Explaining my experiences of mental health issues to those around me is something I have always found difficult. Even the most understanding of my friends and family seem to expect me to know what I am experiencing and I often get very frustrated when I can’t explain my feelings.
When I left university in the summer of 2012 I had been suffering from depression for two years. I moved back to my parent’s house which was in a very rural location. I was unemployed and felt useless as I read about my friends travelling and starting their new jobs on social media.
I developed travel anxiety, first missing a holiday due to a panic attack and then an interview for the same reason.
Every time I felt I had hit rock bottom something else happened and I fell further.
As my social isolation reached its peak, I managed to make it to Edinburgh for a holiday. I spent two weeks with my closest friends, watching comedy and having fun and it was a terrific relief to feel my normal self return. However, as the end of the holiday approached I was faced with the reality of my life back at home.
In my diary at the time I wrote:
‘Life after Edinburgh, there’s a fun thought. Life before my holiday was about making it here. Life after is going to be stewing in my own lack of self worth with no one to keep me company as I slowly lose whatever pittance of self confidence I have regained. There are people who will tell me it’s simply a matter of changing the way I think. To them I say I have been thinking this way all my life. Some people will never fully experience the idea that their life is of no worth. If you don’t think your life is worth fighting for no one can help you.
There is a great looming wall of thoughts creeping up on me from the back of my brain. I am trying to ignore it. The niggling voice telling me every sentence voiced will offend, upset, and show me for the fraud I am. Empty beyond the exterior, every action the wrong choice, nothing utilised, everything wasted.’
Three years later I still clearly remember the last two days of my holiday. I remember one walk by myself back to our rented flat where all my limbs felt numb and it took all of my concentration and will power to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. I was scared they wouldn’t be able to help.
I would go through with it but I was also scared of going home and so part of me didn’t want to be stopped. The mix of feelings was completely overwhelming and terrifying. I had no idea what to do; I only knew I wanted it all to stop.
Eventually I went and found my closest friend. I didn’t tell him what was going on because I didn’t know how to voice it but he could see how upset I was and stayed with me.
Somehow I managed to get the train home. This is where I looked up suicidal feelings on Mind’s info pages. The first thing that helped was the amount of words there that matched my own feelings, ‘hate yourself’, ‘useless’, ‘failure’, ‘confusing’, ‘great anxiety’.
It helped me to see that others had felt this. Finally someone knew what was going on with me.
The page also explained to me why I felt suicidal. I was looking to gain a feeling of control over my life which wasn’t meeting my expectations at the time. Reading that helped me to understand that my thoughts that I deserved my situation and I wouldn’t be able to change things might not be true and they might pass.
Finally the page said it was normal to find it impossible to explain how you are feeling. It also gave me a way to tell someone what I couldn’t express in my own words.
I emailed the page to my friend. Over time I became comfortable enough to speak out loud about what I had experienced and now, thanks to that initial help from Mind, I feel no shame or fear in telling friends or professionals if I am feeling suicidal and need help.