I can quite easily say that this is most likely the hardest blog post I’m ever going to write because it’s something that is a huge part of my life and has changed me in every way: my mental health.
Just a disclaimer before I write anything else, my methods of helping myself are by no means clinically correct and I don’t label myself as having any mental disorders because, as the title suggests, I am undiagnosed.
In the very second I’m writing this I feel pretty good and I have been for the past few days but it’s still a daily battle for me. Okay, so let me start at the beginning. Prepare yourselves for a very, very long story because my story, like most others is by no means a short, simple one.
I was always a very excitable and chirpy kid. Around the beginning of 2011, when I was in Year 9, the low self-esteem and insecurities started to kick in and I found myself for the first time in my life really struggling to keep up socially. Soon into the year I became best friends with this girl who we’ll call Chloe. Chloe was already best friends with a girl I’ll name Anna. We became the closest of friends with Chloe and me soon becoming closer than she ever was with Anna. That was until Chloe and I went on school camp and I fractured my wrist. I decided to stay at camp for the fun of it but I started becoming extremely paranoid that I was annoying them and being a nuisance. This led to me becoming much more reclusive and eventually I cut myself off.
After camp Chloe kept asking me what was wrong and I thought it was best to lie – stupid idea, I know – and say I was fine when in fact everything was just starting to break inside of me. This continued for about a month until I wrote a status on Facebook. Chloe confronted me about it and I lied, again and said it was about someone else. Not even a few minutes later I felt like I just couldn’t lie anymore and I told her the truth. That marks the end of my friendship with Chloe and as a result our group of friends started to alienate me. This group of girls I would spend five hours a day with in class now wouldn’t speak to me, so you can only imagine what this did to me. At that point I really only had one friend…Anna. Anna stuck by my side the whole time.
Fast forward through the two months of summer holidays during which I spent every night crying myself to sleep because I ruined the best friendship I had ever had. But with the ending of that friendship the loneliness started escalating as I realised how few friends I had. For a while in 2012, during Year 10, I sat with other girls in my house and Anna and I grew even closer though I still blamed myself for ruining not only my friendship with Chloe but Anna’s too. A few weeks into that routine most of the girls we sat with moved to sit somewhere else but never told us. Now, not only had I single-handedly ruined mine and Anna’s relationship with Chloe, alienated my closest group of friends but these girls who I was fairly good friends with had left.
Being in a new class in 2012, I had to make new friends. We started sitting with them at lunch and I became really, really close with a girl we’ll call Chrissy. I opened up to her about my feelings about something that closely resembled depression. I was still drowning in my own mind but every now and then I made it back up to the surface for a breath of air. It was probably in the middle of the year that I then became friends with my current best friend, Karin. We all went on school camp and Karin and I became much closer there to the point I could say I had two best friends; Chrissy and Karin. Something I think many people think is that in that state of mind you can’t ever have fun or maintain relationships but for me I know it was more the waves of loneliness and hopelessness that hit now and again.
It was one of these waves that really got me trapped and I planned my death. I had no intention of making it to 2013.
Alas, I made it. It was 2013 and I was still alive. I still had these urges and often I lashed out in harming myself. 2013 continued like that so I began seeing a counsellor at my school. But it was just a constant back and forth so once again, I planned another suicide on my 16th birthday (in 2013). I wrote all my letters and planned it down to the last minute. The day came and it hit me that I had my friends and brother with me who I knew I could not leave behind. You might all be thinking: “Isn’t there more to your story from 2013?”, “What else happened?” but the truth is, it was so empty and there was nowhere enough good to outweigh the bad so I don’t remember it.
2014: The year I put my foot down and decided I was 100% done with this bullshit. I realised that I was worth something and my death wouldn’t be at my own hands. It was the year I was finishing high school and in the New Year I started a Happy Jar. My diary, once a place of mixed emotions, had become a compilation of my worst and darkest thoughts and as a very visual and logical person, the idea of being able to physically see my happiness really appealed to me. Before bed every night if I was going to bed happy then I put a star in the jar. I also wrote down especially good memories that I wanted to remember and on New Year’s Day I’d tip them out and count the stars and read the memories.
