in and out of relationships for the next couple of years, all with guys that had their own personal issues.
I left college with mediocre exam results, I just couldn’t concentrate and just wanted out of a-levels. I was lucky enough to get into a Foundation level Animation course within the college just down the road from my house. I made friends with a great group of fellow nerds and started a new relationship with what I consider to be my first proper adult relationship. I was much happier than in previous years, but I still found education very unfulfilling and I struggled on this course as it was a lot more technical than I first expected. I started working part time at a shop on weekends which stressed me out to no end as I had no free time, this brought back my disordered eating and I started to join pro-ana groups on BBM (Blackberry Messenger). It was my dirty little secret, no-one at the time knew about these groups but me. The girls on the groups would give us tips and encourage us to binge, purge and restrict, even telling us what foods were best to binge on before trying to purge it back up. Our weights were constantly updated, sometimes even multiple times a day. I really struggled with purging as the thought of throwing up gives me really bad anxiety, I manly just brought up bile rather than actual sick. I felt like I wasn’t worthy of being considered to have an eating disorder, I couldn’t purge properly and I always broke the cycle of restricting after a few weeks and started binge eating again. I still remember some girls dropping out of the group and the other’s would tell us they have been taken into inpatient care and that hopefully they can get out soon and join the group again, in a way, I think all of us should have had the same treatment, we were all out of control.
I quit my part time job after only 3 months as I couldn’t get my assignments done as well as work, I was lucky my student loan covered me through uni. I quit the BBM groups and got a Samsung phone so I wasn’t tempted to join the groups again, I stopped looking at pro-ana content online so much and I started eating regularly again. This was going well until out of the blue my boyfriend at the time ended the relationship, he bailed when the going got tough (this happened more than once). I was naive and young, he was a couple of years older than me and should have known better, but during this break he would still string me a long and message me all the time and even come round a few times. I was heartbroken when I saw online that he had his girl mate stay over on Halloween night where they shared the same bed, they both told me nothing happened but how can you believe people that can easily lie about other things? My confidence was in the mud and I left town for a long weekend to visit a friend in London, it was a breath of fresh air to leave all the sadness back home. Long story short, we got back together but the trust was broken, I had constant anxiety and looked out for any signs that he would end the relationship again. Low and behold, 6 months later he ended the relationship out of the blue again, blaming the fact that I wasn’t sure if I wanted children in the future (I was just 20 years old, I didn’t know what I wanted for breakfast the next day, let alone a 10 year plan on when to have children!). It came apparent that he had bad depression, I wouldn’t take him back and he would come out and find me in clubs and threaten to kill himself if I didn’t get back with him. This went on for a few months, I was constantly anxious and on guard as I didn’t know whether I would get a call to say he did actually go through with it. We hooked up a few times until it got too much and we cut contact with each other, he got the help he needed, entered a new relationship and had a baby and I didn’t get the help I desperately needed and entered a flimsy holiday romance with a guy at a festival. My self esteem was in tatters, he would openly admit girls who were obviously prettier and ‘skinnier’ than me were really hot and I kept trying to dress and be someone I wasn’t. As most holiday romances go, I was left devastated and used, I gave up a lot for this guy on the promise that it was going to turn in to a real relationship, which it never did. It was a whirlwind month and a half and in the end my friend made me see sense and I broke it off – he did apologise to me quite a few months later, think he grew up by then.
I had one more flimsy relationship with another guy I met in a club (this is becoming a bit of a trend). The relationship started off good, he got me a job at the place he worked at and there wasn’t too much drama. However, he forgot to mention though that he worked with his ex, so I was the new girl coming in to ruin their relationship more, wasn’t the best start at a new job. The drama continued with this ex of his for a month or so, until one day we decided to be civil at least. She left the job we were all at and things were okay, I knew from the start of this relationship that something was wrong but it wasn’t until a Halloween party that I saw the bad sides of this relationship. He was so very needy, he wouldn’t let me by myself or talk to people without him being there, he got upset because I wanted to have a girly dance with friends without him there. This went on for months, I wasn’t in a good place either as I was still hurting from the holiday romance from the summer and my self esteem was still super low. I ended up breaking it off in January as I couldn’t cope with trying to heal myself and him too, he was hurt understandably but he started to become even more needy and quite cruel after the break up.
I started to become very disenchanted with where I worked, the management kept changing as did my hours, working with my ex was a constant strain and I spent all the time I wasn’t at work worrying about work, it felt like I had no me time where I wasn’t stressed. I had been stopped with self harming for about 8 months by this point, it was just before my 21st birthday and I booked a lot of time off of work to try to de-stress and enjoy my birthday. It was a great night and I also met a new guy (I know what you are thinking, but it actually worked out this time!). We started seeing each other a few weeks after we first met and started a relationship a few months after that, and the rest was history – been together for 4 years in April now. I stopped self harming completely, although I really worried about my weight all the time I wasn’t engaging in any disordered eating behaviour and I stopped having as many bad thoughts. It was an up and down few years as it took me 2 years to find a job that I found stable in (I’ve been in it for over two years now) and I took a while to pass my driving test, but I got there in the end and it helped my mood so much. With the encouragement from my boyfriend and friends, I went back to pole and aerial, discovered bootcamp and started sorting my life out.
My Boyfriend has been a constant support, I really don’t know where I would be without him. The new friends and the awesome old friends that stuck around have also helped a tonne through this self discovery journey of mine. Pole, aerial and bootcamp gave me something to be proud of which I haven’t had for a long time, I’ve met a bunch of wonderful people through these activities and I’ve realised that being skinny or the prettiest is never what I needed – I needed to be happy.
I’m happy how my life has turned out now, but in a way I will always grieve the time I lost to my problems. I missed out on studying a subject I would have loved all because I didn’t have the confidence (or guidance, but that’s for another story!) to set out my own path. I had barely any money and even lower confidence from shitty jobs that I thought were the only thing I could apply for. I let people dictate my life and stayed in contact with people that should have never been in my life in the first place. I am learning to not dwell on the past though, slowly but surely.
With bad times, come the good. My life has left the dark, long tunnel and I am travelling through the light now. I got lucky, very very lucky, and I am grateful for the opportunity to the live the life I have been graving for years.
“I learned that my sadness never destroyed what was great about me. You just have to go back to that greatness, find that one little light that’s left. I’m lucky I found a glimmer stored away.” – Lady Gaga
The UK Government has appointed a minister for suicide prevention and also invested £1.6 billion into mental health services in a five year plan. Hopefully this will help the nation and pave a way for the stigma of mental health to end.
Samaritans – For everyone 116 123
Childline – For people under 19 years old 0800 1111
The Silver Line – for older people – 0800 4 70 80 90
Featured image courtesy of Mind, https://www.mind.org.uk