May 8, 2013

LisaI was 20. I came from a loving family, gained the highest results throughout my education and was in the final year of my Speech and Language Therapy degree.

I knew about mental health issues; close relatives experienced anxiety and depression.

But I couldn't be affected by mental health problems...could I?

It started with low mood

It started with low mood and I just didn't feel like my confident, bubbly self. Soon the days of self loathing turned to weeks and then months. I was approaching my final year exams and success had always been a strong motivator for me but I found myself thinking 'what is the point?' 'what value do I have to offer the world?' I became apathetic and lost all interest in myself and those around me.

After another day of feeling worthless I decided to have a hot bath. Suddenly the thought of self-harming popped into my head. I was on the brink of despair, feeling as though no one would miss me if I was gone. However, I knew this was untrue and my inner self shouted at me for having such thoughts. I realised it was time to talk. My mother is an extremely strong woman and I knew she would support me and tell me what to do. The first question she asked is "why do you feel like that?"

What was wrong with me?

Why is a very good question, but a question that I struggled to answer. 'What was wrong with me? Why was I suddenly feeling like this?'

I spent hours trying to attribute my feelings to something or someone but could not figure it out. Only when I dated the change in myself did I realise it started around the time I had the contraceptive implant. I scrolled female health blogs for hours trying to learn how or why this had happened. What I read suggested that there is a link between depression and being on the contraceptive implant due to a hormone imbalance.

I went straight to the family planning clinic and waited patiently to be seen.

The female nurse escorted me to a consultation room to discuss why I was there.

I explained that since having the implant I was feeling low

I explained that since having the implant I was feeling low, apathetic and felt I had put on weight. She interrupted me and stated that this was not to do with the implant. This was a very unlikely symptom and my sudden change in mental health must have been attributed to my recent life changing trip to South Africa.

Did I hear her correctly?

"I know my own body, and there is something wrong." She laughedand said "almost every woman tells me they know their own body better, the truth is you don't." The words still ring in my ears. I was frustrated and upset but I held every single tear so that I would not give her any sense of satisfaction. 'Get me out of here' The thought repeated itself over and over. She finally agreed to take the implant out...next month...by the doctor who "strongly dislikes removing implants because you are not being very cost effective." I booked my appointment and left, crying all the way to my car.

I tried to talk and this nurse had humiliated me

It suddenly hit me... the fear people have when talking about mental health. The stigma associated with it. I tried to talk about what I was going through and this nurse had humiliated me and made me feel even more stupid and worthless than when I walked into the clinic. I called my mum, who immediately rang the clinic to complain and told them I was high risk of self harm or suicide if they left me for another month. I was asking for help to be told I was not being cost effective.

The experience changed me. I know first-hand how difficult it is to think dark and self loathing thoughts about yourself. I did not want to talk about it aloud because I did not want another person to view me like I viewed myself.

It's time to change the way society views mental illness

I have now completed my degree and I am in a loving relationship and have a fantastic job (which involves working with people who have mental health problems).

I see now how incredibly strong people with mental health problems are!

It is time to talk to show each and every person that they are incredibly strong. It is time to change the way society views people with mental health problems so that they can talk openly without fear or stigma. It is time to educate people and increase awareness.

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