Sadly, when the ways I was trying to cope became unsuccessful and in fact started to make things worse for me, I started to self-harm. I hurt myself for so many reasons: to punish myself for behaving the way I was; to have something that I could control in a sea of things that I couldn’t; to express the extreme hurt I was feeling inside on the outside as something I could see and at least deal with in some way.
Unsurprisingly, the self-harm was a catalyst for both me and the people around me to start figuring out something was really wrong here, and I wasn’t just acting out as an angsty teenager. For me, that made me even more afraid, and I started to try to do something more serious. I started taking overdoses and ending up in hospital, in the back of ambulances, and causing my loved ones even more despair. Luckily for me, I was clueless about such matters and not thinking clearly, so my attempts of suicide at that age although very real in intent, were never really life-threatening.
We started trying to seek help, but my family and I had never dealt with anything like this before and were very uneducated on the subject. The people who were supposed to help us, such as the mental health team at the hospital and the doctors we saw repeatedly, simply told us that I was a ‘bit depressed’ and despite evidence to the contrary, didn’t take me seriously.
I tried some counselling through the local doctor’s surgery for this ‘bit of depression’ but it failed miserably to do anything other than make me feel even more confused and alone. I remember my parents tried to help me see a private therapist at this stage, but the one we did go and see swiftly told me without much of a conversation, that she couldn’t help me because I was actively suicidal and couldn’t promise not to try again. That put an end to that avenue fairly quickly.
I muddled on for a while around age 17 and 18, not being successful at the college I tried to attend after school despite my high academic ability. My mind wasn’t with it and my heart wasn’t in it, to put it simply. I failed promptly and dropped out swiftly after that.
The self-harm continued as time went on and my anxiety grew higher so I retreated into the place that I felt safe, which was at home. I start to completely isolate myself and my anxiety became so high that I couldn’t leave the house. I was diagnosed with agoraphobia.
I remember a counsellor coming to the house to try and help me. She was very nice but didn’t seem to really listen to what I was saying and therefore couldn’t really help me. Then things started to turn around a little bit. I decided this was something I was going to have to take into my own hands, and I started to try and deal with my anxiety the best way I could. I left the house more, pushing myself to face it head on a bit at a time.
From there I started having panic attacks regularly and was diagnosed with panic disorder. I tried different medications for this and did have some therapy that helped a little bit, and I managed to get my anxiety in hand to a point. The mania and depressive symptoms eased enough that I was able to start to function more in my early twenties.
A Shining Light
I was able to go back to college to do something that was always my true passion. I studied animal care and did extremely well. My passion and ability for academics returned and I was able to utilize this and have two of the best years of my life. I found new friends, learnt a lot, pursued a dream of mine, and although I still wasn’t my full self, it was a shining light in a sea of dark times.
After that, I started to think that I had gotten over these hard times, that it had just been teenage troubles after all, and that I could move on. So, I planned to go to university to further my animal care knowledge and moved away with my boyfriend.
Unfortunately, being far away from my parents, my friends and my home didn’t have great results. I started to get very angry and became irrational at times. I struggled with depression and started to self-harm again. My anxiety started to creep up and my symptoms were once again undeniable.
The final chapter will follow in another post.