World Mental Health Day, the 10th of October. It’s a day for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy. It’s a day to raise awareness of mental health issues world.
It’s now the 13th of October as you read this. But I wanted to let you know that if you’re struggling you’re not alone; that it’s okay to say you’re not okay. The stigma surrounding mental health is real and it stopped me from asking for help when I needed it most. But it shouldn’t stop you.
This is my story. It’s gotten easier to talk about and share as I’ve grown older because I’ve realised how strong I am. I’m sharing it with you to show that you’re not alone.
I just want to warn you that what I’m about to tell you may be triggering.
So, let’s go back a few years.
2015. I’m in year nine. Halfway through I got glandular fever and it’s fair to say that it changed my life.
I struggled to stay at school. I lost my energy and became extremely fatigued. I had headaches constantly, with a migraine once every week to two weeks. I’d go to school only to spend the day in the sick room or go home. I had no idea what was wrong with me. I started to gain weight.
I then started to struggle mentally. I’m an overthinker and I noticed how much I’d drifted from my friends. I lost my identity and was trying to figure out who I was. Things got dark real quick. Especially towards the end of year nine. I hated myself. The number of times I’d cry myself to sleep. I never wanted to go out. I felt alone. From being extremely extroverted I really started to struggle socially. I became introverted and none of my friends noticed the change. I was still smiling and laughing with them, so why would they? But in reality I wanted to burst into tears, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. It was just life.
I think the biggest memory from year nine was how we would sit on the lawn and we’d talk or go for walks around the school. I started feeling a little left out. The conversation of self-harm came up one day: none of my friends could understand why people would hurt themselves. At this time, I was self-harming. By this time I realised I wasn’t okay. This conversation was one of the reasons I never spoke up. I told them that it was a way to release the pain that someone was feeling – this is why I did it; it allowed me to feel something when otherwise I felt numb. The stigma around it flowed through the conversation and I was scared. Imagine telling them that I was self-harming, that I was struggling mentally to get through every day. They’d never look at me the same way. As the school year came to an end, I realised how alone I felt.
And soon it becomes 2016. I’m in year 10. I’d hoped for a fresh start. My school had another learning path where we could attempt to pursue what we wanted to do before leaving school and so I chose that with only one of my friends. Looking back, isolating myself probably wasn’t the best idea but it really allowed me to start my road to recovery as such (later in the year).
I felt more distant from my friends. I felt more alone. I cried a whole lot more. I never wanted to go out and was anxious when I did. I used to burst into tears at school for no particular reason. The only thing that kept me going I feel was the fact that I was still with my teacher from year eight; she knew me and was there supporting me as best she could. I started to jump between friendship groups. I’m a social person and feel at home within conversations with friends. I was searching for myself. I was lost. I was lonelier yet. My headaches, fatigue and all that continued. Nobody could tell me what was wrong. I seriously started to think about suicide. And I wish I could go back in time and ask for help or say no when my friends asked if I was okay instead of saying yeah and laughing it off.
Then things started to change, ever so slightly. I saw a naturopath and he was the one to tell me that the fatigue and headaches were from glandular fever. I started to get acupuncture and the headaches started to disappear. But I still wanted to give everything up, including my sport. I’d had the worst season of tennis (due to my fatigue) and wanted to give it up for good. I guess I started my self-care journey. I started yoga and was consistent for a month and mum said it was the happiest I’d been and the most me I’d ever been. I’d stopped self-harming after admitting it to my best friend (she went to a different school and honestly she kept me alive). However, I was still struggling. I’d always be the one to help everyone else and make sure they were okay but no one seemed to notice that I’d started eating less or that I was quieter than usual. I had also developed a pretty unhealthy relationship with food. I’d stress eat, deprive myself and binge.
In all honesty, year 10 was a blur. I know I was extremely unhappy and definitely in a darker headspace the year nine.
School just wasn’t the place for me. Well, that’s what it seemed like.
2017. I was starting to figure out who I was. I had chosen the classes that I loved and I was excited to travel overseas later in the year. Friends seemed okay, I started feeling closer to them again. I’d hinted a few times that I’d felt extremely alone in years nine and 10. I was hoping that year 11 was where everything could go back to normal.
I then started working out. Initially, it was to lose weight. I had an unhealthy mindset. I hated my body, I hated myself. I wanted to be as small as possible. So, I could disappear. And also because I wanted to be skinnier for my trip to Europe.
Going to Europe was definitely a learning curve. I didn’t have any close friends with me and I jumped between groups as we had to explore in a group. I felt lonely and for the first time came to terms with the fact that I was lonely and craved having close friends. It was in Venice where everything got too much and I had a panic attack before we were about to leave to go out and have dinner. I blamed it on my asthma. I didn’t know it was a panic attack at the time but looking back it wasn’t my asthma and I remember how anxious I was. It wasn’t a nice feeling and I was scared because I’d never had a panic attack before.
