Once upon a time there was a girl, about 16 or 17 years old. If you met her on the street you’d say she looked like a normal school girl.
However if you spent a little while with her you might notice a few strange things- like the fact that even though the sun was shining and the thermometer read 25 degrees, she would be wearing a long sleeve shirt. Or that she always folded her arms and never looked you in the face.
If you spoke to her classmates they’d tell you she was very different. This girl sat in the corner of her classroom and never spoke, and she spent most of the day writing lists. She cried a lot, refused to eat in front of people and was forever turning up at school covered in bandages.
This girl was me a few years back. The long shirts hid the scars from where I had cut myself and the lists were of things I wanted people to have if I died and those tears were because life just seemed too overwhelming. I went through a phase in life where I was so depressed I had lost the will to live. I honestly never thought I’d survive to see my 18th birthday.
I searched deep inside myself and summoned all the strength I could find and did the bravest thing I’ve ever done- I asked for help. At first I thought I was beyond all help and that there was nothing anyone could do. But I obligingly took the tablets and kept the appointment with counsellors.
Slowly I opened myself up to the idea that I could get better. Once that door opened and I let people in who could help me, I began to push everything unhelpful out. I surrounded myself with only the most positive things and people. It was like being surrounded with as much cotton wool as I could get my hands on.
The amazing thing about wrapping yourself in cotton wool is that you start to heal, just like the scars on my arms did when I bandaged them and protected the wounds from external exposure.
Eventually I felt happier and more at peace with the world. Little bit by little bit I started to unwrap the cotton wool and get back out into the real world. Every time I removed a layer, I grew stronger and my faith in myself increased. And I even started to see positive things in real world. Then, one day I realised I had removed all of my protection and (with the support of my doctors and counsellors) – I was actually facing the world with nothing but my own strength.
I did turn 18. In fact, I turn 21 in January. I still take the tablets and see counsellors, and every now and again I’ll have to wrap myself in cotton wool again for a while. It was a really difficult journey, and it still is. Once I thought my depression was too big and all encompassing to ever get through – but I did.