As the title would suggest, this isn't going to be a particularly happy post, nor is it going to be about crochet or cooking. But after reading some incredible stories where people have talked about depression and self-esteem issues, I've decided to "come clean" and finally tell my story. To talk about things I've not really talked about before. Any kind of mental health issue has such a stigma attached to it, and the only way to get rid of that stigma is to talk about it. To show that it's not because a person is weak, or unable to cope with the realities of life, but because sometimes people get sick. Sometimes the illness is physical, sometimes the illness is mental. They should both be treated with the same sympathy and support.
At the age of 9, my family moved from South Africa to England. Within the space of a year I’d moved school twice. From a situation where I’d never seen bullying, let alone experienced it, I was bullied at the two primary schools I went to. Both of those times it was by people who pretended to be my friends first. My parents started arguing a lot, quite often I was the catalyst as my father would see my mother shouting at me and intervene. After one of these times, my mother informed me that if my parents ever divorced, it would be my fault. Until I was 14 years old, I didn’t have a true friend, one I could confide in and trust.
My self esteem at this time amounted to nothing. I hated myself and I wanted to die. I truly believed that my mother was right; I was the bad egg in my family, the person who caused all the problems and didn’t belong. This, it seems, was confirmed by the bullying. It must be my fault that the other children are treating me that way, some defect in my personality. I used to sob myself to sleep, praying to God to let me die. I fantasised about the best way to kill myself. Throwing myself down the stairs would more than likely just lead to serious injuries, all the other ways would have been too messy, unlikely to succeed and traumatise others. I felt like there was this constant weight on my chest, pushing down on me, this constant lump I couldn’t shift.
For four years I was like this. No one knew, because I didn’t tell them. They thought I was going through what all teenagers go through. I was very good at hiding it. My father told me I was teased, not bullied, and when I told my aunt I think I was depressed at 9, she retorted that 9 year olds don’t get depressed. I’ve been told I was just sad. But I know now I was. Not seriously depressed, but mild to moderately.
I still have moments where I feel the weight coming back. It happens when change occurs, or when something isn’t quite right in my life and I’m too scared to change it because I’m worried I’ll fail. I still have times when I feel worthless, undeserving of love and friendship. I’m terrified of failure. And I’m still very, very good at hiding my internal struggle so that others around me don’t know what’s happening. I shut the world away, stop talking to friends as much, stop going online as much. I try my best to disappear.
But now I realise what’s happening. I realise the internal voice is lying: that I’m not worthless and undeserving. I remember that the weight, the feeling that I need to shut the world away will go away. Depression lies. It says you deserve the pain. It tells you that you are worthless and you will never be happy. I am trying to let other’s know when I’m feeling this way, although it is difficult as I hate feeling like a burden. I try not to shut people out. And eventually the feelings lift and I am happy again. I realise I don’t deserve the pain, that it’s ok to love and be loved. Unfortunately I still have the self esteem issues, but I’m trying to work them through. I want so desperately to succeed, and I’m the only person holding me back.
Only one friend has heard the full story of the internal struggle I had. I screamed at them, when I was 6,000 miles away and they told me they’d thought of driving into a brick wall on the way back from work, I screamed at them to please get help. This person did not understand that I knew the pain they were going through. When I told them it will get better, they didn’t believe me until I told them why I knew it would get better. I’m an optimist and so often people think I have an irrationally rosy view of the world. I am a “sun will come out tomorrow” kind of person (although not that sickly sweet…). Not because I’ve never been in that dark tunnel full of mental pain. But because I’ve been there, I got to the other side. I know that no matter how long that tunnel is, all tunnels have to end eventually.