When you look back on your teenage years, you usually have the memories of parties, being social with friends, planning future career ideas, finding your way through puberty…
I remember illness.
I was forced to grow up quickly, at a young age.
While my friends were having their birthday parties, I was at home on the floor; crouched in a ball with my mum trying to feed me Parachoc through my wails.
While everyone began working their first jobs, I was in an Adolescent Clinic for sufferers of Eating Disorders.
During Graduation, I had Glandular Fever and was bedridden.
My first year of university had many absences, as I was diagnosed with Grade II Reflux Oesophagitis.
Depression was, inevitable.
And this depression eventually led to take the pain out somewhere.
I was about fifteen when I carved symbols into my forearms and wrists. I thought that if I was going to have them forever, they might as well have been interesting to look at. I remember when my Mum first saw the scars. It was a few months later and I was in hospital. The Nurse put an IV Drip into my arm, and when she left the room, my Mum caught a glimpse of the scars from the corner of her eye.
She gripped my arm between her fingers and hissed, “Never, ever do that again”.
And, I didn’t for a long time.
Her blazing eyes were enough to burn straight through me. I was afraid of her finding them again.
Fast forward a few years.
I had made it into University, was in a relationship and was eating anything I wanted. I was at the peak of my health. (For those who have chronic stomach problems, you would understand when I say that we all crave something we are not allowed to have. Mine was Curry).
There was not a dark thought in my mind.
I thought I had been cured.
I felt invincible.
Little did I know that Depression never really leaves. It waits, and even if you have years of happiness and health, it will return during your slightest weak point. It latches onto a part of you that is uncertain, vulnerable and misunderstood, and then it will literally feed off of you until you are worn out.
Fast forward another two years.
Things were very different for me. Changes had come, and I was not good with adjusting to change.
I was in a new relationship – one that was challenging and causing me a lot of unnecessary stresses.
I had chosen to focus on my new passion – Childcare.
As I was balancing fulltime study and fulltime work in a Children’s Centre my immunity was shockingly low. Every flu, Gastro Bug, rare disease that the children had – I got too. I put work and study before my friends and before my family, and things progressively got worse.
I woke up one morning, with Shingles in my neck and scalp, and I was bedridden for three weeks. In this time, I saw a glimmer of its return within my nerve pain, telling me that it was here to claim what was rightfully owed. I shrugged the feeling off, and returned to work… pushing my body to extremities.
A month later, with nothing much changed, I woke up with Shingles again. This time, I was out for four months. I had a complete nervous system shutdown. I began cutting myself again. There were some days where I would lie on the floor in my room for hours, just staring at the wall, crying.
I felt so much, yet I felt nothing.
It returned during that experience; swallowing me with a whisper.
One, two, three, four, five;
Once I caught a Cass alive.
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten;
I won’t let her leave again.
Why won’t I let her go?
Because she needs to suffer so.
Come to war with all your might,
but I won’t let you win this fight.
I did fight.
I fought until the end in December 2014. I woke up a few weeks before Christmas, and was unable to move. I had Chronic Dizziness, intense Stomach Cramps and constant Nausea. The Depression was having a field day with all of this negativity.But when I thought that this was as bad as it could get, the Anxiety attacks began.
I would be happy one moment and then absolutely terrified the next. My throat would close up, I would have difficulty swallowing and breathing and it felt as though I had a vice in my chest… ripping my muscle wide open. I stopped sleeping, eating, feeling anything but the symptoms, and the numbness brought on by the Depression.
I told my partner every day that I wanted to die;
that I would be much better off feeling nothing.
But I built up the courage to tell my Doctor.
Do you know what he said to me?
“There is no shame in having Depression and Anxiety,
considering all you have been through”.
If you are a sufferer, you would know that admitting that you have the problem is one of the hardest things to do. I gave him every excuse.
I am fine.
I’m bad, but not that bad.
I am not sure about you, but I feared anti-depressants and anxiety medication. I did not want to be addicted to something, or have the choice of abusing it. I refused it time and time again, until one day I had no choice.
I am still coming to terms with my suffering.
Due to my other health issues at the moment, I have decided to steer clear from the anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. I don’t recommend that choice to many. My circumstances make me feel that until I can manage the Invisible Illness and the symptoms that accompany it, the Depression and Anxiety will subside.
I will not tell you that I am miraculously cured and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I will not tell you to not find relief from the darkness.
I will also not tell you that I know entirely how to cope with this.
But, what I will tell you is to sleep on it.
The advice was given to me by an online Psychologist. She told me that for each time I wanted to leave, to sleep on it/wait twelve hours. And if you wake up feeling the same way, sleep on it again. Find the tiniest bit of happiness in your life and hold onto it with the tightest grasp. My happiness was very small. Breathing the fresh air, feeling sunlight on my skin, sitting in a room with scented candles…but small as it may have been it kept me going.
Most importantly, you need to know that there is no shame in having Depression or Anxiety.
There is no shame in asking for help, or telling your story.
There is no shame in writing a post that expresses your negative feelings.
We need an outlet, or else it continues to eat away at us.
I know that most people live in the shadows of Mental Illness.
We fear what it will do to our minds – that it will consume us.
We fear the reaction from others – being seen as weak.
We fear the medication – what it will do and the addiction.
I still have a long journey ahead.
And it is not going to be a casual walk with Toto down the Yellow Brick Road.
I will continue to suffer through the bad days and nights.
I will find every reason as to why I should give up.
I will struggle with managing the Invisible Illness and loneliness.
But for each time that I feel this way, I will tell myself to sleep on it.
I don’t know what will happen in the future,
I choose to stay.
Special thanks to my good friend Cass for sharing her story. Cass also runs her own blog promoting and advocating for invisible illnesses. She’s incredibly passionate about what she does and I’m glad to be able to call her a friend.
And always remember you are not alone.
You are loved.
Want to submit to this site and share your story, art, or article related to mental health or mental illness? Email firstname.lastname@example.org