Mental illnesses are not always visible. You may never know when somebody is fighting a silent battle.
In 2012, I first got diagnosed with depression in the winter, but I overlooked it and underestimated how bad I actually was. I had finished high school that summer, and was 16 years old. I had always been the type of person to keep things to myself, but never in my life had I ever felt as alone as I did in those months. I couldn’t sleep one night and became an insomniac extremely fast, and within the blink of an eye, days were flying by and I hadn’t moved out of my bed. I would sit up writing songs and stories all night and sleep all day, and sometimes I would even forget that I had school or other responsibilities to attend to.
When I faced the reality, my anxiety would suddenly flare up and it was too much to cope with. So again, I’d sleep all day and stay awake all night. Eventually it became such a routine I would become numb to it, and slowly started becoming my own worst enemy. It was as if I was trapped inside my bedroom, and if I ventured out of my room, it was the scariest thing. Eventually, I would go back in my shell, and continue to suffer in silence, and act like everything was OK to my parents, my friends, and my family.
As the year progressed and summer approached, I became less numb, and started trying to participate on my own terms, but my anxiety had gotten so bad that I would be forever pulling myself out of social situations or turning up to school late with an excuse. It would take me so long to even contemplate getting on the bus that I’d run back to my house and ring for a taxi. I think I kept the local taxi company in business over my two years at school with the amount of money I gave them.
This went on for several months. I remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking that this would never end. Once I’d pulled myself out of feeling low, I’d experience getting happy, and hyper, and then my anxiety would kick in and pull me straight back down. I wanted so badly to get involved in social situations, yet, for some reason, I’d be in a crowded room full of people and feel like if I sank into the ground then and there, nobody would care, or notice.
By 2014, things got a lot worse. I started experiencing severe depression, mood swings and anxiety. I was numb, I was happy, I was sad, I was lonely, I was hyper. I was never content. I was anxious, I was insecure, I felt insane, and I had built a wall up so high that nobody could ever climb over to see what was going on.
I was forever a picture for people to see, and drew my smile on every single day. But the person behind that picture was completely different. I knew how much everything was shaking, and I couldn’t hold it together anymore. It killed me inside that nobody would ever know what I was really like. I was screaming and nobody knew.
I could finally see cracks everywhere around me. I was meeting up with new friends, old friends, and instead of being bubbly and chatty, I was nervous and confused, I was anxious and could constantly feel a voice inside my head screaming that I would never fit in with anybody, nobody would ever like me, or love me, and who was I to be worth something? I’d have regular panic attacks, and couldn’t bring myself to even be in social situations, or sit for longer than a few hours without my cracks starting to show.
Crowds, new people, new situations, everything and anything would bring on my anxiety, and I realized I was so different from the person I was two years before. I couldn’t even recognize myself anymore. I felt weird, abnormal, crazy, and strange, and I hated myself. I just wanted to be ‘normal’ again.
Eventually I cracked the week before my 18th birthday. I realized I was forever in fear of myself, yet I was the only person who could save me. I remember sitting down with my tutor and bursting out into a million tears asking why do I felt like this, and “out of all the people you come across every day, why me?”
I spoke to my parents, and saw a doctor. The first thing to be ruled out was bipolar disorder, then the second was to then find out what was wrong, and third was to start super-gluing me back together. This all, unfortunately, happened during the week of my birthday, which was extremely hard.
I went for a mental health assessment—which wasn’t fun—and I was assured I wasn’t ‘insane’ or ‘crazy.’ I was a ‘nice young girl with a few weights that needed lifting.’ My doctor then said that I had anxiety, social anxiety, and depression, and I can be given help for all of these disorders.
I was given medication and an appointment to see a counselor. I was assured that many girls, boys, men, and women suffer like this. Many, like me, suffer in silence. One girl’s depression was so bad, he told me, that she wished she had a terminal illness so that the decision of dying was taken out of her hands.
That’s when it hit me: life shouldn’t feel like this. I realized at that moment, I had made the right decision seeking help. I could have found myself battling alone for two more years, and I don’t think I could have coped with that.
Unlike a broken bone, where you have a cast on, and everybody can see it’s broken, you cannot see a mental illness. Nobody can ever see what’s going on in your brain, or the chemical imbalance that causes depression. Nobody can see how broken you are on the inside, and that is why people break their skin on the outside, to show how they are feeling on the inside. But nobody should ever suffer in silence.
People should speak and be heard. I suffered in silence for two years, and looking at the progression of a 16-year-old to an 18-year-old, it’s hard to know the fight could have been much different if I’d have found help earlier.
Depression is not just feeling sad for a couple of days, it is a long battle, and if you feel like you are suffering, please seek help. You are never alone. And no matter what you may think to yourself late at night, you are worth something.
I will always battle with depression and anxiety. It is a part of me now and I am starting to learn to control it. I am starting to knock that brick wall down. I’m letting in some light and I can finally see hope. I believe I can finally achieve my goals in life. I’m only 18, so the whole world is open for me.
In fact, I recently had the words “mind over matter” tattooed on the inside of my arm. My mom always used the saying as a comfort blanket to me in my darkest times, and my parents were my rocks when I opened up to them, as was my boyfriend. They’re my best friends.
You can get over this situation, and the next one, and the next one. You are strong. Put your mind over matter. It’s never as bad as it seems. But don’t suffer in silence.
Jessica Foy is an 18-year-old dreamer from England who enjoys writing, watching films, playing the guitar, and kittens. You can follow her on @jessicafoy4 or view her blog here.