“‘You look fine!’ ‘What’s wrong now?’ ‘You’ve got nothing to be sad about!’ These were just some of the things I used to hear when I was at my lowest. I didn’t have the energy to explain what was going on inside my head to them, nor did I want to open up for fear of being judged.
My mental health journey started in high school. I made friends with a new girl at my school, but it quickly turned sour. She began to exclude me. She’d talk about me behind my back. She’d pretend to be my friend and then the next minute, she would be horrible to me. I was confused. I was shy. I didn’t have a voice back then. ‘Why doesn’t she like me? What have I done wrong?’ I was always blaming myself.
Standing in my bedroom, an hour before school, my mom questioned why I hadn’t left to get the school bus. ‘I can’t go to school today,’ 15-year-old Vicky said nervously. My mom didn’t want me to throw my education away because of one girl. In hindsight, I realize going to school was the best thing in order for me to do well in my exams. However, at the time, it felt very different. Anxiety took over. I remember standing there with tissue in my hands, ripping it up into tiny pieces to distract myself. The tears came. My heart was racing. How could I possibly go to school knowing I had no friends?
All the good memories of school had vanished. I was now alone, no-one liked me, and I had no sense of belonging at all. I was a very lost teenager in a very big world. It was a difficult place to be in. I didn’t understand how I felt; I didn’t understand I was anxious or depressed. Mental health was simply not spoken about, and I felt like I was the only one going through this. I thought I was different.
I decided to go to college. I couldn’t wait to leave school. College was my fresh start to make new friends and fit in, which I did. But I quickly realized that didn’t solve my problems. I decided enough was enough, and I went to the GP for help. They diagnosed me with anxiety and depression and sent me on my way with anti-depressants.
Every time my head was in a negative space, I’d immediately search ‘anxiety/depression symptoms’ just to make myself feel valid for experiencing those emotions. I ended up missing a lot of college, due to heightened anxiety and panic attacks. I would stay around my ex-boyfriend’s house and tell my mom I was at college. I was so scared of disappointing her, but I was also equally scared of having a panic attack at college. This then impacted him, as he was also missing a lot of college to look after me. In the end, I was forced to go back. I spoke to the teachers and explained what I was going through. However, I had very little support and instead, I was placed on report for my attendance.
I guess I have never felt ‘ill enough’ due to the limited support I received. I used to want to be admitted to a hospital so people could see how much I was struggling. However, I now know that wouldn’t have been the right thing to do.
Fast forward to now, I am 25 years old and I am still learning to manage my mental health. I’ve found it has impacted my current relationship a lot, but I am lucky my boyfriend has the patience of a saint. I have found the last 5 years I have been experiencing a lot more anger issues and rapid mood changes, rather than depression. I still struggle with anxiety. However, I am now on medication again, which has worked wonders for me. During the summer months, I was referred for a 6 week long CBT therapy course. It has provided me with some amazing techniques in order to reduce my anxiety alongside medication. I have also (finally) been referred to my local mental health team for further assessments into my rapid mood changes, and to support me with that.
I began my mental health Instagram initially as a way of expressing how I feel. I then began to gain more followers, and I started connecting with other accounts. A lot of these accounts were very triggering for me at the time. They were promoting EDs, weren’t putting trigger warnings on their posts, and were sharing unnecessary pictures, which all made me feel like I wasn’t ill enough. It was a dangerous place to be.
I decided it was time to show my face on my account and write about some more positive thoughts instead of all the depressing quotes I was sharing. I unfollowed all the accounts that didn’t benefit me. Since then, as my account has slowly grown within the mental health community, it has given me the confidence to share my story. I want to share my experiences with others so they have someone to relate to. The 15-year-old Vicky would have loved to have had someone to relate to back then and been able to express how she was feeling to someone who had been through a similar situation.
My page is now full of informative, positive, and honest posts. I try hard to document my low points in my journey, as recovery is not linear.
I am slowly but surely getting there. Mental illnesses can be draining. Many people may not notice you’re struggling, as they are invisible illnesses, but this does not mean you are any less valid. Even if you have poor mental health but no diagnosis, you are still valid too. Whatever you feel is valid.
I am so grateful for my friends and family for always supporting me, but especially to everyone I have met through my mental health Instagram account. I have met people that have similar struggles. I have met people who are so supportive and can understand exactly how I feel, and I’ve experienced a real sense of belonging.
My advice for anyone struggling would be to keep going, find your voice, and fight for what you need. If you’re not getting the support you need, fight for it. Never feel like you deserve anything less. If anyone is struggling right now, here are some reminders for you:
There are people you haven’t met yet, places you haven’t been, and foods you haven’t tasted.
You are allowed to be happy while struggling.
You have survived 100% of your bad days.
Your mental health is more important than anything. Don’t feel guilty for prioritizing yourself.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Vicky. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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