[I] In aid of Mental Health Awareness Week (Jan 16-Jan 20), I have decided to reboot my article on my own experience with mental health issues. I encourage you to do the same! [/I]
A lot of people have issues. It’s a very rare occurrence when you meet someone who honestly cannot say that they’ve struggled with something in the past. The thing that separates us and turns these issues into serious problems is our incapability to deal with them.
I’ll admit, I’m not the kind of person who can shrug off an insult or ignore a snigger from a peer. If someone makes a comment on my appearance or the way I act, I will overanalyse it until I can think of nothing else, with each passing thought being worse than the last. With every joke made at my expense there is a stream of sleepless nights as I try to interpret what exactly made someone think that of me. I will never be one to understand that some things can just be jokes.
So having a self-esteem issue is common in teenagers. When it becomes all-consuming, that is when things can get out of hand. Which, I regret to say, is what happened to me.
I’ve never quite managed ‘normality’. From a young age, I would be seen as the socially awkward child, and the way that the word ‘fat’ was spat at me had me convinced that it was a swear word. Of course, it wasn’t until I reached Secondary School that I actually realised that I was being bullied. I was shocked to hear that not everyone was treated like this, and became increasingly aware that I was different in the eyes of my classmates. When I had reached the age of thirteen the conclusion hit me like a ton of bricks, and so I vowed to change. The dieting started here.
My school lunch found its way into the bottom of a bin most days through my teens, and so my not-so-affectionately-named puppy fat began to drop off. My mind became overworked with elaborate schemes on how to avoid sitting down to a meal, or how it would be best to work around the heavier foodstuffs. Well, that really is a story for another time, and can be found under another article I’ve written, if you care to take a goosy gander. To cut a long story short(…er), I became obsessed with losing weight, failing to see how much had already gone.
To put it bluntly, it was a very sad existence. Of course, trying to control something to this extent is a very time-consuming addiction, which eventually led to the worst years of my life. I became slightly depressed, my little ‘big’ problem getting in the way of everything I enjoy. And so, I turned to the one habit which caused me the greatest strife. I, like so many others, turned to self-harm.
The way I began self-harming was an odd one. I knew friends who had done it because they thought it was cool, and then there was one girl who told me that it was how some people deal with depression. She has said it so… nonchalantly that I thought nothing of it. It’s the done thing; you have a problem, you literally cut it out of your life.
Now, I didn’t jump at the idea immediately. It took some weeks, but it had played on my mind constantly. When I first did it, it hurt. It hurt soooo much. But, oddly, it was the greatest pain I’d ever encountered. It sounds a little clich and very stereotypical ‘emo’, but the moment I broke the skin was the most relieving moment of my life. And so it was for years afterwards. I don’t want to get too graphic, but it was almost exhilarating. It soon started to give me an adrenaline rush, and there it was – I was hooked. It came to the point where I did it multiple times a day, even suffering withdrawal symptoms from its absence. My concentration began to waver as it became the one and only thing I cared about, and it was almost as if I was a heroin addict, desperately looking for my next hit.
I was stuck in a cycle of terrible addictions. I had started self-harm to combat my eating disorder, but to me it was justifiable. If I wasn’t making myself sick, then all was good, right? I told myself this over and over again, but my peers weren’t quite so understanding. The bullying intensified as word got out (naturally), and the cycle deepened further. How could I possibly stop the reasons for being victimised, if they were my way of coping with being the victim? I lost many friends who, quite understandably, didn’t how to deal with it. I was quite literally all alone, flitting between my coping mechanisms.
Inevitably, I was forced to receive help. Although not entirely useful, this did lead to a painful discovery: there actually was something wrong with me. Okay, so now I’ve come to realise it’s not as much of a fault as it first appeared. Nevertheless, when the doctor suggested testing me for Asperger’s Syndrome, my entire life made terrible, terrible sense. I wasn’t paranoid after all (or completely paranoid, at least); there really was a reason for people to treat me differently. As testing began, I had to come to terms with the fact that the little everyday things that I do aren’t as average as they appear. Every time I went to the various tests, I felt a tug of emotion as I realised that I really was, as I saw it, a freak. Kids weren’t ‘just being kids’ when they made fun of me. They actually had a valid reason. Even now, it feels weird to know that the things I do and the way I think is so different to the ‘normal’ people out there.
The difference now is that I’ve come to terms with it. With my diagnosis, I have learned to overcome my barriers and get on with my life. I’ve embraced the things that make me odd, and some people have learned to love them. I still get the urge to fall into old habits, but thankfully that time has passed now. And for anyone who is going through the early stages of any of this, I’d like to advise you on one thing – please, just don’t do it. It will ruin what should be the best years of your life.
[I]Oh yes. Attached is a video of a Miss Demi Lovato, making a heartfelt confession. Personally, I am not a fan of hers, just so you know. I love Disney as much as the next kid, but I’ve never been on board the Lovato train, really. I’m telling you this to show that I’m not posting this video because she’s my idol or anything. I stumbled across it on the interweb and I really respect her for telling everyone how much she has struggled. Admitting it on here is difficult enough for me, and so I beg of you to appreciate how hard it must be to do it publically, where you can get mocked and hated all over the world. I also think that this would inspire so many young people to be a little more accommodating of teenagers who self-harm, as well as being a strong message to not do it yourself.[/I]