– an old post I wrote a long time ago, but one I’m going to share today – not everything is still applicable now, but it was at the time.
I remember being 12 or 13 driving home from somewhere with my family. I was staring out of the window zoning out until the radio began playing this song and all I could do was pay attention to it.
It was Iris, by the Goo Goo Dolls.
It’s a popular song but at 12 or 13 I’d never heard it before and so for me, this was the first time. I will never ever forget the feeling of hearing the chorus playing out through the car.
and i don’t want the world to see me
’cause i don’t think that they’d understand
I was severely depressed in my early teens and the thing that made it even worse for me was that I could never understand why. I had everything I could ever ask for – nice house, nice family, my parents were still together, I had good friends, got good grades at school…so I could never understand why I was feeling this way. Why did I hate everything, why was I so sad…so angry? Why did I cry all the time? Why did I feel so helpless and alone? I don’t know. I still don’t, it’s like the little signs had been placing themselves in my life and then one day I just woke up with full blown depression and couldn’t understand where it had come from. As a teenager I was made to believe it was just hormones, it was “just a teenage thing” – me being a moody brat because that’s just the attitude of a typical teenager. My Mum and I used to get into many fights and she would sigh over how much I’d changed – “You used to be such a lovely girl Chloe, what happened?”
I don’t know Mum, I don’t know why I’m so angry and want to kill myself and I don’t know why I cry all the time, you’ve told me I’m just being a typical teenager though so I guess that’s the answer we’ll go for.
That day in the car, I stared out of the window and silently cried on the backseat hoping no one could see, because the words “I don’t want the world to see me, ‘cause I don’t think that they’d understand” hit me like a ton of bricks and that’s when I realised something was truly wrong.
That was 7 years ago, give or take. Looking back on it now it’s probably the most helpless I’ve ever been in terms of my mental health – I was still a baby. Sure, I’ve felt low again like I did back then but I was able to understand it better because I was older at the time. Back then, I didn’t understand what was going on or why I was feeling the way I did. I had adults telling me it was just a typical teen thing and I’d grow out of it soon enough.
You don’t grow out of a mental illness.
But at the time I didn’t know better, I believed it was all my fault. It’s scary now as an adult to look back on it and see how bad things really were, I used to starve myself and cut myself and scratch myself and I didn’t sleep and I was constantly tired with puffy eyes and headaches because my brain constantly felt like it was going to explode. It’s no one’s fault, but looking back at it now it makes me angry that no one did anything. My parents did nothing because they thought I was attention seeking and that I just needed to get a grip and grow up and no one else even noticed – or if they did, they never said anything. I remember it soon became “trendy” to be depressed and have a mental illness – the sadder you were, the better. I remember seeing self harm scars on every girl’s arms I came across because apparently that was quirky…they would do anything they could to make sure their scars were on show whereas I kept mine firmly covered because you know, I wasn’t doing it for some sick trend – but no one’s interested in that story, right?
I remember having to keep my long sleeved sweatshirts on in the hottest summers while everyone else walked around in t-shirts, I remember actually having to sit an exam in the midst of summer in a hot and sweaty hall feeling like I was going to pass out because there was no way I could’ve taken my jumper off.
I remember my mum catching me trying to throw up my dinner in the toilet once and she told me to “stop being so ridiculous”.
I never got the help I needed or deserved and actually, I still haven’t. I’ve never had therapy or received any kind of treatment – I’m learning to become my own therapist, my own psychologist, that’s why I write about it so much. It’s my way of coping, it’s my way of tracking things and trying to understand myself better because God forbid if anyone else tried to help me. As a young person suffering with a mental illness, I was failed by everyone.
I remember having panic attacks in school, I’d feel the symptoms coming on and before I knew it I’d be in the middle of a panic attack not understanding what was happening to me. I remember once our school had to do individual presentations in front of everybody and I was the only person in the whole school who didn’t do it because the second I stood up at the front I went into a full blown panic attack and had to leave the room. I’ll never forget that moment. That was the worst panic attack I’ve ever had. I think if a student is physically unable to do something they shouldn’t be forced into it and yet I was, even though I’d made it very clear I didn’t want to. It’s that whole thing again of “kids being kids” and just refusing to do things because they can’t be bothered. No, I said I didn’t want to do it because I couldn’t, because I knew I would physically be unable to and guess what? I was right.
