Now despite the fact that mental illness is so wide reaching, there is still too much shame and fear put into the words, so I am going to do my bit in demystifying mental illness by playing host to people who want to tell their side of the mental health story. To get things started, I thought it would be best if I told my story first, to get the spirit of sharing going. So welcome all to the first Spotlight on Mental Health.
So I was diagnosed with depression over ten years ago now. It shouldn't have come as a shock to me considering I come from a family with a very long history of mental illness, but it still scared the hell out of me when the doctor confirmed my mum's suspicions. I had no idea that mum had been suspicious for months. Apparently it isn't normal to lock yourself in the bedroom for 18 hours a day and sleep for most of that. Who knew?
But it wasn't the constant sleep and withdrawing from everyone that pushed mum over the edge, it was the fact that I started cutting my wrists that forced her to drag me to the doctors. At the time I didn't realise exactly much I had changed over the past six months until the doctor started asking questions. That's when I started thinking about how I had been spending my life since leaving school. I had decided not to go on to university or TAFE and had gotten a job, but I didn't do anything apart from work and sleep. I had no desire to spend time with friends, or participate in any of my normal hobbies, or do anything other than sleep. I didn't feel sad or angry or anything except numb. And when things got too stressful I cut myself just to feel something.
Now I figured that the doctor had to be wrong about me. I wasn't depressed, I was just tired. Depressed people go around crying and yelling and talking to themselves all day. I just needed fifteen hours of sleep a night. As for the cutting thing, I just needed a way to relieve stress, it was no indication that I was ill. But with him and my mum both agreeing that I needed to start taking medication I quietly agreed and started taking anti-depressants. It took about two weeks for the meds to start doing their thing, and slowly I started coming out of my bedroom and interacting with the world around me again. And that's when I had to face my family.
What I hadn't realised at the time was that mental illness doesn't just affect the individual, it affects everyone in their life. I had a lot of angry, hurt and confused family members (some of them just children), and a lot of damaged relationships that I had to work very hard to repair. I think it took mum a long time to trust that I wasn't going to do anything stupid again, especially as for the next eight years, I kept doing stupid things. I hurt myself over and over again in various ways, I made terrible decisions about who I would date, or sleep with, or hang out with, and I kept trying to self destruct. Luckily for me my mum is an incredibly understanding and loving woman who could see that I needed help, and was always there for me. The same goes for the rest of my family. I truly believe I wouldn't be as OK as I am today if it wasn't for them.
And I am OK. I'm not completely cured, and I probably never will be. This is something that I am going to have to live with for the rest of my life, but because it has been ten years now I finally have it to a point where it is controlled. I take my medications, I talk to my family, I remind myself that I am incredibly lucky to be where I am and I never take the good days for granted. And I write. This blog has been the cheapest therapy I have ever had, and you guys are the best counsellors too.
So that's my story. It is far from over, I still have bad days where I can't even force myself to clean the house, but I am prepared for that now, and I know how to deal with it. But mine is just one of millions and millions of stories, so over the coming weeks, I am going to have some very special guests come along and share their stories with you as well. The first one is coming up next Wednesday and it will be from a lovely lady Becc, from Take Charge Now, so be on the lookout for that next week.
I'd like to finish by extending an open invitation to any of my readers out there who have a story to tell on mental illness, either as a patient, or as a family member of someone who has a mental illness, to get into touch with me, either through the contact me button at the top of this page, or through my Facebook or Twitter pages. The only way we can remove the negative is by speaking out.