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My Battle With Mental Health watch

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    Disclaimer: this is not a post about me feeling sorry for myself - not intentionally, at least. I wanted to share my experiences with depression, anxiety and body dysmorphia in the hopes that someone out there might feel a little more hopeful. Things really do get better, even when you feel like no one will care, no one will love you, and that you'll be miserable for the rest of your life. And you're stronger than you could possibly imagine.
    This is also going to be a long post, so if you want to read something short and sweet, back away now.
    (TRIGGER WARNING: mentions of self-harm and attempted suicide)

    When I went to secondary school at 11, I didn't think much about my appearance. It wasn't something I really cared about; I was a chubby kid, but I'd shed some of that weight in primary school, so I thought I was going to do alright. Being young and naive and not really having any idea what secondary school was like (being the oldest child in my family), I imagined having a huge circle of friends, brilliant grades and maybe even a boyfriend when I got older.
    Yet when I joined this school I was picked on for my appearance. Looking back, I can laugh and say that I was an ugly child - I hadn't shed all my puppy fat, tweezers were completely unknown to me so I had huge bushy eyebrows, and my teeth were extremely crooked. But I was 11 years old, and I know now that nobody deserves to have their body image destroyed at such a young age.

    My self-esteem gradually crumbled. My chubbiness and my 'ugliness', along with my brand new friendships (that were kind of unhealthy to begin with because we all just banded together to avoid being alone and didn't really care about each other), led to the development of a crippling fear of being alone. I was around 12 at this point, and I was terrified that I would never find friends who loved me and cared for me. I was afraid that I'd never be happy, because I wouldn't have anyone to share my life with. It made me feel afraid, frustrated and angry, but not at the people who had teased me. I directed it all at myself.

    I was either 12 or 13 when I started self-harming. It started off when I hit myself in fits of rage after arguments with my family, but soon it turned into cutting my arms and legs with any sharp object nearby. I hated myself. I hated my stupid face and my fat arms and legs and stomach, I hated my horrible teeth (although I had a retainer at this point), I basically hated every single part of me that I could think of. I stopped taking school seriously because I simply didn't care. It was an age where the future felt like light years away, and I didn't really have any sort of ambition.
    Around this time I started to feel ashamed of myself, too. I stopped eating in public because I was afraid people were looking at me and laughing behind my back. Eventually, I pretty much stopped eating altogether. I lied to my mum about what I was eating at school and pretended I wasn't hungry at home even though my insides were literally burning because I hadn't eaten anything for a day.
    I reached a point where I was afraid to leave my home because I didn't want to be noticed. I didn't want to be laughed at. I stopped talking in front of people I didn't know very well, even some family members, because I was afraid I would sound stupid. I'd also become very cynical of people in general, and thought things like 'well, they can see I'm ugly so they immediately won't like me'.

    I was 14 when people started to comment on my weight loss. I was thrilled; everybody at school was telling me that I looked healthier, and that I'd made such improvements. At home, it wasn't quite the same. My mum would tell me she felt sick when I walked in the room wearing just a vest and shorts. I couldn't listen to her, though. And even though I was happy people had noticed I'd lost weight, I still didn't think it was enough. Even when I could see my ribcage without sucking my stomach in and close my thumb and pinky finger around my arm, I still thought I was chubby.
    Though in many ways, I was lucky, because I saw what was happening before it got serious. One day I came into school and just the smell of food caused me to feel sick. I tried to eat a sandwich - I ate a corner before I felt full. And it actually terrified me. I've read books and watched films about eating disorders, and I never thought that I had one (even now I use the term very cautiously, because I was never diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia or anything of the sort). But it made me realise that I had to change.

    By now I was 15 and in a different friend group, one who made me feel welcome and loved for who I really was. A couple of months after joining this group I had a boyfriend... The less I say about that, the better. Needless to say it was a very unhealthy relationship - I had no self-esteem and he was very controlling. We dated for a year before I broke up with him, because he wouldn't let me leave my house without either being with me or knowing my exact whereabouts (if I wasn't with him whilst with my friends he would manipulate me into inviting him along, and if I wasn't out with friends I'd have to be with my parents so he could call them if I didn't reply). Other things happened in that relationship that still mess me up even now, but I don't want to disclose that right now.
    When we broke up, he followed me everywhere. Told our friends that I had broken his heart and that he couldn't live without me. He had post notifications on for all of my social media accounts - even my second ones, which I rarely use. If I didn't answer his messages or calls he would tell people that he was going to hurt or kill himself, which was relayed back to me. My friends had turned on me, and I was constantly being harassed. With my anxiety and depression added to the mix, everything just became too much for me to handle.
    In January 2016, I tried to kill myself by overdosing on painkillers. I knew it was a stupid idea, because painkillers rarely kill anybody (if anything, they leave you with very serious health risks and issues for the future), but I was so desperate, and they were the only things we had in the house. I told two of my closest friends and turned my phone off - it was a *****y thing to do, I know. But I didn't want to hear them telling me that I could have a shot at happiness, because I genuinely didn't feel like I could. I was so lost and alone and so miserable that I couldn't see a place for me in anybody's future. It was one of the darkest moments of my life.

