My battle with mental illness began at some time in my preteens – don’t know the exact year or age – but I know for a fact that by the time I was in my mid-teens, I had the whole nine yards. What I also know is that by the time I was fifteen, I was already questioning my purpose for living, and whether I wanted to be alive or not.
I’m now 24 years at the time of writing this, so it’s been a few years since I was a teenager, but I still remember what it’s like to be young and struggling with mental health problems. It was hands down the hardest thing I had to endure in my life.
I’m no professional, so I won’t assume what you’re going through or say that I know, because I don’t know the details. But as someone who went through a bunch of crap, I wanted to write this for assurance: that it’s okay and you are not the only one because I’ve been there and done that.
Being a teenager with mental health problems (undiagnosed at the time but I was so sure of what I had) was the loneliest feeling ever. I was told time and time again that I was “doing it for attention”, or playing the “victim”, or being “crazy”. They also kept telling me I was “too young to know what mental illnesses were”.
Let’s get one thing straight:
Your suffering is real, and if you ever tell me you are hurting, then
I will believe every word you’re saying
and I will believe your hurt and agony.
Your pain is real.
There are people who will be in denial (been there) or won’t understand what you’re going through. And I feel sorry for those who don’t get it. There will however, be people who get it, just like me and many, many others. There will be people who will listen to you and acknowledge your struggles.
When I was a teen I felt this unexplainable empty it of agonising sadness in my core. I didn’t know where it came from because I hadn’t suffered from any kind of trauma back then. I felt hurt and physically and emotionally heavy (to properly know this feeling, the song ‘Heavy’ by Linkin Park explains it down to ta T). That’s all I knew. I’d also go nights in a row of crying myself to sleep, or just lay awake contemplating ending my life. Sometimes both at the same time. I couldn’t explain the pain, but it seemed like a default thing for me to be in this kind of pain.
Despite all this pain, it took me years – over 10 – to reach out for help. I didn’t trust my parents enough to tell them when I first started seeking help from a psychologist. I only told them after several sessions. Whenever I did tell people about my treatment, they shrugged me off at first, telling me I seemed fine back then and I’m too young to know what depression and anxiety felt like, and that I didn’t fit in the physical description of a depressed person (whatever that description is).
But let’s be real: who knows you better than you? Not me, not anyone else. And who knows me better than me? Not you and not anyone else. We know when something about us is off. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, the feeling of numbness, mood swings, whatever your sufferings are: it is REAL and I know it is.
Getting help was the best thing I had ever done in my life. My biggest triumph. But I didn’t feel like it was at the time. I knew what to expect with my depression because it was predictable. But I wanted to learn how to live my life one way or another, and how to cope and get better. It was a pretty big deal, but it was scary as fuck.
Was it worth the risk? HECK YEAH! Because eventually, I did start getting better. I got the diagnosis I expected I had – depression and anxiety – and this helped me understand what was going on. With both a psychologist and psychiatrist by my side, eventually joined in by my family and small circle of friends, I fixed things and my life made sense once more.
What would I say to teenagers reading this who are struggling with mental health? You don’t have to do this alone. Suffering in silence is not an option. You have choices, some of which are difficuly and risky. I made those difficult choices myself, and if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be here writing all this. I’d be dead. I would have done The Deed.
You need to know that your life can change in the blink of an eye. Everything your thought you knew could be wrong the following day. Your life changes as time goes by, and you deserve to experience this change.
Since then, I have found a good job, made new friends, gave a speech at the local University, wrote a hit article about my mental health for a successful local website and appeared on TV. I’m also in a very great relationship with someone I can call The One and not be uncertain about it. I have touched hearts and changed lives over the past three years.
This is why I talk openly about my struggles, being able to help others not to repeat the same mistakes I have. Our journeys may not be the same, but I believe we all have something inside us that’s in common and by unleashing that, the world would be a better place.
So if you haven’t reached out, do so as soon as you can, befor eit’s too late. You don’t have to speak to a professional: a teacher, family member or friend would suffice. Hang in there, and remember the life you’re living now won’t be a clear indication of your future so do something about it.
If you’re reading this, consider it a victory: that you have lived another second, minute, hour, day, month, year. I hope you will be here to read this in years’ time, or even for your children to read it in their teens.
I believe in you. You are a survivor. You have PURPOSE. YOU MATTER.
If you our someone you know displays any symptoms of mental health problems, please contact your local suicide hotlines, which you can find below.