, March 16, 2017

Blogger Leah

People tend to ask me: why are you depressed, you have such a nice life? My simple response is… I don’t know. Depression wasn’t something I could control; neither was my anxiety. Back in 2013 I was sitting my art exams and self-doubt got a hold of me. I was constantly criticizing myself to the others around me. I felt that I wasn’t doing well and it was something I was doing. I got into this spiral where every lesson I was whirling downwards and I couldn’t control my emotions. This mood started to spread. I found it especially hard with my failing grades in art as this was the form where I could express myself away from poetry.

I approached my GP in September 2015 and I started to get some treatment. Various different prescriptions and therapy and I still didn’t feel like anything was helping; this only started making me feel worse, with a dreaded fear that things wouldn’t get better. Towards the end of 2015 I went to my doctors after having a mental breakdown and I remember after being referred to the local crisis team, the nurse told me to ‘snap out of it’. To this day, this is one of the comments which stay with me. It caused a horrible phase of withdrawal that was very painful on my mind. I felt isolated, scared, alone and lost – falling into this abyss which was my own mind.

What also followed was what I felt was discrimination from family and school peers about my mental health. I had days where I felt positive, however there was always that depressive thought in the back of my mind telling me otherwise; and it started to win. I started to believe that this was all my fault. In June 2016 I made an attempt to end my life. My physical health, my mental health and relationships with those around me was getting all too overwhelming for my mind to handle. Since the start of my mental health journey in 2013, after a long battle, I was diagnosed in August 2016 with clinical depression and generalised anxiety disorder.

Since working with Time to Change, I have been able to speak up to those around me. The statistics I learnt throughout my training shocked me, and it's horrible to think how many young people like me struggle with their mental health nowadays and on top of that they are victims of stigma and discrimination. I wouldn’t want anyone I care about to feel how I do, let alone the vast majority of people in the UK and worldwide. Would you?

Despite it being hard for me to express how I feel deep down, the people around me mean the world. If it wasn’t for those beside me, I wouldn’t be stood here sharing my story today.

The one thing that helped me the most was when someone saw me at a low point crying and they looked me dead in the eye and said… “Even though you may be sad, I still see the ambition in your eyes”. It reminded me how determined I was to fight through my mental health and that tiny spark of self-esteem reignited.

Or perhaps it was the time that I was an emotional wreck alone at home and I called my friend who rushed over just to give me a cwtch (it’s Welsh for Hug). She didn’t judge or ask lots of questions… she just let me talk and most importantly was there for me in my time of need. The worst thing when someone is at a low point is for them to be made to feel as if it’s their fault, or to feel like they’re being questioned for what they’d done wrong. Since then I’ve been passionate to share my story. I know that other people are struggling, just like I was.

Just being there to talk makes such a huge difference. It doesn’t take much to listen to a friend when they need to get their feelings off their chest. Being a sensitive listener, and asking questions when your friend is comfortable with it, so you can know more about what that person’s going though – that’s what being in someone’s corner is about, and it’s really changed my life.

I still have days where I feel useless or that I’ve messed everything up, however now I feel like there are positives which I can look upon and go towards. I don’t want to tell you I know what it’s like… because everyone’s story is different; however, I want to tell you that there is a route of light. With the right support and people around you, you can start to see the path again. Even though I know that there’s the chance of that depression and anxiety will remain, it’s about control and finding content with your mind again… and as my favourite quote goes… “Life is like photography. You need the negatives to develop.” (Ziad K. Abdelnour)

Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.