A Recovering Human

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My story begins around the age of 14. This is the time I realised something was very wrong and that how I was feeling was neither bearable nor normal. I had spent years getting bullied at school (called names, being excluded and so on) and this was also ongoing. Around this time, I also had a death in the family and a major mental health problem with a family member too. I was struggling to not cry 24 hours a day and to not cry myself to sleep. I began cutting as a way of managing how I was feeling. As time went on, I faced more struggles in regards to the pressures of doing well academically, having to spend so much time with people that made me feel rubbish and also my own personal relationship problems. Things got worse and worse and by the time I was 18, I was going to school only 2/5 days a week max. I was cutting more and deeper than ever before and when I did go to school, I often had a bandage on my wrist (which attracted further attention and cries of “attention seeker”). I was doing anything to avoid school when I could – I either went for a walk, hid in the wardrobe or faked feeling sick. I came home for lunch on the days I did go and took a dozen painkillers to try and calm myself down and make myself stop crying. I cut, I burned myself, I even partook in aerosol abuse. Anything that would make me numb, I did it. I did seek help around the age of 16 though and was attending counselling (on top of these habits) and was put on prozac during my toughest time in 2008. I struggled to sleep and despite being only 8 stone max around this time, I starved myself and excessively exercised. My thinking was that I didn’t deserve to eat, I didn’t deserve to sleep and what I did deserve was to punish myself (by cutting).

I did okay in my GCSE exams at 16; things weren’t quite so bad yet. Of course, my idea of okay now that I know better and my idea of okay back then are completely different. I hated myself for doing so “poorly” in my opinion at the time. When I started studying for my A-levels, things started to become very bad. Drinking, drugs, cutting, burning… you name it, I did it. I missed a lot of the lessons I needed for my exams and whenever I did feel like I should go in, I was far too anxious to face my peers and face how they looked at me. In the end, I passed my exams but didn’t do anywhere near what I wanted/needed for university. I felt like a failure. Further attempts at education yielded the same results: I either felt too down to work on anything or I avoided going due to… people in general. I was also put on a placement and had to leave as my mood was deteriorating and my anxiety rising. I felt pretty hopeless at everything at this point.

I’m 24 now. The past 6 years I have been putting myself in a bubble: I’ve been going to groups, going to courses on self esteem, depression, anxiety, etc. These past few years have been about trying to build myself up again after being broken down so badly when I was younger. I feel like the time I spent doing so has helped me so much when it comes to getting stronger. I feel more confident, I no longer feel like everything I do is wrong and that I should punish myself for that. I see value in myself, in my life. My years at school were the worst years of my life and all I can say is that as when I left, even though I didn’t get where I had planned to get by this point in my life, I felt like a huge weight has been lifted by leaving all of those people behind. I also feel incredibly fortunate in even getting to this point. I know there are many kids that go through very tough times at school and they don’t make it through to the other side. Looking back on the times that I felt hopeless, I found it impossible to imagine a future for myself and the times I seriously considered (and on several occasions, attempted) suicide, it makes me feel so much stronger having made it through.

These days I spend a lot of time with my family, boyfriend and pets. They keep my spirits up and help me as much as they can. My depression is mostly under control these days – although I still have off days – and I’ve found better ways to cope with my feelings. Although it is still a challenge at times, my anxiety has gotten much better. I no longer focus on every action I take in regards to other people and judge myself for them, I just act naturally and hope it leads me to being natural. I still face other health problems that don’t exactly make things easy when combined with my mental health, but I’m doing a lot better than I ever could have hoped. My body is covered in scars but they’re just victory marks.

Rachael A. blogs about managing mental illness. You can read more from her here.

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