You'd be Surprised
I am quite open about my mental health, and I share a lot about it, which I'm going to keep doing because luckily it means my friends feel comfortable coming and talking to me about their own mental health issues. Most people I know are affected by mental health, I get messages from so many people sharing their own story with me, some people I haven't spoken to since High School or earlier, some people I've spoken to only once or twice in my life. It's so great because whilst it's so daunting every time I share something personal about my mental health as soon as those messages come flooding in I know I'm not alone.
So, my friends see me being vocal, but sometimes they're still afraid to be vocal themselves about their mental health issues as they don't see other people being vocal too. I always tell them you'd be surprised how supportive people are and how many people relate when you share your experiences. So I got in touch with my friends and family and asked them to share something about how mental health has affected them - either personally or through someone they know - anonymously. Or to allow me to use some of the messages they'd sent me in the past about their mental health. Some of these submissions come from people I would NEVER have imagined to have mental health issues, and I had no idea what they were going through but this blog post started that discussion and for that, I am so so glad.
There are a lot of similar themes here and a lot of things I relate to. The problem of not thinking you're deserving of help because your problem isn't big enough, thinking you should be able to cope on your own and feeling weak because you can't. The relationship between mental health and uni, not feeling good enough, pretty enough, wanted enough. Reading all these comments from my friends I just wanted to scream "but you are, you are enough, you are more than enough" but at the same time, I get it, because I've felt and I feel a lot of what they're going through. Especially the idea of not wanting to get help because you feel like you're faking and that your problems aren't real problems. That really hit me. It's not something I talk about a lot, feeling like an imposter, but to know my friends feel like that too sometimes really did help me.
Sometimes it's so hard to figure out how you're feeling and why, and what, if anything, caused it. Even if you know, it can be hard to articulate it. When talking about mental health with friends I sometimes get a 'lightbulb' moment, listening to what they're saying, where I think that is exactly what I've been struggling with but I just didn't know how to say it. So I hope reading their experiences will help you somehow too, even if to just show how very true it is that you're not alone.
Thank you to everyone who shared a little part of their story...
"I don't know if my story is a mental health one, but I definitely don’t think I’m the only experiencing something like this. I’ve struggled with low self-esteem since I was about 7 years old. My Dad and my brother used to come up to me with an alarm clock at 6pm telling me I couldn't eat after that time, they would tell me I was fat and that I had to lose weight, and that no one would ever marry me. Then I started getting bullied at school, they created a FB page, where they’d discuss me, etc. I don’t know why I was chosen as a victim, but whatever. It’s been many years since then, but I’ll always remember that feeling of feeling down, thinking of a school as hell and being scared of breaks and certain lessons. Then Sixth Form happened. It was the best experience ever in my life. I still had my ups and downs, but it taught me a lot, including the way I should feel about myself." - Anon
"At the age of 19, I got into a relationship, in which he would mentally abuse me every day. I was scared to get out of it – he’s the first dude who I started a relationship with, and, secondly, what if no one [is ever] actually gonna need me? I didn't think that his constant pressure and abuse were affecting me, and I was staying true to myself, it really wasn’t the case. I remember watching Desperate Housewives, and there was a scene when a wife shouted at her husband, and I was terrified of it! Like what is she thinking, [the] man is always right, he always goes first. And it scared me so much when I realized how deeply my bf actually got into my mind and messed with my values and feelings. Months after we broke up I found myself at a party, I wasn’t feeling the best at the time but I was happy to be free, and do whatever I want in life. So there was a guy who was always hitting on me but I overheard him saying that he actually only liked me when he was drunk and that I’m really not the best looking. When hearing that I immediately thought – what the hell am I doing here, I’m so miserable, my life is full of stupid things, no impact of me to the world or people, whatsoever. Even the guy who always liked me is thinking of me as an ugly one. I remember I was hysterically crying on my way back home, and I had a plan, which I’m really not proud of. I thought that there is really no point of me staying on this planet. I knew I was gonna go take our blue small knife from the kitchen, and then go to the bathroom and lock the door. I’m very much afraid of cutting – but I thought that cutting my veins would be the only right path. I was so sure of it, I knew every detail of it, had images of the blood running down my arms. The only reason why I didn’t do that is funnily enough because of my dogs. I knew that they were gonna wake my mum up, and I didn’t want her to see her that. I still don’t know if that was a serious decision in my head, or I was just desperately seeking help and didn’t know how else to attract someone’s attention, that I’ve really not [been] doing well for a long time." - Anon
