This week it is personal story time on the blog, and I have to admit it is getting harder as the week goes on. On Monday I told you about my experience with plastic surgery, yesterday I opened up about my surprise skin cancer, and today I will be talking about the most difficult topic of all …. my mental health.
It is a topic I am very passionate about but when it comes to giving the details on my own battles I always shut down. I just don’t know what to say. I am much better at giving advice to others than talking about my own experiences, but I am going to try really hard to do that today because I know it is important. It might give you some insight into who I am or it may give you some insight into someone you know who also battles mental illness. No matter what, I hope this post is insightful in some way.
The Early Years
Depression and anxiety isn’t something I was aware of as a child. I didn’t know of its existence and it was something that wasn’t mentioned in school until I had nearly finished. However, I did know that I was not a normal child. There was something different about me but I didn’t know what it was.
As a baby and toddler I was happy but difficult. My mother loves to tell people how I was such a good, quiet baby until you took me somewhere I didn’t like. I would scream my head off everytime my mother attempted to go to TAFE, but as soon as we would exit the building I would go back to being happy. It didn’t stop as I grew up, but instead of having a tantrum it would turn into fear and later anxiety.
School was never a place I enjoyed. Preschool was the only educational institute I liked and that was because there was nap time. I was never bullied in preschool or even in my first couple years of primary school, but when I was in Grade 2 we relocated to the otherside of Sydney and I went to a new school. From then on I was bullied day and night. Looking back, the bullies must have known I was a weak person long before I did because they knew just how to pick me down. It wasn’t long before I was hiding in the bathrooms during breaks or trying to find ways to get sick so I didn’t have to go to school.
I tried moving schools, changing my personality, mimicking the popular kids and anything else I could think of to stop the bullying. It didn’t work. I kept my school dramas hidden from my parents but one day the bullies chased me home and after running for my life I ended up having a panic attack as soon as I got through my front door. That opened the flood gates. My mother tried to get the school and the bullies parents to intervene but unfortunately they didn’t want to do anything about it so it just continued. The teachers would often blame me for not being a “tougher” kid and I often believed them.
Other than crying and being angry at life, I didn’t have anything else I could do. I held on to my hopes that high school would be different.
I had really high hopes for high school because I was going to a fresh new school that no one else from my primary school was attending. Surely bullies wouldn’t attend that school as well? Oh yes, they did. The bullying was the same and my reactions didn’t change except I started having darker thoughts. I went through every fad a teenager goes through, and gothic seemed to be one that worked for me for quite a while. At the heart of it all I was just severely depressed and my anxiety about being near people became so bad I would have panic attacks at the thought of going to a shopping centre. I feared going to school everyday because bullies were there, but I was too scared to wag school incase the bullies did as well. No one ever said fear was rational.
In the beginning I was a quiet depressive. I stayed in my room and never wanted to leave the house. Eminem was my best friend, I spent hours making a Geocities website and chatting on mIRC to people I had never met. I made some amazing friends on mIRC who are still my closest friends today, but they were the only ones who really made a single effort to know me. Eventually my depression couldn’t stay quiet anymore and I would cry uncontrollably for no reason. I would scream and cry all night like I was in physical pain, and most of the time my depression and anxiety would manifest into physical pain. My depression was so deep that dropping me off at a looney bin would have been the probable option.
Crying wasn’t my only symptom. In my pre-teens I started to hear the radio talk to me, and I would hear voices talking on the phone as if I hadn’t hung up properly. It was driving me insane and suicide was a constant thought nagging in my head. Luckily, I have an intense fear of pain so self-harm was something I was always too scared of. I have always said that if I didn’t have such a fear of pain I would have committed suicide 100 times by now.
At this stage I hated the way I was but it was all I knew and frankly, I was comfortable knowing that no matter what I could always hide in my bed and cry as much as I like. There was a strange comfort in that.
My Diagnosis & Treatment
My mother looked endlessly at options to help me with my struggles but we had a useless GP who didn’t give any guidance. I remember visiting a couple of psychiatrists and them asking me what drugs I wanted, to which both my mother and I were horrified. Eventually we came across a mental health clinic for adolescents that was operating at Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick, Sydney.
It didn’t take many sessions for the psychologist to diagnose me with Clinical Anxiety & Depression. I was 14 years old at the time but he said this was something I had been battling all my life, even as a very young child. It was a disease I was born with and while therapy was going to help in some respects, it would be hopeless unless I looked to medication for assistance as well. After a few more sessions he brought in a psychiatrist to look at prescribing medication. It took countless attempts and months of trials before we found a medication and dosage that worked for me, but once we did things really started to improve.
I kept going to see my psychologist right up until I was cut off by age parameters. I didn’t care too much at the time because I thought I was “cured” but on the few occasions I forgot to take my tablets or I tried to come off them I quickly reverted to my old self. It was clear that I was going to need the tablets for life but I didn’t mind, it meant I could function without bursting into tears.
I thought my childhood and adolescence was tough because of my mental health, but in comparison to my adulthood it was a walk in the park. Having had anxiety and depression my entire life, it had formed a massive part of my personality and it meant I never developed the coping mechanisms many people build throughout their life. When something goes wrong in my life I naturally turn inward and return to my depressive self. It is a natural instinct for me to assume the world is out to get me, so keeping perspective in situations that don’t go my way is harder for me than it is for most people.
Over the past few years there have been key events that have thrust me into my depression more than normal, and pulling myself out of it is impossible. However, since making the decision to abandon the life I knew and try start something for myself, ThePlasticDiaries.com, I have never been more content.
My mental health problems have taught me a lot of lessons and I do wonder what kind of person I would be if I never had an illness. I like to now look back on my issues as a badge of honour. I have no doubt it helped make me the tough, go-getter I am today but I am also aware that it is the thing constantly pulling me back, stopping me from progressing. I feel like my brain is always being pulled in two different directions, and the crazy side is pulling harder!
While I may not have the same level of depression currently as I have in the past, I do have the anxiety and it takes all my strength to make the decision to get up everyday and try to live a life. For me, my depression has always been a bit of a security blanket. Something to hide behind when things get tough. It is very hard to not slip into that at every challenge but I am trying to grow as a person and I will fight for as long as I have the energy.
It only occurred to me a couple of years ago that throughout my entire life there have been few things that always put a smile on my face. My dogs and animals in general are one, and beauty products/treatments are another. I am vain, I do like to care for my looks, but beyond that, the unboxing of a new lipstick or the touch of a new foundation brush always puts a big cheesy grin on my face. I know a few of you feel that same emotion but I guess for me it is about finding happiness wherever I can because finding darkness is much easier for me.
Has mental health affected you or someone you know? Is there something in your life you battle with each day? Let me know by commenting below!
Click to read the next chapter in my mental health story.
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