The importance of support during times of need is key to tackling the stigma
I remember in first year of high school being told “one in three people will experience a mental health problem” at assembly. I remember thinking ‘well that won’t happen to me, I’m happy, I’ve got nothing to worry about.”
Sadly, as my teenage years went on, I realised I had got it very wrong – it did happen. I am the one in three who experience a mental health problem.
Suffering from poor mental health is a lonely battle.
One where you constantly drift further through the net thinking you have no-one to turn to, believing that nobody would want to help you anyway, so you never dare to ask.
I had my first experience mental ill-health when I was bullied at school for parts of my appearance, I had no control over. Combine this with confusion and concerns about my sexuality. This then led to what I would personally say was the beginning of my mental collapse.
A year later I was beginning to accept my sexuality and I had started being more open about it. It was after this my real struggles began.
Coming out to those around me was tough. People I thought would understand responded by saying “are you sure?”. It impacted every relationship I had and ultimately led to a detrimental knock at my self-confidence.
I never had much self-confidence in the first place.
Despite being always the one jumping up at parties and somehow forget the moves to the Macarena, only realising my mistake 2 seconds later and then having to navigate myself quickly back to my seat without anyone noticing – which is hard if you’re the only one on the dance floor, admittedly.
By the time I had finished my journey of accepting who I was and began starting to piece together the fallout, that little self-confidence I once had, was completely destroyed.
Having depression severely damages the very qualities that make you who you are. Something as basic as deciding what to wear to an event becomes the most impossible thing in the world.
You do not trust your own decisions and overtime because of that, you lose self-respect. You begin not to care; the world doesn’t like you, so why should you like it?
Basically, you tell the world and everything about it that it’s cancelled.
Those of you who know me will know how far my depression went and the effect it had on my day to day life. While I do not feel ready to open up about that aspect publicly, I will say that depression is not a one wave strike that you get over eventually and it never comes back.
It’s like the tide on a beach. Sometimes it’s out and you can live your life knowing that you are ok, perhaps using the time to recover some self-confidence.
However, when that tide is in, it dominates your life from just before you open your eyes in the morning, to just after you doze off at night.
There is, however, always support out there. It’s important that even in the darkest of times we know that.
When my depression got really bad recently, I entered a period of complete denial – I would not accept there was a problem because then I wouldn’t have to face it.
It was thanks to the openness of others within the YSI when my mental health was bad, that encouraged me to seek support but also due to the support, I received from several members, who are now friends - they know who they are.
You see, for the first time I was allowed to be myself around others. I wasn’t told how to act or how to respond.
My opinions where met with engagement and debate rather than dismissal and hate.
But most importantly, before I was told to “man-up” on days I was feeling down or (and this is my personal favourite) “you don’t have mental health issues, so stop acting like you do.” Whereas for once, I was allowed to develop an understanding of what was going on in my head.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I spent years in denial about the seriousness of my mental health situation. The lack of self-respect and confidence caused absolute hatred towards myself and this was combined that constant sinking feeling of emotions, where no matter how much you tried to stay afloat, you just sank deeper into a hole.
Those days where you can’t move from your own bed because the thoughts in your head are so overbearing that the function to get up and engage with the world becomes impossible.
I’ll admit, it happens far less than they did before, but I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are weeks where those days come in succession.
I know of members considering taking time away from politics to focus on themselves or even just to reduce the amount of politics they are doing.
That’s exactly what was doing this time last year.
And honestly, I’d say I’ve come back into things more engaged and raring to go than ever before.
Even just this time last year, the thought of giving up the battle with depression was luring me in but the constant support from friends and the time off gave me the chance to develop the coping mechanisms I needed to seek the real support I needed.
I have changed a lot in the space of 12 months, I have more confidence in my own abilities and this new found confidence has enabled me to explore who I am and become my true self.
My battle with depression has held me back from exploring my personality and finding out where my talents lie but now, I have started that journey I believe I will come out stronger.
More importantly though, I believe I am able to use my experiences to help other in need. Which is why I have written this blog.
I hope other people read this blog and find comfort. I hope someone gets that help they need.
I hope people let those close to them know that they love them. Because after all, sometimes, it really is only all it takes to help pull someone out of that hole.