Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of self harm, attempted suicide, and disordered eating which may be triggering to some.
“I was very young when I realized I struggled and had a lot more difficulties compared to the rest of my peers, but it wasn’t until I was 13 that I found out I actually had a mental illness, and was neurodiverse. I found it extremely hard to fit in with my peers, and was constantly on edge. I was self-aware from a young age as well, and always reached out to adults for support, rather than peers of my own age. They didn’t quite understand, or care, about the things I cared about, which made it tricky for me to understand them and be as carefree as them.
It wasn’t until I was 13 that I sought help, after my school asked me to. I came across as destructive and defiant in school. They rang my parents, and an appointment was made at the doctors, as was a referral to the children and adolescents mental health team. My doctors’ initial reaction was ‘it’s just a teenage phase, she will grow out of it,’ as he spoke to my mom. Luckily, I was still referred to the right support. At that point, my difficulties had been going on for at least eight years. School from ages 12 to 16 is what played a big role in my life. Although I had ongoing issues from a younger age, a lot more was bought up during this period of my life, including a few traumatic events that I am still working on getting past with therapy.
School life was definitely not a walk in the park for me, and not the ‘best’ years of my life either. In fact, they were probably some of the worst. The first and second years of school were the start of the bullying and cyber-bullying, and having rumors spread about about me. The bullying got worse as we got older. People pushed me, threw things at me, made comments that I was an attention-seeker. Really, I was distressed. Not long after this, I was referred to the children and mental health services, whose care I spent three years under. I have also seen a pediatrician, who diagnosed me with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Whilst under the care of the children’s mental health team, also referred to as CAMHS in the UK, I was diagnosed with anxiety and low mood. This was the start of my medication journey.
I started taking antidepressants and ADHD medicine when I was 14 years old. I was given mentors and counselors during my school years, as a way to talk about bullying and other issues in my personal life. I got a puppy when I left school, which was my best decision ever. I then went to college, but I didn’t have much interest in it. Educational systems were too much for me, they made me feel low. They were definitely not set up for people with anxiety and ADHD. While in college, I got a job looking after animals. It was nice, and I found the work environment a lot easier to be in. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long for me. I hit a major low, and was put back on antidepressants after a few months. I was then extremely ill again, and lost loads of weight. I was hardly eating, and had a fear of food,
I didn’t work for a few months. I focused on myself, and had my dog as company. She really has been the one to keep me going throughout these years, I am so blessed to have her. I swapped career paths, and went down the healthcare route, looking after adults again. After a few months, I went into another depressive episode. My antidepressant dosage was increased, and I left the job because I was sick and didn’t want to get fired. I started another job, and it was going well. I had a few days off, to begin with, and was put onto a beta-blocker for migraines. This helped my anxiety, and seemed to have really helped me in the workplace. I finally felt capable of things! Until I hit another depressive episode in the winter of 2017. I began to feel hopeless at this point. I felt things were never going to be normal, and I turned back to self-harm after not self-harming for four years. I was so tired and drained from everything, I really didn’t feel I could get through anymore.
I took myself to the hospital, and saw an on-call psychiatrist. She bought up the term ’emotional disregulation.’ I had never heard of this before, and she told my doctor to do some blood work. I didn’t return to work—I was embarrassed because of how long I was off, and was having suicidal thoughts. I started to feel better again and ready for a new job. I stayed in healthcare, and worked for a few months on night shifts. I enjoyed this, I’m a night owl, but my manager was not accommodating at all to anyone’s needs, which made my mental health deteriorate again. I left because I didn’t want to deal with the management. I was referred back to the mental health team (I’ve lost count of how many times now) and this time they changed me to another antidepressant. I stayed on it for a few months, but it didn’t help, and I was referred back to the mental health team.
They put me on the last antidepressant I ever tried. I tried it for three days. I felt horrendous with side effects, and couldn’t push through them, so decided I didn’t want to be on them anymore. I rang the mental health nurse and he said ‘I have spoken to the team, and we are going to refer you to another team for more therapy and longer-term support. It is possible you have Borderline Personality Disorder.’ I’d never heard of it before, so I did some research, and was amazed to find that it described me in almost every way. I was referred to a specialist care team for mental health, where I was then given an official diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. It was a relief to have a diagnosis, although the stigma attached to this diagnosis is awful, and it shouldn’t be. I started treatment under the longer-term mental health team, and started metallization based treatment, but then changed to dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) in October of 2019.
A few days leading up to my suicide attempt, I really didn’t see a future, and had already acted on impulsive thoughts of self-harm and other reckless behaviors. I felt so alone, and like I would never get better. I was stuck in this cycle. I didn’t plan on making it to 2020. I couldn’t cope with all the emotional pain. I pretended I was fine so no one got suspicious, I didn’t want anyone to stop me. All my thoughts were dark. I was closed off from family. I felt on edge, and was planning the right day and time. I really did think I would die for this time. I left a note for my parents that read ‘I am sorry, I can’t carry on here. It is too painful, please look after the dog and don’t do anything stupid. I love you,’ and I went about my plan as I wrote the letter.