The rest of 2014 still had the bad days, especially when it was cloudy and cold. On days like that, I really struggled to find the energy in myself to smile or talk to anyone, even to Karin or Chrissy. To be completely honest I’m still like that and so as much as I really enjoy the feeling of the cold and rainy days, they often send me back ‘there’. That said, my visits to the counsellor slowly decreased as my work load increased and I was cracking not only under the pressure I put on myself but the pressure I also felt massively from my parents. Nevertheless, throughout the year I kept up the stars in my jar and with all the events and work I was able to remain relatively distracted.
In August I wrote Ma a letter about how I had been feeling for the past few years. My thoughts leading up to, during and after this are such a long-winded story that I’ll write a separate post about it. Although it didn’t take the exact path I had wanted it to, at least one of my parents knew and just that lifted so, so much off my chest. From that point on there were no more plans to die, only to live this time.
In my last week of school I mustered up all the strength I had and finally properly apologised to Chloe. After all those years, when she forgave me, I could finally forgive myself and move on with my life. I was ready for a fresh start – the clouds lifted and I could be happy more easily.
2015 finally arrived and it was the best year I’d had since 2010. Things finally felt perfect and I was putting in a star what felt like every night. I made amazing new friends in 2015 and for those of you wondering what happened to my high school friends, just like I warned you, my story is extremely complicated so again, I will be writing another blog post to explain everything in detail. Until about October last year, I thought I was really over everything but then ‘it’ hit me again and although it was easier to handle this time, I was trapped again.
This time around I started feeling a lot more anxious and more regularly than I ever had before. Late November I experienced something that was so terrifying and new to me…I had a panic attack. I don’t really understand what happened. One minute I was bowling with my friends the next I started feeling claustrophobic and it felt too dark. I felt like I didn’t have enough oxygen or space so I left. On the walk to the bus stop I was really struggling to breath and once I got there, I was feeling so overwhelmed, I started tearing up but I only let a few escape but held it in for the most part. When I got off the bus I still felt the same but my arms had started tingling and the second I got home I just started sobbing. I was so terrified. Even as a naturally anxious and paranoid person, these feelings have become more frequent but now without proper reasons.
December was my hardest month of 2015 which is ridiculous to think considering it was my 18th birthday and one of my favourite Christmases. Irregardless (yes, I know it’s a double negative but I like the word!) the wave completely knocked me back and I was back to 2013; cuts and all. I wouldn’t smile or laugh genuinely for days on end, stopped eating as much (which for those of you who know me is absurd because I love eating), I was sleeping 10 hours every night plus 3 hour naps and I was still exhausted and the tiniest negative comment or remark would leave me overwhelmed and in tears. I went out with my friends after my 18th birthday a couple times and drinking was my escape. It was the only time I could let go of what was happening at home and in my head.
I started 2016 on a really bad note which is expected when you go to sleep at 11:23pm on New Year’s Eve on the verge of having a panic attack but after moping around on New Year’s Day I decided to stick to my ritual of my Happy Jar. I read the memories and counted the stars and my improvement revived me.
For anyone curious as to how my 2015 went: I had 259 stars compared to 229 in 2014 – one whole month’s worth of days that I was happier!
So far, it has been such a huge success for me and if any of you try this method I would love to hear about how you’re finding it and if it helps.
My Goal? To continue learning from these experiences but to also overcome the negativity and to hopefully get to a point in my life where I have 365 stars because there wasn’t a single day that was so bad that I went to bed in a bad place.
If anyone is reading this and has ever felt the way I have and still do, please reach out to someone and know that you’re really not alone. I’ve even found so many of my friends have actually been struggling with similar issues and I never would have known.
If you don’t have anyone in your life you feel like you can talk to or you just don’t feel comfortable doing so:
- There are many suicide hotlines available internationally (link: http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html )
- For general stress and anxiety management I’ve found the Infinite Storm app that really helps me. It just has different types of rain sounds which for some people can be therapeutic (link: https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/infinite-storm-relaxing-stormy/id576664798?mt=8)
- Methods to resisting self-harm urges that have worked for me:
- try and do something to distract you i.e. talk to a friend, family member or pet, watch YouTube, TV or movies
- Releasing all your emotions in a healthy way i.e. writing it all down or painting, drawing, or any other creative outlet you prefer
- Other ideas:
And as I personally feel that there is still a huge stigma surrounding self-harm in today’s society, if you are interested in learning more or hearing another person’s experiences, I found this extremely interesting: https://aeon.co/essays/how-self-harm-provokes-the-brain-into-feeling-better.