I didn’t even have time to be embarrassed about it because I was just so far gone I didn’t care, I remember walking back into the room after I’d calmed down and everyone looking genuinely concerned asking if I was okay, that’s something I’ll never forget either.
As I was having the panic attack and one of my teachers took me out of the room, I told her (for the first time out loud) that I thought I had social anxiety and needed help. She listened to me and got me an appointment with the school counsellor.
I was 16 at this point and had already been failed by any help I’d been exposed to so far in my ‘journey’, so I wasn’t expecting much. We all know the deal with school counsellors. They’re shit, basically.
I remember being terrified even so because I’d never sat down with someone before and spoke about my feelings, this was regarding the anxiety though and not the depression so even so, only half of me was being ‘treated’. I don’t remember much of that session other than the fact it was completely useless, the ‘counsellor’ handed me sheets of paper with symptoms of anxiety written on them and asked me to circle the ones that applied to me. I circled all of them.
After doing this for a few minutes we’d reached the end of the session, she reviewed the papers I’d circled and you know what she said to me?
“That’s normal. These are just symptoms of nervousness. Everyone gets nervous.”
I declined to have any further sessions with her again.
I used to walk around school like a ghost. I was pale, tired and lifeless. There were bags under my eyes and I felt like most days I wasn’t even on the planet. I’ve never told anyone this before, but my headteacher pulled me to the side once and asked what had happened to me, his exact words were “you’ve lost your sparkle”. He said I used to be such a bright student that was full of life but now the twinkle in my eyes had gone…and where was it?
He didn’t realise how much his comment would affect me, he wasn’t saying it in a negative or offensive way, he just meant it in the way of hey…where did the old Chloe go?
I shrugged and pretended I didn’t know what he was talking about, but afterwards I went into the bathroom and cried. That comment has stuck with me until this very day. I don’t know where she went, sir. I wish I knew.
Without my knowledge, one of my teachers actually rang my Mum at home one day to ask if everything was okay with me and if there was anything he could do to help, she said she didn’t know what he was talking about.
That day when I got home, I was confronted by both of my angry parents asking why I’d been telling lies to the school and why I’d been making up stories about being ill. I said I didn’t know what they were talking about, that the teacher had rang them without my knowledge but neither of them believed it. I might as well have stopped talking because they weren’t even listening at that point.
So that’s what I did. I learned to keep quiet. If I was quiet before, I was even quieter now. I suffered in silence and that’s how I lived life. No one cares, no one believes you and no one wants to hear it. I remember having breakdowns sometimes and crying out because what did I need to do in order for people to take me seriously? Did I have to attempt suicide? No one takes your depression seriously until you’ve tried to kill yourself, right? No one takes your eating disorder seriously until you look like a skeleton…what did I have to do? I had to watch everyone around me receive help whilst I sat in silence and simply looked on wondering when my day would come.
News flash, it still hasn’t. Like I said, I’ve never received help, I’ve learned to look after myself because no one else was going to do it. There was a period last year where things got to breaking point once again and at 19 years old I finally went to the doctors to ask for some help. He looked at my self harm cuts and scars without even blinking and then handed me a leaflet and sent me on my way. I felt ridiculous. I rang the number on the leaflet and they had a 3 month waiting list for counselling appointments – I was on the verge of suicide (yet again)…I couldn’t wait 3 months. On the other hand, I’d already waited 8 years so in comparison, 3 months was nothing. I put myself on the waiting list and not long afterwards I was given appointment dates and guess what? All of them were on weekdays during working hours. I’m not saying I should’ve expected anything less, but there was no way I could keep skipping work for these appointments – I couldn’t make any of them and so rang up and cancelled, they kept trying to ring me back and tell me I should definitely reconsider but I’d already heard enough at that point, things had failed yet again.