I cried a little, and then felt angry and helpless. My parents took me to the hospital once they realized what was going on. I don’t remember much when I got there, I felt like I was in a dream and nothing was real. I received emergency treatment. I remember waking up to nurses wanting to do tests on me, and I realized how much I needed to stop putting my family through this pain. I also realized I didn’t want to leave my dog behind. I needed to work on getting through the next few hours, and work on a safety plan. I had a crisis admission during the Christmas period of last year, where I worked on building skills to help me cope with difficult thoughts and periods of crisis. I also worked with my therapist.
I am so grateful to have been able to see the difference a year can make. Last year, I didn’t think I’d even be here. This year, I’m planning a future, and celebrating Christmas. I wrote Christmas cards, and bought friends and family presents. Last year I didn’t write a single card out. Although 2020 hasn’t been an easy year for anyone, I am still here, and learning to grow in my journey. While things aren’t perfect, I am able to enjoy the little things, and no longer have suicidal tendencies. I am nine months free from acting on those impulsive thoughts and clean from self-harm. I started volunteering for a mental health crisis charity for suicide prevention. I go out with a team patrolling suicide hotspots, and answer calls from people who are feeling the way I did a year ago.
2020 has been the year I’ve really wanted to share my experiences with the internet to show things can be really difficult, but there is always hope. Things can always change. Looking back to when I was in such a dark place makes me feel so empowered, and grateful about what I have managed to achieve, let alone over all the over years I have struggled. I finally feel capable of building a life now, I am able to see a future. I am able to build a social life, and keep hold of friendships. Before this, I felt like everyone was better off without me. Volunteering has really helped me find a purpose, and getting out there to socialize and connect with new people because I was extremely isolated. The journey I have been through has really helped me be empathetic of others, and helps with my job. I plan to find more volunteering positions to help others in difficult situations. I just want to give back to the community, and really help others feel less alone in their hard times.
I started sharing my story back in 2017 on a blog after speaking to the on-call psychiatrist about keeping a diary. I decided a blog would be a nice idea, and I remained anonymous until I saw a lot of people sharing similar stories. That’s when I had the courage to just be me, and show the reality of what life can be like. I know a lot of social media can be seen as the perfect lifestyle, but I try to keep it real and show the good and the bad sides of life. I try to show what I’ve done to help myself get through a bad day. Throughout these years of dealing with difficulties, my social life has always fluctuated, making it harder for me when I am having a bad time and I feel no one is around to talk to. Last year was definitely one of those years I felt I had no one, and that I had hardly any social life and was lonely.
This year, despite the pandemic, I haven’t felt lonely or alone, and I know a lot of it comes from within yourself. I really am happy with the social life I have now. I have a good bunch of friends by my side. Of course, I have lost friends, but I try to not see it as a loss. They never put in much effort, and were letting me down, so it was more of a gain. Being let down can definitely make you feel alone or lonely. As for mental illness, there is still a huge stigma, especially for the less common ones such as borderline personality disorder. Even as mental illnesses are more frequently diagnosed, they still aren’t being de-stigmatised. People with mental illnesses are not dangerous people, of course, some people might be, but anyone could be with or without a mental illness could be. People like to label those with mental illnesses, and I think it’s important to remember everyone is different.
Over the years of my journey, I have learned a lot about myself and who I want to be. I have learned what my likes and dislikes are, I have learned how to be assertive and make boundaries, and stick to the boundaries I have made. I have learned that there are nice people in the world as for a while I really didn’t feel like there was. I realized I am actually capable of amazing things. I’m finally finally starting to build up my confidence after years of having it knocked down. I’m finally finding my place in life and finally feel able to take on new challenges and manage my difficult emotions. For years I was so afraid of having such strong emotions especially ones that can be deemed as bad but then since working with a therapist I have realized there is no such thing as a bad emotion it’s just about how we manage them and what we do with them.
Sometimes emotions can make me feel uncomfortable and overwhelmed, but I am finally learning what works for me to deal with these times of discomfort. I am still here, and wish I could go back to tell myself that things eventually get easier to manage. Emotions won’t go away, life is constantly happening, and we can’t have control over everything in our lives, as this year has proved with the pandemic, but we can work on healthy ways to manage those difficult thoughts and emotions that can come up. Difficult times don’t last forever, they might fluctuate but it is like riding a wave. You can’t stop waves but you can definitely learn how to surf. Times might get tough but eventually, they do get better despite how much it feels they never will.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hann Workman from the United Kingdom. You can follow her journey on Instagram, YouTube, and her blog. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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