Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Mental Health Awareness: Depression, Suicide And Me


I have a mental health illness – depression. Having depression is a common illness and it is also one that people find difficult to understand if they don’t have it or know someone who does. I want to blog about depression to spread awareness on mental health and to help others gain a better understanding of it. When I’ve discussed depression with other people they think about an individual feeling a bit down or severely depressed. There never seems to be a middle ground. Most people will experience depression at some point in their life, but won’t always admit it or accept it. I don’t consider myself to have depression anymore, but that I have times when I may feel a bit down but it won't stop me from living my life.

When I was severely depressed, I was in my late teens and the change in my mood was gradual. I was always shy and lacked self-esteem and self-confidence growing up, which didn’t help at the time. I didn’t have an eating disorder as such but when I was depressed I used to switch from binge eating (to make myself feel better and often sought comfort in unhealthy food) to losing my appetite altogether and would start to lose and put on weight like a yo-yo dieter. There was a period in my late teens and into my early twenties where I gained almost two stone in weight, I was at one of my lowest points in life. This may be hard to imagine for those that know me as I have a very petite/slender figure now.

As well as the physical changes to my body, emotionally I believed every critical word said to me and would internalize it. For instance, when I was racially bullied throughout my school years which was physically as well as verbally (one contributing factor to me having depression), I was told I was ugly and stupid. I honestly believed this was true, as I had no self-worth or self-belief that I was something more than this. It really saddens me to know that this was how I once thought and felt about myself because now I am different and don’t recognise that part of me anymore. It also disheartens me knowing others made me feel that way and that I, in part, allowed them to. My lack of confidence was so bad that I eventually began to tell myself that no one would love me because I was worthless, useless, ugly and stupid, and all the other nasty comments and labels I was called. I even hated my appearance and resented myself for being a different race – in fact, I wished I were purely Caucasian instead of being mixed race so that the bullying would stop! Reflecting back on this, I actually felt ashamed to be different, I was embarrassed by my cultural and ethnic roots. So much so, I rejected it for years by refusing to learn and speak my mother’s first language and fully embracing the cultural lifestyle.

I don’t remember if anyone noticed this change in my mood and personality apart from my Nan whom I used to confide to about anything and everything that bothered or upset me. She never judged but I knew she quietly worried about me. Maybe later on when I had gone to university was it more evident I was showing signs of depression to everyone else around me. I think my family was too proud and partly in denial about suspecting something was wrong. I was good at putting on a front - a happy face to hide my sadness.

It was 2005 when I had left home and moved away to another city to study and I was in a toxic relationship which happened to be my first serious one (it was also controlling and at the time thought it was real love – obviously it wasn’t). The relationship I was in made my depression worse because it wasn’t the right one for either of us. Whilst I was at university, I felt real life slipping away from me due to the stress of financially supporting myself as best as I could, the workload, a bit more bullying from other students, a family bereavement and not being focused on my studies (I didn’t really know what I wanted to do or study so just followed the crowd, like a sheep). 

The pivotal turning point in my life was when I received the news that someone close to me in my family had passed away after a long battle with cancer which became terminal. My mental state spiraled downwards and out of control. I was a hideous mess. I wasn’t coping at all and being away from home made me feel more distant from everyone than before. I can’t remember the exact date but I do remember that in January 2005, I attempted suicide. This was the first and only time.

I had taken an overdose, which at the time, I thought was the right thing to do, not for myself, but for my family and friends. I believed they would be happier and better off without me being in their lives. I believed I was a burden to them and that I wasn’t loved. Over the years, I’ve heard many individuals say that people who take their own lives or have had failed attempts are selfish for doing so. But the thing is, in that moment, that’s not what I was personally thinking about and I doubt others in my position have either. My attempted suicide was a direct result of being depressed and not understanding it and what it was and had done to me. I wasn't thinking logically or reasonably, it was quite irrational. I had originally asked for help by telling my friends how I was feeling including having suicidal thoughts but they brushed it off and didn’t believe me. They probably thought I was attention seeking. In a way I was but not for gratifying reasons. I genuinely wanted help and needed it.

The worst feeling in the world was being in a hospital bed overnight and all alone. I was extremely frightened and anxious, as I didn’t know what my family would say when they found out or if I would be in trouble. I was lucky to not have liver damage from taking such a high dosage of medication. I had to have a drip in my arm for 16 hours, as that’s how long it took to rid my body of the drugs I had taken to try to kill myself with. I cannot express the pain I felt for knowing I had caused distress and anguish in my parents. It was an emotional time and although some of my family was angry with me, in time, it helped when we could all openly talk about it.

After I left the hospital, within minutes I had decided I wanted to leave university and come home to recover and try to go back to normal life. My relationship with my then boyfriend had ended and I was left feeling isolated again. My depression got worse to the point I couldn’t get out of bed. I would sob and cry everyday until my eyes were red and puffy. I refused to eat and even when I did feel hungry, I was so low; I didn’t have the motivation or energy to get up and get food, or even wash. I had spent two weeks in my bedroom drifting in and out of sleep and crying uncontrollably. If you don’t have experience of depression, this is really difficult to explain but you cannot comprehend the pain I felt. I wanted to feel happy about life but couldn’t, and I didn’t want to face the outside world. I felt trapped in my own mind and negative state. I also felt ashamed and was in denial about my attempted suicide for a long time, years in fact.

The day I left hospital, I had been signed off as not being a threat to myself or others by the hospital psychiatrist...not a threat? I had tried to kill myself and they were letting me leave. This wasn't right and I'm hoping hospitals do more than just ask a few questions that don't particularly determine a person's mental state after doing something so drastic and dangerous to themselves?! There was a lack of support and care from the NHS at the time, please tell me it has changed and become better?