After this, I tried to keep going like I always had been, but things were getting seriously bad. I went private to pay for counselling sessions instead because I didn’t know where else to turn and guess what? That failed too! I was 20 now and thought finally, someone might take me seriously because I’m an adult. As I was paying for sessions I got to choose which counsellor I went to but none of the ones near me were available (first barrier), in the end I had to choose a counsellor that was around 40 minutes away from where I lived that could give me weekly sessions after work, which I finished at 5pm. My appointments with her were at 7pm which wasn’t ideal but I had to do it because I had no other choice and I wanted help. My parents made the long car journey to drop me off and in I went, my first session with this woman was supposed to be for over an hour and guess how long I was in there for? 15 minutes. I left the room wondering what the hell just happened and had to ring my parents again to come and pick me up even though they’d only just managed to leave the place they’d dropped me off because everywhere was so rammed with traffic. They were furious and so was I because we’d made nearly an hour’s journey to get here all for me to sit there for 15 minutes and leave. Turns out the woman was under the impression I was there for a 10 minute introductory session and not a proper session which is why I’d been in there for such a short amount of time. After feeling like another door had been slammed in my face I was seriously fed up and gave up because whatever it was, something in the Heavens did not want me to get help. It was an exhausting process and one that failed every time, I was officially done now.
Which brings me to the here and now. Hi. I’m okay. I hope you are too. I learned to become acquainted with my mental illness and the way it works, I coached and counselled myself and I fought the battles alone. I picked myself up and dried my own tears and tried to help myself as much as I could because no one else would do it, but guess what? I’m here. I’m still here. Still living and breathing and learning to do it my own way. Like I said, this is why I write so much, it’s like a little therapy session with myself. The things that I would say to a counsellor, I say to you guys instead. I write it all out and get it all down on paper and I track my progress and write about how I’m feeling and how to solve it. Even though I have an identity crisis more often than I’d like to admit, I feel like I know myself very well. I feel like I’m very self aware because I’ve literally sat and analysed myself and my feelings – the way I work and the way I react to things, I know them all. Sometimes I feel like I talk about myself in third person because I look at everything from a bird’s eye view – I’m going to react to this situation in this way because I’ve realised that’s how I cope with it so anyone within a 5 mile radius please be warned because I’m probably going to start on self destruct in 5 4 3 2 1.
There are many more stories and things that I could write here to talk about this ‘journey’ (though I won’t because otherwise this post would never end), but the main thing I want to say here (which may surprise you) is that it’s no one’s fault. This isn’t a post for me to blame people, it’s a post for me to highlight the fact that nobody knows how to deal with mental health. Nobody helped me because no one knew what to do. No one believed me and everyone blamed me. I was a young person with a good life, how could I possibly feel sad? I was a teenager and so automatically I wanted attention therefore the self harm was just a quirk and a trend I was trying to follow. I was starving myself for attention. I was making myself seem worse than I actually was in front of other people so they’d be concerned for me. None of these things are true, but I was made to believe they were. I was told they were. But now I realise that wasn’t a reflection of me, it was a reflection of the people whose mouths it was coming out of – it was their way of dealing with it. They couldn’t deal with my sadness so they blamed it on hormones, they couldn’t understand the cuts on my wrist so they blamed it on attention seeking. It’s okay. It really is. I forgive them. They didn’t know how to deal with it and neither did I, it was easier for them to label it as other things and sweep it under the rug. It’s okay. I understand now.
People need to know how to deal with mental health because it’s the main reason people suffer in silence. It’s easier that way. It’s easier to stay quiet and say nothing at all. It’s easier to smile and pretend you’re fine because no one really knows how to act otherwise. It’s easier for everyone else if you just stay quiet because you don’t want to make them uncomfortable, right? If you tell them you’re depressed they’ll just feel awkward, if you act sad it’ll make them uncomfortable…so just pretend you’re fine, it’s easier that way.
But this is so wrong. You’re the one with the mental illness yet you’re the one catering for other people and their feelings…mental health makes people uncomfortable therefore we choose to just not talk about it, it’s ridiculous. Things have to change before it’s too late. It’s already been too late for so many people…don’t allow another one to add to the list.
I hope you’re all doing okay and know that you are so loved, always. You’re a ray of light in a world full of darkness, always remember that.
All my love,