    Yet I survived, and because I've already rambled on long enough I'll try to give a short account of what happened next.

    I've always been a people pleaser - it's what I do best. But after speaking with the few friends I had left I realised that what my ex was doing WAS NOT okay. I blocked him on everything, I acted coldly towards him, and even told my teachers about the issue (though not the full version, because I didn't want it to become a huge thing). He soon left me alone, but he took most of my friends with him.
    I started to entertain the idea of getting help; previously I hadn't bothered because I didn't think it would work, but I realised that I would never know until I tried, and I needed any support that I could get.
    I became more open with my mum about my mental health, and even that was a giant step forward. We've both suffered from depression, but both have different symptoms, so sometimes it is difficult for us to see things the same way but we've become so much stronger since opening up about it.
    I tried to eat more. It worked. Even now I worry about my weight, though I'm a healthy size for my height and age. Sometimes I want to stop eating again, but I realise now that it isn't worth it. Sometimes it gets me down a lot and I don't want to leave the house, but I find it easier to just grit my teeth and get on with it now. I don't know why - maybe it's because I can recognise when I'm overthinking and being irrational now.

    When I was 17 I became more aware of my anxiety and depression. I went to my doctor, who diagnosed me with depression and social anxiety, and referred me to a number of counselling places in my area. There was a waiting list, and only 20 sessions, but it was worth it. Just having an outsider to talk to was so refreshing, and having them offer an external perspective cleared things up for me. I removed myself from the toxic relationships I had with people, and a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. Because of this, I can now sense when I'm being 'paranoid' or jumping to conclusions because of my mental illnesses.
    I made a bunch of new friends in my new lessons; I was in sixth form at this point, and spoke to a lot of people I wouldn't have spoken to previously. Most of them didn't really know who I was because I blended into the background where I never spoke, which gave me a pretty good opportunity to start over.
    It wasn't easy. Even though I was all too aware that not everybody would like me, I still had (have, really) an urge to please people and be approved of. I was so scared to offend people that I didn't speak, and I wasn't 'truly' myself. But I left the house and went to parties and got a job, and did a million other things that my 14-year-old self would never have even thought of doing.
    Slowly (very, very slowly), I started to embrace who I was. I realised that it was okay to not be a model, and to enjoy things that other people don't. I'm proud about the fact that I like bad, outdated films and TV shows, and sometimes I use long words when I'm talking without even realising (I don't do it to show off, I promise). And people started to appreciate that I was more myself.
    Although some of my new friends weren't so 'friendly' after all (I stayed off school a lot because the people and the workload still overwhelmed me a lot, and they criticised me behind my back for it by telling others that I was stupid, I'd fail my A levels, I was making excuses, etc.), I made a point of throwing all of my energy into my education just to prove them wrong. Remember, kids, if you can't motivate yourself out of your own drive to succeed, motivate yourself out of spite instead!

    Now, I'm almost 18 years old. My anxiety and depression still get me, sometimes - there are still days where I can't speak to people, or I can't leave the house. But generally, I'm doing alright. I've got real friends now, who care about me and support me and respect me. I'm doing great in school, and I feel a billion times better about myself than I did five years ago. It wasn't easy reaching this stage, but the point is I did. And you could too.

    I don't know why I wrote this, really. But if you are reading this, and you've suffered from mental health issues, please trust me (a total stranger on the internet, yes) that it does get better if you hold on. It's not easy at all, and you'll get days where you want to give up. But if you give in, you'll miss out on all the good parts of life - the better friends, the healthy relationships, the feeling of having your sh*t together and wanting the future to hurry up so you can reach the point where you feel completely satisfied.

    Maybe it sounds artificial from a random person online, but I care. I really, truly, do. And if you want to share your experiences, or ask any questions, or just talk to me, by all means go ahead.
    I want to help, and I want this stupid idea of 'suffering in silence' to stop. We are stronger together, when we can speak about these things. An external perspective can work wonders.
 
 
 
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