Learning to accept and deal with feelings
Those of us who are unfortunate enough to experience mental health problems such as depression or bipolar disorder often hide our illness. In turn it can consume us until we can’t carry on living our lives. We hide feelings, thoughts and emotions because of the stigma which is present in society today.
Stigma associated with mental health is prevalent despite the work being done by a number of organisations worldwide. People fear talking about mental health as they feel they will be looked down on by society or seen as an outcast.
My experience with poor mental health began when I was 13 years old. I’d just started secondary school and was struggling to fit in. I had to no female role model to turn to and my dad was like an alien to me. We didn’t talk or communicate at all. We saw each other in the house and that was it.
As the weeks went on I became more isolated, lonely and just plain sad. I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to, so I kept all my feelings and emotions bottled up inside.
At the end of first year I did receive some help from the school chaplain, but I didn’t benefit as I was unwilling to co-operate. I refused to work with them because I was scared, worried and self-conscious.
Not opening up
I asked myself what people would think if they found out. What would teachers say? How could I ever make friends? Like many teenagers I kept these feelings bottled up and never spoke to anyone about them. This was despite numerous efforts made by my family to get me to open up.
I lived like this up until two days before my Junior Cert was due to begin. The feelings I had inside me kept building up and up and there was nothing I could do to stop them. I was confused. I couldn’t stop my thoughts from racing and I just felt lost in a world that didn’t want me. Three years had gone by and I wasn’t feeling any better. I was spiralling deeper and deeper into a dark place and I felt I couldn’t stop it from happening.
Crying for help
One day it all changed. One day I decided to do something which was not a good idea as it was self-destructive. My suicide attempt was a way of looking for help. I know now that it was indeed the wrong way of seeking help.
I was given the help and support I needed, although deep inside I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready to begin the road to recovery and once again I didn’t co-operate. I let myself fall deep into depression and things began to get worse for me. Once again I kept my thoughts, feelings and emotions bottled up.
At the age of 15 years old I became a “cutter”. It began with a cut or two every now and again, just enough to draw blood. But that changed as I soon became addicted. My life centred around when I could get my next fix. I was an addict and cutting was my drug.
One day, from deep inside me, I found a spark of strength. Enough strength to ask for help. This time I was ready for it. I didn’t like the person I had become so I reached out. I approached my year-head. We talked and worked together. This was the beginning of my long, hard road to recovery.
Although I had finally taken this first step, my self-harm persisted and I learned there was no quick-fix. I began seeing a psychologist and a psychiatrist. I was prescribed medication and when things still didn’t improve I was admitted to an adolescent unit to get the help I so desperately need.
It was there that I began to have a relationship with my dad. It was there that I met some amazing people and began to gain control over my self harm. I became the Siobhán I once was!
It was hard and long but I made it out the other end. I’d gained control over my feelings and addiction and I began to feel happy again.
It is because of my experiences that I’ve have chosen to speak out. At the age of 13 years old the world is a scary place, but with added feelings of loneliness and isolation it becomes even scarier.
Sharing and talking
I’ve chosen to share my experiences – not to look for sympathy or pity – but to show it’s OK to talk. I want to try and help people who may be going down the same dark road I once did. I didn’t talk to family or friends, and I thought I didn’t want help. In fact I did.
I’m happy that I’m alive and I can share my story. I hope that somebody will read this and realise that there’s always hope. Your family, friends, things you love doing, the love an animal has for you – all make you who you are. It’s your reason to live.
At the time I felt there was no way out but I was wrong, there is always a way out. You may feel there’s no help around or that nobody cares about you. But that’s not true. There’s always a reason to live.
Finally in the words of Donal Walsh, “suicide is a permanent solution to your temporary pain”.