Five years ago I experienced my first depressive episode. I felt so low inside that I could not possibly picture a happy future for myself, and so I began to self harm and have thoughts of suicide. It affected my relationships with family and friends, I didn't want to socialise with anyone. My performance at school became worse, achieving lower exam grades and having poor attendance. Some days it would be a struggle even just to get myself out of bed. From depression, I would go into a hypermanic state, becoming quite careless of my well being and reckless, doing things which I would never think of doing in a well state. I was becoming quite a danger to myself.
Today I am mentally in a place I could never have imagined when I first became ill. I feel the strongest and healthiest I have ever been, working hard towards my dream career and looking forward to what the future holds. People said to me then that "things would get better" and that "everything would be alright". And I can now say that they weren't wrong.
For me personally, the thing which has helped most with my recovery is the great support I received from family members, my loving boyfriend and close friends.
Mental illnesses can make people feel very isolated, especially if people around them are not so understanding or supportive. To listen, be patient and simply be kind are what I believe to be the most important things when caring for somebody dealing with mental health problems.
Finding hobbies which I enjoy has also helped with my recovery greatly. Whilst attending art therapy regularly during a stay in hospital, I discovered that this was a great way to express how I was feeling if words couldn't. Whether in a low or high mood, or if I'm feeling a bit angry, putting those feelings on paper in the form of a painting really helps me. I find that it can sometimes help me to share what's going on inside my mind with others, then they might get some more understanding of how I'm feeling.
Anxiety (GAD), depression and emotional dysregulation are some of the diagnoses I have been given over the past five years, with my latest diagnosis being bipolar disorder. I believe that being diagnosed by a professional can be extremely helpful for some in order for them to get the correct treatment and to understand themselves better but it is not the most important thing. I remember feeling confused and scared when first diagnosed, thinking that it meant I would be unwell forever.
This was not, and is still not the case at all. Although the mental illness will always be there, I've learned that it is something which can be managed with the right support and that I am still able to live a very much happy and normal life. It doesn't stop me or anyone else suffering from achieving the goals they want to in life.
It is important to remember that mental illness does certainly not define you as a person. But most importantly, remember... things DO get better!