It’s a question I often ask myself. Should I be honest? Lay all my cards on the table? Do my closest friends and family need to know every little detail about my struggle? If I did tell them, would they even care? Or would they just give me the generic responses I’d heard my whole life? “Everyone feels like that”, “No one likes work, you just do it”, and the ever popular “Man up!” After all they probably have their own issues to deal with, right?
From as far back as I can remember, I’ve always struggled with my mental health. As a child, I suffered with insomnia brought on by anxiety. This would manifest in a range of worries; “What if my parents get a divorce?”, “What if I can’t pass that spelling test in school?”, “Will I ever develop super powers?”. As you can see these were some pretty serious concerns. Ones that a six-year-old boy certainly wasn’t going to answer.
Over time these concerns developed and became much more serious; “What if I die in my sleep?”, “What if I’m left on my own?” and “Do I deserve love?”. This little voice of self-doubt I had always lived with had done its job. It had managed to turn me into a self-loathing, angry teenager who wasn’t very nice to be around. I readily accepted this as the person I was and the person I was always going to be.
It wasn’t until my grandfather died, that the weight of the world truly became too much for my shoulders, and I finally crumbled under the pressure. I remember that day like it was only yesterday. I woke up from another restless sleep and after staring at my social media account for an hour, I headed downstairs. That day felt different. It was harder to move, my stomach hurt, and a wave of sickness washed over me. Then out of nowhere, tears began to stream down my face and the air failed to leave my lungs. As I fell to the floor in a broken mess, my mum flew in from out of nowhere. With a concerned look on her face - that look which only a mother can have - she held me and asked a simple question: “are you ok?”. In that moment those words, which I’m certain I’d heard before, felt like the warmest of hugs and I uttered the words; “I want to die” - I felt ashamed.
Before I knew it, I was sat in the doctor’s office, discussing my thoughts and feelings - not something I was particularly comfortable with at the time. So, what if I was depressed? That’s fine right? The doctor would give me some medication and then I’d be back to my normal self. I had to admit, I never thought I’d suffer from depression. After all, I’m strong willed and the people who suffer from depression are weak right? Another shameful moment of my inexperienced mind. My friends and family played a huge role in my recovery; a group of people who were loving, kind and understanding. If it wasn’t for those people, I wouldn’t be here today.
So, where do I start when it comes to talking about living with mental illness? For me, it begins with accepting myself for who I am. Sharing my thoughts and feelings, both positive and negative, with the people closest to me. Start small, after all you don’t have to share everything in one conversation. Believe me when I say I understand. I understand that opening yourself up, even to the people closest to you, can be scary. But it can also be an amazing feeling once you do. Mental illness doesn’t define who you are. In fact, it’s a very small part of what makes you, you.