September 17, 2012

Sarah, a Time to Change bloggerI never thought of myself as a good liar but when I eventually faced up to my problems I realised that's what I had been doing constantly, for 3 years, to my family, my friends and even myself. I've been described as 'the best actor in the worlds worst play', which I think is appropriate. I acted like everything was perfect when it felt like the world was crashing around me.

I can't identify a moment in time when everything got difficult for me. I can't even remember a time when I was truly happy or care free. The one thing I know for sure is that I've never been happy with myself. Even when I was very young I knew I wasn't 'normal' (whatever that is supposed to mean). The fact I was different had never really bothered me until it developed into what I later found out to be a social anxiety disorder along with an eating disorder.

I was 13 and had never had a set group of friends. Everyone else had been with their friends throughout middle school and were set in their ways. I was the slightly larger side of normal for a 13 year old girl with a different taste in music and clothes to everyone else. I spent my time drifting from one group to another because I would convince myself that as much as they smiled and talked to me, they didn't want me there and I was embarrassing them with how I looked and annoying them with my likes. So I moved on.

The smile that was almost constantly painted on my face didn't indicate any problems

Throughout the constant movement of groups no one knew what was really going on. The smile that was almost constantly painted on my face didn't indicate any problems so no one thought there were any. No one knew I would cry myself to sleep every night. No one knew I was starving myself to lose the weight that I thought was keeping me from having normal friendships and relationships.

The next issue revolved around my anxiety based compulsions that started when I was 14. In an attempt to be 'normal' I started straightening my hair every morning but whenever I finished I didn't trust myself to unplug the straightener. I forced myself to take pictures on my phone of the plug out of the wall before I could leave the house without being convinced something bad would happen. This developed into me not being able to trust myself with basic tasks that any other 'normal' teenager could do with no hassle: like locking the door when leaving the house. I would take pictures of my hand on the door handle to signify it being locked.

I didn't want them thinking I was weak.

No one knew how much I was suffering. The smile stayed and I was determined to keep it that way. I became incredibly possessive about where my phone was because, if anyone got hold of it and looked at the pictures I'd been taking to keep my piece of mind, my life would unravel and the part I'd been playing for so long would crash. I didn't want them thinking I was weak. That wasn't an option, the phone stayed with me at all times. I never went anywhere without it.

These behaviours carried on unnoticed until one day when I was 16. I was sat talking to my only real friend and I don't remember why but I crumbled. The strength that I had worked so hard to hold on to was gone. The smile was washed off by the tears that I had never cried. Once I had eventually calmed down, I told him he could go if I was freaking him out and that I was just being stupid and I would be back to normal the next day. That wasn't going to happen, he told me I shouldn't have done it alone, that I wasn't any more and he would help me through this. He suggested I get an appointment with my GP and it was the best thing to ever happen to me.

I'm not perfect but I don't have to be, I'm happy

I'm now 18 and I know the worst is over. I'm not perfect but I don't have to be, I'm happy and I am finally at a place where I am not afraid to talk about what I went through. I still have difficulties everyday but don't find them as difficult to handle.

I didn't tell anyone about anything because I didn't know enough about mental health to identify my problems and I thought people would judge me as weak. I built up this appearance of being strong and being able to defeat anything that came my way but the strongest I've ever felt was the point when I realised it's OK to ask for help.

What do you think about the issues raised in this blog? Share your views with us on Twitter >>

If you're at school or college, 3 of your classmates will experience mental health problem, and most of those will have to face discrimination because of it. It’s time to #standup against the stigma. Find out more by watching our film The Stand Up Kid.


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.