Surviving mental illness
By Samuel Cridland

Everyone knows growing up is tough.  Unfortunately growing up is tougher for some than it is for others, particularly those of us who are surviving mental illness.  Through my teenage years I found it incredibly difficult to survive in the education system, due to the social groupings that people placed themselves in.  I spent many of those years asking myself, ‘What do I like… where do I belong?’.  Pretty much, the general question was ‘Who am I?’

Growing up surviving mental illness

I questioned who I am, just as many people probably did when growing up, and still do.  However, it resulted in me becoming very anxious.  It affected me in many ways, but mainly in a way that it made it hard for me to interact with other people.  Finding self-confidence is a hard thing to do when every day you put yourself down!  You over think every word that comes out of your mouth.  You eventually get to a stage where it becomes easier to say nothing.  Where all you worry about is the perception of you through the eyes of others, including your weight and your overall appearance.

These issues caused me to become demotivated in class.  I had teachers pulling me aside, which began to get frustrating and only resulted in more pressure and stress.  Life became a tough battle for me, and between the ages of 15-17 I attempted to take my life on at least 4 different occasions.

I chose life

I remember the last time so vividly, well the aftermath anyway.  Sitting in the corner of my room, I was crying with anger and frustration at myself.  Not only because I failed to follow through with it again, but because the same thoughts kept haunting me in the back of my mind.  To some extent this still happens to this day, but only on a smaller scale.  However, unlike then, I consider myself lucky because on each occasion I somehow chose life.  From the experiences of the last 5 years, I know that I made the right choice.

Looking back on it 5 years on, I understand how I handled the situation wrong but also what I did right.  My biggest mistake was that I was terrified to tell my parents; I believe that was down to the thought process of…..

“How on earth do you confess to the people who gave you life that you have attempted to give it all up?”

Ask for help with surviving mental illness

I now understand that was the wrong way to approach it, because when I eventually told my parents and my older sister, not only could I see the pain in their faces but more importantly I could see the love they expressed.  It also did not help that I refused to tell my girlfriend at the time due to other factors that were going on in our lives.  I also found this was incredibly stupid because, when I eventually did open up, I acknowledged that I had another strong support system that was there for me.

Reflecting on what I did right, I believe the sole reason I am still here today is that I told my closest friend.  I remember confessing after my first attempt, to the one person I felt confident of experiencing no backlash from.  Fear was probably the most overwhelming emotion at the time, probably similar to how I feel about writing this.  But the fact that he sat there and treated me no differently to how he did 5 minutes before, released a big weight off my shoulders.

I knew I had someone who would look out for me.  That made the all-important difference.  For those struggling to deal with anything, or surviving mental illness, I recommend doing the same thing.

Not everyone understands

However, it is just important that those who are not going through this also take on board what could be going on through somebody else’s mind.  From personal experience, I told a group of friends whose response was to make it into a joke.  Luckily I had already managed to get myself into a place where I would never consider attempting to take my life again.  But the repercussions of their actions did mean that anxiety, trust and self-confidence were again key problems for me until recently.

I hold no blame on those people though.  From a young age we were never told how to handle these situations and how to support our friends.  Most importantly, there was never enough education to help us take on board what might be going on in somebody else’s mind, whether or not they are surviving mental illness.

Ways of surviving mental illness

My biggest enemy has always been myself.  Too often, I argue with myself, or I put myself down.  Your own mind is a hard battle but it is a battle that you can and will win.  And once you have realised that, you will be able to battle anything.  I know it is difficult, but try and focus on controlling your thoughts. Things that work for me are meditation, exercise, reading and music.  Focus on something that inspires you, or even look at travelling.

The best advice I would give to anyone going through this is talk to someone!  Believe in yourself. Give yourself 20 minutes a day to remind yourself that you are beautiful, that you are strong and that no matter how hard life is atm, it will always get better.  This is a quote that I always find helps:

“Sometimes I get so caught up in what’s happening now that I forget how much life is left, how much of the world I haven’t seen, and all the experiences that are yet to come. Just because something happens that makes you feel the whole world is ending, that nothing is worth anything anymore, remember that it is only temporary.”

Reach out to others surviving mental illness

If my post inspired you to speak out then, please do.  It is so important to get people to understand they are not the only ones facing these issues.

Josh Jenkins and I have set up a ‘speak out’ page.  We hope to encourage people to speak out about their problems.

1. Share your story, to inspire others. This can be posted anonymously through myself or Josh.
2. Message or email one of us to discuss any problems.
3. Tell us how your day has gone, whether it was a good or bad day.
4. Tell us any ways you have of coping.

Whether this will work or not, we don’t know, but I guess if you don’t try you won’t know.

Give us a like to show support, maybe share to spread the awareness further.

Thanks. Share the Love ❤
https://m.facebook.com/Speakoutaboutmentalhealth/

Reproduced with permission, originally published here

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