Submitted by Liv / Instagram: @livsturgeon_
It was like a switch had been flicked. I woke up that day feeling like my usual bubbly, confident self and by the end of the night I felt like a completely different person. It was as if someone had reached inside of me and ripped out my happiness and left a huge void. I didn’t know what was happening. I didn’t know what I was feeling, or why. What had changed that day that left me feeling like this broken shell of a person?
That was 7 years ago.
I didn’t ask for help straight away. I was too scared, ashamed, and I wanted to deal with it on my own in the hope that it would eventually go away. I kept myself busy with work and college. I put on a face for everyone around me, so even though I felt broken inside at least I would look presentable to the rest of the world. There was nothing wrong with my life - I had amazing friends and family, I was doing well in college, I had a lovely part-time job where I worked with the kindest people… I had no reason to feel this way. But one day I needed to speak to someone because it was all building up and I thought I was going to have a breakdown. I opened up to my tutor and she helped me make an appointment with the college counsellor.
I went to the appointment and told her how unhappy I was feeling. I didn’t even manage to get everything off my chest before she interrupted me and said “you’re not unhappy, you’re just stressed”. I couldn’t tell you anything she said after that because I stopped listening. My first experience of opening up to a professional who had the resources to help me, and she shut me down. I can’t describe the heart-shattering feeling of building my hopes up, feeling such crippling anxiety as I was about to open up to someone about my mental health for the first time, and she completely disregarded my feelings. I told myself that I must have been making it up and I refused to speak to another professional about it until years later.
The problem with seeking help for your mental health is that it’s not always a positive experience, when it should be. If you can afford private healthcare then great but unfortunately that’s not the case for the majority of people. You make a doctors appointment – which you have to wait weeks for – and they recommend medication straight away. You finally find a counselling service that you think might help, but the waiting list is over a year long. You might even open up to someone and be shut down like I was.
Even so, I’m still very aware of my privilege and know that it is so much harder to receive help for so many people. If you’re in a vulnerable state then that first experience of opening up to someone needs to be a positive one. Healthcare should be accessible to everyone at any time and I really hope one day we can make that possible.
I was lucky the next time I opened up to someone. I made an appointment with a doctor I hadn’t seen before. I was terrified. But she was so lovely and it felt like she genuinely cared about me. I made pages and pages of notes, about everything I was feeling. I wrote about the toxic work environment I was in (and everything that came along with that), the feelings of unhappiness and hopelessness, not being able to see myself having a future, constantly feeling exhausted (mentally and physically), the crippling anxiety, the lack of interest in everything I once loved, and finally the suicidal thoughts. I walked into the room and when she asked me what was wrong, I handed her the notebook. She read through everything and then handed me my notes back. She recommended I start taking anti-depressants immediately. I was so desperate to not feel this way anymore that I took the prescription and started them the next day.
The next few years were the worst time of my life. I was so up and down with how I was feeling and I truly couldn't see a way out. Since then I’ve had a diagnosis of depression, tried four different types of antidepressant medication, taken an overdose and had to spend a day in A&E, spoken to three counsellors, worked in a toxic workplace that massively contributed to my suicidal thoughts, and I’ve lost a friend to suicide.
But I’m still here. I made it through. I’m 23, and I’ve just started my Psychology degree at University which I’m loving already. I have a lovely part-time job that I look forward to going to. A couple of months ago I did a charity skydive where I raised over £2100 for Mind charity in memory of my friend - that was definitely one of my proudest moments. And the best part about all of this is I’m finally able to see a future. I have hopes and dreams that I finally feel strong enough to work towards, and it’s the best feeling in the world. I’m so proud of myself.
The best advice I can give is to please speak to someone if you’re struggling. I wish I had asked for help sooner – if I had then maybe it wouldn’t have got as bad as it did. Your feelings are valid, and your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise. Listen to me. You are worthy of the same love and support you give to those around you. Asking for help should not be feared. There is a huge stigma surrounding mental health but don’t pay attention to it (I know this is easier said than done). Your recovery is the most important thing. Please speak to a professional. If you can’t open up to a family member, then tell a friend. If you can’t tell a friend, then tell a teacher or a school counsellor or a work colleague. Don’t suffer in silence. Please start talking. Start talking and don’t stop until someone listens to you. I know how hard it is, I really do. Asking for help feels like the most terrifying thing in the world but you are so much stronger than you realise. Think of all the bad days you’ve experienced so far. The days you said to yourself “I can’t do this” but you made it through regardless. This is proof that you can survive anything that comes your way.
Ask for help. Put your mental health first. Love yourself.
You are so worthy of life.