OCCUPATION: Studying Politics at the University of East Anglia*
“My problems started around four years ago, which as I’m only 20 years old, seems bizarre. How could someone so young have spent so much of their life like this? The problem is, when I was in a bad way, I couldn’t even remember the good days that came before, sometimes it’s all I can remember knowing. But that’s the thing with mental illness; it simply does not discriminate. There is a stigma and a view that it should be secret, hidden, something to be ashamed of. Well I put both middle fingers up to that. It’s made me who I am today. Everyone has his or her battles in life, why should I hide mine, especially if it helps another human being? If someone can’t deal with my story then it’s not my fault they are ignorant, but ignorance is not the way to make a change.
When I started to feel like my life was getting back on track I knew I had to do something to help others like me, and what best than to share my story, all cards on the table. I’ll start by telling you that it is possible and worth it to get through. And yes, I still have to tell myself that sometimes. But that is the bottom line; being in this world with ups and downs is better than losing yourself completely to nothingness.
My personal struggles have been with depression, self-harm and EDNOS. I say have, but in reality its something I still have to battle here and there. But there are things that I’ve learnt to help myself with, and to realize life is worth living, as well as how to really live.
When things started to get bad for me I hid it, in fact it’s only in the past year that I’ve really opened up to anyone, including my family. Its amazing how much you can hide, people thought I was antisocial and grumpy. I suppose I was. I understand it must have been hard for my parents and friends to see or understand, especially when I would confine myself, but I couldn’t cope, I couldn’t face those people. Being around people was painful; I was awkward and unable to hold a conversation, I just didn’t want to be alive. At the time I was angry too, that no one could see how sick I was, and it felt like they didn’t care.
The next three years are a painful blur, sometimes I have to remind myself that I actually lived through that, and that I lived before it. Getting out of bed was hard enough, let alone getting on with day to day life; a-levels, friends, family and the rest. My grades dropped and my teachers questioned why a smart girl like me was being lazy with my work. I barely saw my friends, I didn’t see the point, I couldn’t offer anything. In fact when I was starting to have okay days one of my friends said to me; “I forgot you could be funny Elle!” I had been something before my mental illness, and, unknown to me at the time, I would be again. Although, if you had said that to me then, it would have been the only way to make me laugh.
I want to be able to tell you about a turning point in it all, some kind of light that made it all clear, but I can’t. I suppose I just felt less crap between the bad dips. I realised my self-destruction was pointless. There were people who did love me, although I refused to let myself see it most days, why not at least try? I would never be happy like that, ill, which kicked up a fight in me. Fight is what I needed, and it was the hardest thing to acquire and keep. Hard, but not impossible.
I’m not going to go into many details about the days when I was really ill, because I refuse to let it seem that I’m glamourizing what I, and many others, have been through, and still struggle with. But all in all they were bloody grim. Sometimes I get so mad at myself for wasting that amount of time, or ruining opportunities I’d had, but that’s not healthy either. If anyone relates to my words, then I would be happy to open up, one to one (my email can be requested). If that would help just one person then please do not hesitate. But I will share the things that I think helped me most in the days when things started to be a little less dark.
The main point being a support network which is the best thing for any person. Be it through support organisations, friends or family, there are people to help. When I get down and I start to hide away, my friends confront me, and it’s the slap I need to remind myself I cannot go back there. Only when I had this, did I really start to deal with things and start recovering.
Another was becoming a vegan. Yeah I’m some hippy, I get it, but I’m being serious. It made me feel healthier, inside and out. At first I became a vegan because I had made myself so ill I couldn’t eat anything else, but then when I explored it, I couldn’t go back. I was passionate about something.
For me university was a major catalyst, although for many it can be too much, for me I had nothing to lose, so I jumped and (thankfully) landed on my feet. If you too are at university, then there are people that can really help, most academic advisers are helpful and can point you in the right directions. Also communicating with lecturers means that they understand, and when you miss a seminar or are behind on notes they know why.
Joining the gym was also a great thing for me, helping raise endorphins as well as creating time out for me, to work some stress out. I know diaries to be very effective, just writing things down can make it easier to detach yourself from them and deal with them. Yoga, meditation, all those things, although cliché, are so for a reason. I’ve been described as a memory magpie, but when I’m bad I cant remember the good times, having pictures and trinkets everywhere reminds me when I need it.
Overall the things that make me realize my mental illness was worth fighting were the passions and balance I can find in life, that everyone can. I was always rushing to just get things over and done with, but actually it’s the process that is the most important part. Stop trying to be happy based on things that don’t really matter. Find people you love and find something you love, don’t stop looking, because it’s there.”
Inspired by Elle’s story? Leave a comment below!
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