"I don’t know if being self-conscious counts as mental illness – I guess no, but it’s definitely not something I’d want anyone to have. My life is passing by, while I’m just sitting at home crying, because I don’t think I’m beautiful enough to go to places, meet people, etc. I constantly compare myself to everyone, I always judge people based on their appearance – just because from the very early age it was in my head that if you’re not pretty, you’re nothing. It’s hard for me to apply for internships and jobs because I think I’m not good enough. I’m even cutting down on meeting my girls in public places as I always feel like the “fat, ugly friend”. I haven’t had any relations with boys in like 8 months, coz who would need me? Something that scares me a lot is that my suicidal thoughts might come back. And they’ll be “deadly” serious this time." - Anon
"It’s funny how most people wouldn’t even think I’ve got problems since I’ve got this bubbly, funny, and loud personality. There are much more serious problems out there and I’m not trying to pay attention to specifically mine. I just want you to know that we’ve all got “demons” inside of us, and even if the person is smiling doesn’t mean they feel the same inside" - Anon
"I have a friend at uni who has some pretty serious mental health issues, at the beginning only I knew, she hadn't even told her mum. It was a lot to deal with. I'm so glad I was there for her but I didn't realise what a toll it was taking on my own mental health." - Anon
"I never really sat down and actually thought about all the stuff I was going through. I always thought that other people had it 'worse', needed the services more than me. I should just be able to deal with my problems myself, talking to friends would just be complaining and I would bug them, and I thought it would make me weak to admit it was all too much, that I felt I had to do it all alone." - Anon
"Trying to do exams when you can barely get yourself out of bed and the moment I start working I ultimately trigger a panic attack which ultimately ended up with me curling up back into bed was not great! I eventually reached out for help, because I knew it was asking for help then or risk losing my degree! It was then I got diagnosed with anxiety, low moods and low self-esteem. That was 6 months ago and since then I feel no-one wants to deal with me. My tutor, the GP, the uni well-being service, even the IAPT service." - Anon
"I've been in therapy for fourth months so far, since then I've had to explain my situation in detail to three different therapists. Each therapist has just passed me onto the next as if I'm just another case, which I guess I am. Sometimes it makes me want to answer yes to the question: do you think about killing or hurting yourself, just so that they would take me seriously!" - Anon
"Only a month back into uni and I'm already feeling everything building up again, the pressure to please people who can never be pleased by me, the realisation that I am all alone, and it's my fault for not reaching out and making more friends at uni, the responsibilities that my parents have put on me that they don't realise drain me." - Anon
"The people who know [about my mental health] call me strong, then why do I feel so weak like I'm just one more step, one more deadline away from completely breaking? I know I have people, my friends, my boyfriend, I know my parents love me deep down, I know these things. But everyone is so far away, I don't want them to hear me breaking down, I don't want them to have to sit on their phones hundreds of miles away and just hear me sob and know there's nothing they can do." - Anon
"I kind of feel like in my mind I've changed a lot in the past few years at uni. I'm more hard on myself and when I get down or hard on myself it takes me longer to kind of get out of that hole. The anxiety didn't much help as it feels like there are more things going wrong and I get stuck in my own head and thoughts too much." - Anon
"My anxiety is triggered by class and seminars where I felt like everyone is watching me all the time which has affected my participation. Then I guess when I feel down I feel like I'm in a dark place and all [the] negative feelings kind of rush in about anything and everything." - Anon
"I've been to the GP and have scheduled meetings with wellbeing advisors which are really helpful. I'm on propanolol but I try to only use it when I really need it. I have this online course for CBT too which I think is really helping. I never much cared what people thought before which is weird but I do just have to break the cycle and get out of my own head." - Anon
"Having grown up with family members who have struggled with their mental health, I have particular insight into the effect it has on those around it. Mental health does not begin and end with the individual who suffers from it. It spreads like wildfire" - Anon
Stories have been edited for length and clarity. If you've felt inspired reading these and would like to submit something about your own mental health please get in touch with me via Facebook or Instagram. If you want to stay completely anonymous you can send an e-mail to the blog under a pseudonym!