If mental illness could be seen on a sufferer maybe society wouldn't say "just get over it."
One of my biggest challenges was trying to get my friends to accept what I was going through. I never expected them to understand my anxiety or OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) but a listening ear would have been great.
As someone from the outside it is easy to just immediately judge without taking the time to understand. And as for me, this is what happened with 95% of my friends at primary/high school. I lost 3 of my best friends at the end of Year 6 because of my separation anxiety. I never attended sleepovers or parties and would cancel meeting up with them. Going to school was hard enough so any other time I had to be away from my mum was a no go.
I don’t blame them for giving up on me because we were so young but I would be lying if I said it didn’t hurt me. Then there was high school. I found Year 7 and 8 not too bad and made a great group of friends but as soon as my anxiety/OCD peaked they quickly didn’t want to know me. I felt so lonely and ended up having so much time off, it was inevitable that I wasn’t going to return.
After having 4 months off and several professionals visiting me, I got a place in a school for people who were isolated and had physical/mental health problems. I felt so blessed to have had the opportunity to attend because it was a difficult school to get into. My class was made up of 7 students my age who all had their own issues but they all inspired me to keep going. They didn’t judge me and accepted me for my quirks and this was rare. The school gave me the chance to achieve my GCSEs and I will never forget the feeling of opening the envelope with my results. No one could take this away from me.
I went on to study my level 3 in ‘Support, teaching and learning’ and within a year I was qualified. However, this again was not all rainbows. My OCD went from bad to severe and along with that came self-image issues (Body Dysmorphic Disorder) and no surprise, depression.
My psychiatrist finally referred me to a specialist as she realised I was at breaking point. After a few months on the waiting list, I went to the hospital for specialist treatment. Whilst I was there I got diagnosed with anorexia but I knew I would be okay because I had the best team and my family supporting me. It was the hardest 6 months of treatment and of my life but I fought my battle with OCD and began to get the strength and tools to help me with my daily fight.
I am now 21 and still have my ups and downs, but I know I have come this far and will keep going further. I will forever be grateful to have been offered treatment and wish more children/youths/adults could have the chance to receive more support.
As a society we need to change the perception about mental illness as it can go a long way towards breaking down some of the barriers that stigma and discrimination creates. Mental health affects so many people, both young and old and we are only beginning to see the devastating consequences. When we don’t talk about it openly, the results are tragedy, hurt, pain and confusion.
This is why we shouldn’t keep things to ourselves, no one is in this alone. Mental illness is tricky business. It is something we desperately need to talk about yet almost never have the courage to do. I am proud of my story.
You know what, ‘it’s ok to not be ok’.