After a few hard years of a large amount of family bereavement, there was a day at school where I fainted for the first time. I hoped this was a one-off, but the fainting grew more and more until it was twice a day and was seriously affecting my life. My behavior started to get worse and I found myself getting a lot angrier with teachers. I had various medical tests, saw many specialists and yet nobody had an explanation for what was going on.
That was until one day in A&E. After explaining what had happened in the years prior, a doctor approached me and started to explain what post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is. He worked a lot of the time with the navy and saw similar signs in what I was experiencing and what the people he worked with experienced.
I finally had an explanation for what was happening, but I was still so confused. The only thing I really knew about PTSD was that it was what people got fighting in wars – I would never have thought that I was experiencing it at just 14. It turned out that instead of fighting a physical war, I was fighting a war inside my head. I knew hardly anything about mental illness and had absolutely no idea that it could cause physical symptoms.
But it turned out that this wasn’t half of the battle. I started to experience more and more discrimination due to people not understanding my illness. I started to be given far more detentions than I was before, with detentions given unfairly for a range of reasons, including for not doing enough work in a lesson where I ended up in an ambulance.
People who I thought were my friends started to turn against me, with people refusing to firstly sit on the same side of the classroom with me and eventually refusing to sit in the same room as me all together.
Eventually the situation escalated even further. One of my classmates’ parents wrote a letter to my school stating that I was a ‘danger and distraction’ to their child. My school reacted to this by not allowing me into any of my lessons unless my teacher specifically stated that they wanted me there. I was expected to sit in a room practically on my own all day and work out of revision guides.
Struggling with PTSD is hard enough on its own, but the discrimination I was receiving created a whole different fight.
To have education is a right that I was stripped of solely due to my mental illness.
I wish things could have been different. I wish that staff and students alike would actually ask about what was going on instead of making assumptions about me. Not many people knew about my diagnosis and the phrase “attention seeker” was thrown around far too often. Nobody at school ever spoke to me about mental health and I felt so alone in my battles. I started to grow so appreciative of the people who didn’t treat me any differently and the teachers that supported me all the way through. Although the fainting stopped, the consequences and judgement continued throughout my time at school.
With my mental health eventually deteriorating and later being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I realized how important talking about our mental health really is. I was diagnosed with anxiety at 16 just before my GCSEs and the response between how that diagnosis and my one of PTSD were treated were like night and day. One of the key differences was that I talked about my anxiety. I started therapy and was a lot more open with my teachers about what I was going through.
This is why I started to share my story. I talk about my mental illness in order for people without mental illness to realise how hard it really is.
I want people to realize that mental health should not be a taboo subject, and that talking about it can really help to increase understanding and decrease discrimination received due to illness. And, most of all, I talk about it so people like me at 14 realise that they are not alone in their struggles. That there are people out there who understand. And hopefully, as we talk about mental health problems more, less situations like mine will happen and that struggle will be just that bit easier.