To other people, what happened to me seemed like something that would eventually pass. Unfortunately, it didn’t. It felt like my future had ended before it even began. I felt like I was constantly drowning in my thoughts, so afraid of the world and of everything around me.
Throughout primary and secondary school, my depression and anxiety hit me hard and it didn’t help that I was bullied often. My mum spent a lot of time at my school fighting for my education and my safety. At the beginning of fourth year, I left school to escape the bullying, but it meant I didn’t get the chance to complete my GCSEs or A-Levels. Around this time, I started to become someone I wasn’t. I turned to drink, drugs and partying just to numb the pain. I was constantly having to distract myself from what was going on inside my mind. I lashed out at the people around me and I felt like a monster.
Two years later in December 2015, I woke up to news I never expected to hear: my friend had been brutally murdered. I seriously struggled to come to terms with his passing. I felt fear and anger at the many unanswered questions surrounding his death. I fell even deeper into a black hole, and at my worst, I felt so alone and began having suicidal thoughts.
In October 2016, I pushed myself to get a job, even though I was still struggling with my mental health. I had worked before, but this was my first job since losing my friend. I was working all the time in this new job, but it didn’t change how shit I felt. After two years of working, my mental health started spiralling out of control and I was exhausted all the time. I knew I needed help so I went to my GP and started taking antidepressants. I remember my doctor telling me I would feel a huge difference in a few months. Six months passed and my mental health had gotten so bad I was rushed to hospital by my mum. We sat in A&E nervously waiting on a member of the mental health team for eight hours. They arrived at 12am to let me and my family know I would be signed into Lagan Valley, Ward 12, because I was a danger to myself and others.
I spent my first days in hospital pleading with the staff to let me go home. I felt so angry that I was brought there and I convinced myself that nobody could help me. After being there for a while I started to settle in and I began to understand why I was there. The doctor who was assigned to me was, in my opinion, useless. He diagnosed me with schizophrenia, stuck me on some medication and that was that. I had to teach myself about my illness through multiple conversations with the nurses everyday. I struggled daily, but with my family’s support and a handful of good friends, I realised my illness doesn’t define me and I wanted to get better. I found that listening to music would help me ignore the voices in my head. I also wrote everything in a journal I kept while I was admitted. I knew I had to work hard to get stronger and get out of the hospital.
It’s been nearly two years since then. I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s been an easy road. It took time to get back into the swing of things because I felt safe in hospital. Being back in the world again was really overwhelming at first, especially now I was sober. My mental health is much better now as I’ve learned to keep myself in a routine and to take my medication each day & night.
I’ve found small ways to cope, like walking my dog regularly, who is my best friend without a doubt. I always try to find something beautiful everyday to stop myself from losing a sense of who I am again. I made a promise to myself to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health when I was discharged from the ward and I’ve kept the promise by completing a Level Two in Youth Work.. I’m trying to fight for more attention around mental health issues in our communities and I hope to be a great mentor one day. I still have some learning to do, but I know I will get there because, finally, I believe in myself.
To anyone that’s struggling, my advice for you is to please speak out and talk to someone about how you’re feeling. It’s okay not to be okay and talking about your problems is the first step. The people you love will help you through it, but it starts with you. It’s okay if you occasionally fall back down, but you will get back up even stronger because you are strong! Self love and some positivity are the keys to a happy life. And lastly, always remember to always be kind to others. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.