Warning, this blog may be triggering for some readers.
After a year and a half of balancing a variety of pressures, I snapped. From being there for two unwell relatives - one with a mental illness; moving to a new town away from friends to working unsociable hours preventing me from building a social life and other life struggles it all eventually got too much. It was at this point that I began to understand just how much mental illness can affect someone.
I started to feel worse and worse
Coming from a South Asian medical family was sometimes difficult. My family held the view that - "people with mental illness are dangerous, avoid them", so my awareness/perception of mental health problems was quite limited.
90% of the time I would go to work feeling fine, but evenings and weekends were difficult. I kept getting negative intrusive thoughts of "you are a terrible person" and "you are a failed human being". I tried everything recommended in the "dealing with depression" leaflets at GPs surgeries: exercise, inviting people out and trying to build friendships, focusing on work and smiling a lot. But I was still struggling to sleep and revise for my exams. I didn't feel like eating and I ended up getting severe neck pain which I believe was psychological knock-on effect from the stress. I started to feel worse and worse and after repeatedly self-harming I started planning a suicide. I wrote my goodbye letters and got everything in order, I even made an attempt.
Eventually I began to open up to a friend I was close to
I didn't seek help because I felt as though I couldn't talk to my GP. He was a doctor of South Asian origin like my family so I was worried that he might judge me. Eventually I began to open up to a friend I was close to, but I found it difficult to tell her exactly what I was going through. She shared her own experiences of having counselling and more importantly made me realise that mental illness is indeed an illness - you can’t necessarily snap yourself out of it. If you break your leg, you need to rest and slowly get your strength back. The same principle applies when you have mental health issues.
Things aren't perfect, but I'm getting there
Accepting that it was an illness helped. I started researching strategies to deal with the negative thoughts and I have made an appointment to see a counsellor. Using a free online CBT website has helped, as did taking some time out and accepting that my mind needed time to recover. Being more open with those around me and accepting that there was a problem was an important step in my recovery.
Eventually, things got better and I am back to revising for postgrad exams and working normal hours. Things aren't perfect, but I’m getting there and I feel more able to deal with stress and negative emotions.