My family wanted me to get help straight away but I wasn’t ready to do so. Instead, I focused on taking time out and going to college and retraining in something else. This was the best decision I ever made for myself. Although it took me almost two years to pluck up the courage to visit my GP and talk about my problems, my parents knew not to push me and that people will only want help when it is on their terms. There was a huge sigh of relief and a weight lifted when I eventually booked a doctors appointment. This was the first day of my journey to being better mentally, physically and emotionally. When I asked the GP for a referral to see a counselor, she immediately got me in contact with a psychotherapist and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions. I attended quite a few sessions for about a year. I also did some research around mental health and read up on depression and suicide through MIND, a charity supporting and helping individuals who have a mental health issue. Their resources were invaluable to me.

Within a year of my therapy sessions ending, I was a different – new – person. I no longer viewed myself as ugly, stupid, worthless and all those other ghastly labels I believed I was. I felt like I had purpose and significance. I had 75% of my confidence back and felt stronger in myself. To this day, I am 100% ‘recovered’. I still have down days where I feel depressed but my therapy sessions taught me coping mechanisms and retrained my brain to think about things differently, turning something negative into something positive. Re-evaluating a situation as well as having positive affirmations in my life has helped a lot.

Talking openly to more family members and friends, even colleagues, has made a huge difference in that they look at me differently. With more respect somehow because of what I’ve had to overcome in my life and being so comfortable with discussing such a personal matter. We always remember the negative events in our lives and the positive ones get lost. I try everyday to find something positive to focus on and appreciate. I try my best to pass this on to anyone I meet who has had a terrible experience similar to mine. The benefit to raising mental health awareness is growing a community around you and expanding your support network. The downside to this is when people use your problems in a scrupulous way to take advantage of your weakened state. There are some people with a mental health illness that are vulnerable such as, being preyed upon by domineering partners like I was at one point.


If there’s one point I want to make it is that mental health should not be overlooked and seen as a disadvantage or used in a negative way to take advantage of others. It’s also okay to not be okay all the time.  We all have our low moments, there’s nothing wrong with that. My advice to anyone reading this who may have a mental health illness is acceptance – accept yourself as you are even if that’s a wreck, accept your problems, accept you need help, accept help when given/offered, accept the uphill battle, accept the triumphs, accept change and accept it won't happen overnight. You are all worthy of being here and my door is always open to anyone who would like to talk or get advice. Please don’t feel like there isn’t someone there to talk to, to have listened to you and know what you’re going through.

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JakiJellz
Twin Mummy and Daddy

14 comments:

  1. Well done for sharing this. It is so important to talk about these issues. I have been in therapy for anxiety and depression myself, and have blogged about suicidal thoughts myself - I really beleive the taboo needs to be broken xx

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    1. Thank you. Hopefully others will find this helpful too.

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  2. Well done for sharing such a personal post. It's so bad that people made you feel ashamed of who you are, that you felt ashamed of your cultural history. You are so right about acceptance. #TriumphantTales

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    1. It is bad, but I no longer feel ashamed and embrace my culture and celebrate it whenever possible.

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  3. Good for you for sharing this personal post. Did you find it therapeutic to write? My husband was diagnosed with depression about two and a half years ago. He had been living with it for quite some time prior to that - he wad become very hard to live with and it was me that actually suggested to him that he went to the doctors as I believed that depression was at the root of it all. He hadn't realised and so he went and so began his journey. He's not a talker so it took a long time before he spoke to anyone, but he did eventually and slowly but surely he has got better. He is no longer on anti-depressants and he does have bad days. We have a traffic light system in place! If he's having a bad day he'll tell me it's a 'red day'! It works for us - this way I know not to pester him about stuff that wouldn't normally be a problem. Thanks for linking to #TriumphantTales, we'd love to see you back next week :)

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    1. Yes, it was therapeutic to write and a big release of pent up emotion. I'm so glad you urged your husband to seek help, sometimes we dont always realise we need it. X

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  4. Thank you for sharing such a raw and personal story with us. Depression is a bitch and it sucks the joy out of life. Having suffered since I was 13 I completely get your story. The worry of how your family would react etc. You think of so many others and leave yourself last.
    Here is to the light at the end of the tunnel for both of us! I hope to see you back next week at #TriumphantTales lovely x

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    1. Oh wow, that's such a young age to have had depression. I hope you have a better way of managing if you still have 'down' days xx

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  5. Mental illness is just that an illness with the potential for recovery and there is a way out even if you/we can't see it at the time. The biggest challenge is finding the way out and the people to support you through it. The more we discuss these issues openly the easier it will be for those suffering to recover and rebuild their lives. I hope you have a great support network around you and that soon you will emerge from the tunnel with renewed hope. #ThatFridayLinky

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    1. Thank you. My support network is very big now. It has grown over the years and the more I have spoken about the subject, the more people I have found common ground with.

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  6. I don't even know what to say. My goodness, you've been through so much, but I have to say it's such an important thing to write about. Thanks for linking up to #TheFridayLinky

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    1. I think that's the general reaction I get from most people as it is such a sensitive topic. I'm glad I have given others a chance to feel something.

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  7. Thank you for sharing it's so important to share I have suffered myself with bouts of depression and it helped to write it down thank you for your honesty to some extent is it going to change oh yes! Big time. My blogging is clouding my eyes to what's important in life. I'm off now to find a sledgehammer and smash my iPhone into a million pieces. So I can find was is real in what is a very unreal blogging world.

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    1. Thank you. I'm glad my post has found common ground with others that have depression.

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