RAiISE-ing Our Voice is a series of blog posts in which we provide a platform for young people to share their stories and speak up about issues they face whilst living with an invisible illness.
Hi my name is Jessie and I am 21 years old. I have struggled with my mental health from the age of 14 and have battled with depression and anxiety for years.
When I was first diagnosed with having depression and anxiety and I started telling my friends and my family I got such mixed reactions and learned how people have such different views of the illnesses. I remember for a long time hearing from some of my family telling me that this was all in my head. I remember hearing from close friends and family that they would have never thought I was suffering with it. I was often told about how happy I always seemed and you could even go as far as to say that I usually had the loudest laugh in the room. I have since learned that it is often in any group of friends the friend who seems happiest may just be the one struggling because we often do not want to burden others with our problems.
When I was first diagnosed with depression I was in denial and kept it to myself because of the stigma around mental health I felt like I was completely crazy. It was only lately I have decided that I will no longer be ashamed of who I am or what I have. I have learned that I am myself and not my illness. Once I had accepted all of this and began speaking more openly about my depression and anxiety I have met so many others just like me and have made friends through this. I first began writing about my mental health experiences when people started asking me questions such as “what does having depression feel like” or “is anxiety just feeling nervous all the time” I realised from those questions alone that not many people quite understood just how serious these illnesses can be and how much they can impact on a person’s life. My personal favourite was when I was asked if depression is just feeling sad all the time. So with all of my close friends and family trying to understand my illness I took the first big step on here to be open, honest and explain things the best way I can.
Depression can be different for everybody! I first started noticing signs of depression at the age of 14. This was not long after my father passing away. I was not handling my father’s death very well and was also developing anxiety issues so I began to struggle with school. I went on two years later to leave school as my depression had really gotten the better of me I was missing days and falling behind. When I left school I got myself into a rut. I was staying in bed all day everyday either on my phone or sleeping which caused the depression to really take over. It wasn’t long after this that all the negative thoughts began.
I remember lying in bed each day as my peers were in school and thinking of how much of a failure I had become and how much I had let my parents down. These feelings of worthlessness has stayed with me since. I tend to isolate myself a lot as I like to be alone when I am feeling this low. I did stay in contact with a small group of friends and meeting them for a night out every once in a while had become my only social outlet. I remember staying in my bedroom for weeks on end and was completely terrified to even leave my house. I went on and tried to deal with everything on my own. I somehow managed to put things to the back of my mind and move on, however my depression was still there and still to this day is a problem for me. I often spend night’s in tears looking at myself in the mirror reminding myself of the fact that I am not good enough and never will be. I often cry so loudly that I need to bury my head into my pillows so my family don’t hear me roaring and screaming in pain. I’ve often spent night’s crouched down with my back against the wall desperately trying to hold myself together as I fall apart while the voice inside my head is screaming to give up. I have turned to self harm sometimes and only because this has been my only way of dealing with all of these issues. While others my age may lay awake at night wondering if they have gotten the college course they so badly wanted, I lay there in the same moment begging for my next breath to be my last as I have become hopeless and can no longer see a future for myself. When I get this low and begin to fall apart I am left there in a ball on the floor with the dreaded question of will I make it through this tonight? Once I am finally just too exhausted from the crying and putting myself down I once again for the fourth time that week drag myself up and back into bed where I get maybe somewhere between two and four hours sleep.
The next day again using every ounce of energy within me to sit up. Once i’m sitting up it takes another 10 minutes to even stand up as I am just so exhausted from the war inside my mind the night before. More often than not these feelings and thoughts stay with me into the morning. Once again sitting at the end of my bed wondering if I have it in me to face these battles for another day. My mind is a bully and in these moments I believe everything it has to say. It tells me “you’re not good enough” and “people wouldn’t notice or care if you went missing” . It also makes me believe that I am just an inconvenience to those around me and that I get in people’s way. However I get up most days …(some days I need that day in bed if I can’t face the world). I go and have a shower and some days when i’m feeling really low I will put makeup on in hopes of feeling a little bit better about myself, in hopes of not feeling so worthless and in hopes of drowning out the voice that is constantly reminding me about how nobody cares about me. On somewhat better days I like to use social media and if I am feeling really brave I might go out and meet my friends. When anybody sees pictures of me or my life through social media it is so easy to assume that I have no problems or worries and just see me as a carefree happy 21-year-old girl just living life. The reason I am writing this is because as I mentioned earlier people often assume to be depressed you must be in all black clothes, looking absolutely miserable and crying all the time
With depression we try to hide our symptoms as much as we can and we try to come across to people as normal as we can. Depression isn’t always black clothes and crying. Depression can be the girl who is extremely bubbly and the life of her group of friends, it can be the boy who has a brilliant job and seems to have everything going for him, it can be the mother with the brightest smile as she plays with her kids in the park, depression can be the friend who comforts others in their time of need because she would never want anybody to feel the pain that she feels. I know all of this because I am that depressed girl. It takes every ounce of energy for me to get through each day when I just feel like giving up. I put up a front of being extremely happy yet not even my own friends and family were aware of just how broken I was until I broke and told them everything. They certainly had no idea I spent hours each night falling apart and believed me when I told them I was ok and just tired.
I was hospitalised for my depression a couple of weeks ago for the first time. I was in a psychiatric unit. This is when I realised my illness was just as valid as any physical illness. There is still so much of a stigma surrounding mental health which needs to change. Nobody should be made feel insignificant for a war they fight in their own mind each day or for any invisible illness whether it be physical or mental illness . We never truly know what is going on is someone else’s lives. I am now in counselling and working with my psychiatrist and mental health team in hopes of overcoming this and having a better future for myself.
To anybody fighting both physical and mental illnesses stay strong and hold on to every bit of hope that better days are coming!