After the trip, I think I was happier. I’d had a lot of realisations and decided to focus on my work, particularly my art, rather than my school friendships.
Oh, I think it’s important to mention that I started blogging in year 10. It started as a way to escape reality. I wanted to try and think myself happy by having a positivity blog. Blogging is something that stuck with me through all the tough times. It’s become a part of me. It became a release.
Back to 2017, towards the end, I started working out again (after stopping after my trip). Still with an unhealthy mindset.
I feel as though this is an incredibly long post of me rambling.
But anyway, 2018. Year 12. My final year of high school. I was excited to finish. I have to admit, I started the year feeling pretty good. I had roughly figured out who I was and started being myself. I think something that changed was how exercising became part of my everyday life. I still wanted to lose weight, but I really enjoyed the feeling of feeling strong. It was empowering. I mixed feeling about myself. I still felt lonely, but not as alone (to begin with).
Life seemed okay.
Until it wasn’t.
The thing is, everyone was in relationships around me. They’d all be getting cuddly and I just third-wheeled. I felt like a nuisance. I felt unworthy because everyone around me had someone and ignored me. I sank. I started questioning what was wrong with me. Why didn’t anyone love me? It hurt that I had to walk around the school to find my friends to hang out with them. I had to do this while I was in year 11 as well, I just forgot to mention it. I’d escape to the art rooms, the number of recesses and lunches I spent up there because it felt better to be alone while alone than alone while with the people I called my best friends. They seemed to have no idea.
I also got my P plates which meant I could drive by myself. Every now and then while driving to school or around the place driving into a tree seemed like an alright idea. I wanted to starve myself. I wanted to become as small as possible. I thought about self-harm again but I had promised my friend that I wouldn’t. I actually started to open up. I started to talk about the previous years and how lonely I felt to my friends only for them to say “I had no idea, why didn’t you tell me?” or something along those lines. It showed how well I hid it. I was always there for everyone, but I felt alone when I needed someone to talk to. I turned to my cousin a few times, she helped calm me down while I was in tears (I reckon this was more 2017 but it’s all a blur). But I still didn’t speak up and ask for help. I just hid away in the art room.
Another memory that has stuck with me is that one of my friends was asking if we were all okay, going around the group. I think it was Are You Okay Day? She asked everyone multiple times but asked me once. I was sitting down making myself as small as possible, ready to burst into tears at any given moment. I said I was fine and she moved onto another friend repeatedly asking them, as a joke to annoy them. If she’d asked again, if anyone had asked again, I would’ve broken down. I wished she did. I wanted attention, I wanted to feel loved, I wanted to feel not so alone.
It was during year 12 where I did start to put my health first, I started doing things to make me feel better. Finishing school, enrolling in uni, and working the whole of summer was amazing. I hadn’t felt so happy and content in a very long time.
Now onto 2019. It’s been one of the best years of my life. I’m the happiest I’ve been. I’m more open about how much I’ve struggled. I’ve made a group of friends that mean the absolute world to me. I feel good. I’m the strongest I’ve been physically and mentally. I workout to feel good. I’m rebuilding my relationship with food. I’ve only had a few nights spent in tears. I understand how important it is to ask for help and I wish I did all those years ago.
But it hasn’t been easy this year either. It’s been a new world. Making new friends and settling into uni was scary. I’ve still felt alone and questioned whether my friends are actually wanting to be my friends. I’ve still thought the “I wonder what would happen if I died?” except this time I know that I have a good life and want to keep living. I still get extremely anxious when it comes to doing things for the first time or talking to people I don’t know.
I’m not really sure what else to say. I’ve opened up to you. I’ve told you things I haven’t even told my parents and some friends. I want you to know that you’re not alone. I want you to know that my biggest regret is not asking for help and letting people know that I wasn’t okay. I want you to know that is okay to not be okay.
I want you to know that I am here if anyone needs to have a chat. I’m here to listen if you need. I found that talking to my blogging friends over the years really made me feel more loved than I did sitting beside my friends.
And I feel like this is a lot to take in. I’ve just filled you in with the last five or so years of my life.
I am okay now.
I understand the importance of taking care of ourselves both mentally and physically and I will continue to take care of myself, asking for help as needed.
I also just want to mention that I never went to the doctors or spoke to someone about how I was feeling. I really wish I did.
And if you’re feeling as though you’re not okay. Please, talk to someone. Below are some Australian organisation’s numbers and websites.
13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467
1300 224 636
1800 650 890
1800 551 800
Butterfly Foundation National Helpline
1800 334 673
Take care of yourself xx