I’m Rachel and I’m 19. I have depression and anxiety. I have had both ‘officially’ for two years now but have had sad feelings for most of my life.
I was ill at first with glandular fever but afterwards, I was ‘sad’ all the time. I was lonely, closed up in my head and my thoughts wouldn’t stop talking. There was nothing I could do with my the voices that would tell me I’m worthless and I don’t deserve to be alive. I would doubt my school career, my life choices for the future and worry constantly about disappointing my parents. The thoughts would overwhelm me; the tears would never end and I always had a headache. There was nothing in the world that stopped these feelings. Then I felt numb. There was no emotion inside me. I couldn’t emphasise with someone or even communicate rationally with someone. My mum would think I was rude or going through a teenage ‘phase’. All of this accumulated in my mind as meaning that I was abnormal, that there was something innately wrong with me. People would ask me, “why aren’t you happy?”, and they couldn’t understand the thundercloud of desolation surrounding me.
I would self-isolate. I’d be too scared to go to the cinema with my friends. I was self-conscious about everything, I couldn’t complete a presentation in class. And I would spend days curled up in bed with no one talking to me; I would look into space. There were moments when tears would stream down my face for no reason. I couldn’t eat proper meals. I wouldn’t eat for days. I’d smoke too much to calm myself. I would faint every time during a night out due to the combination of alcohol and sleep deprivation. I’d sleep sporadically or too much. And I couldn’t contain my rage and would argue with my mother all the time. There were so many things that left me alone. I just couldn’t tell anyone. I wasn’t normal. And eventually, this led to self-harm; just little regular cuts to my left arm.
This all led to a breakdown before AS exams. I was stood in the queue for a public exam and I had a panic attack, the school had to notify my parents. Then, I was taken, rather forcefully, to the GP. I was assessed every month and eventually was put onto Fluoxetine, which kept under control the innate sadness but never fully removed the feeling of low self-worth and isolation. I was recommended counselling but I never got on with the therapists.
My best friend through all of this was my doctor. He was supportive, patient and understanding. I was lucky; not all doctors are patient or caring. He had my best interests at heart and he saved me; I would feel comfortable telling him about my past month and that’s what everyone with a mental illness needs.
My boyfriend accepted me. He never questioned anything but would accept every day as they came because he loved me. I needed him daily; he was my whole support system. I never knew it but I took advantage of that. Everyone who has a mental illness needs someone like him; he was amazing because he was so open minded and calming.
I still struggle nowadays. At uni, I’m alone. I don’t have my boyfriend or my parents looking over my shoulder. However, it’s making me stronger because I know that I need to look after my mind. My brain cannot always be in control because then I’m not happy; I need to be proactive and keep healthy. It’s not something I would wish on anyone but I’ve learnt that I need to take my life into my hands and do what makes me happy every day, even if it’s just reading a chapter of my favourite book or making pancakes.