I wasn’t ever crying anxiety or depression for every inconvenience in my life. The truth is, I’d lived with it secretly for years, suffering alone, and it was only when it finally got the better of me that I cracked. I told the doctors, my family and friends, and there have been a lot of different reactions.
Before my diagnosis with mental illness I was dubbed ‘lazy’. I was told I’d lost my ambition, my behaviour was perceived very negatively and it broke my heart. But I put myself through college, even though it took me twice as long as everyone else to complete it, due to my illness. I worked so hard and passed my A-levels, without any additional support. I was too afraid to disclose any information about my inner struggles.
I couldn’t manage university. The travelling, the crowded rooms, the busy city life and the oral assessments of the course itself were all overwhelming triggers which contributed greatly to my anxiety. I was disappointed but pretended that university just wasn’t for me, and therefore attempted to find work. This was just as difficult: the judgement of interviews, the busy settings and travelling to new places. I didn’t know what I was doing or who to turn to. It was one of the lowest moments of my life.
The most upsetting part was the assumption that I just didn’t care. Why couldn’t anyone see the sudden change in a girl who was always extremely academic, achieved above average grades for the most part and had once aimed for university, as me being anything more than ‘lazy’? I thought these were people who cared for me? I was screaming on the inside.
A vicious cycle
I let these frustrations out in the dangerous form of self-harm. Some days I chose to stay in the house because my clothes were sticking to my wounds. My skin was on fire and any movement would cause lots of pain. It was a vicious cycle of harming myself, rendering myself physically incapable of moving, and receiving even more negativity which would just reinforce my frustration.
People found it absurd that I couldn’t get on a bus, make a phone call or even walk around to the corner shop some days. Apparently I was too happy to sit at home doing nothing. To some extent, I think that perception still exists a little even in people who know me really well. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that some people will never understand how it feels to be so terrified of something, especially when the task seems so small in their eyes.
Every time I travel alone, make a phone call or talk to a stranger, automatically my heart is racing faster than it should be. On a good day that’s the only physical symptom I get. On a bad day, shortness of breath, feeling dizzy, feeling like the walls are closing in on me and profuse sweating occur. This is all accompanied by the racing of a million ‘what ifs’ that go swimming through my head, the paranoia that everyone is staring at me and judging me negatively and the fear of making an embarrassment of myself in some way.
Even when I achieve something, I can still go home and lay awake for hours worrying about how someone looked at me, or maybe my voice wobbled when I said ‘Thank you’, and someone noticed. I comb through my every action and it’s exhausting. Even the smallest of tasks that I do can feel so mentally and physically draining. It may seem like I do very little, but planning and living around a mental illness takes so much effort.
I finally got help
Finally telling a doctor was a huge weight off my shoulders. I’d been suffering alone for over four years by this point. I’d had a breakdown at my new job when it all became too much. Although it was a relief, I was also terrified of the official diagnosis. I knew there was a lot of work ahead for me.
I think I’m still going to get negative comments. It’s something everyone who suffers with mental illness will have to face at some point. I’ve heard from people I know well that ‘crying depression and anxiety’ is an ‘easy way to get out of doing anything’.
People are suffering alone
But I do hope that the more people who share their stories, the more awareness will be raised. We don’t truly know what someone is facing, especially when someone is hiding it so well. Don’t tarnish someone with an adjective that couldn’t be further from the truth.