I was delighted to see the positive response I had on my previous “My Mental Health Story”. It’s great that so many people are supportive, not only of what I’m trying to do but also of the people who have been brave enough to share their stories.
Today I have another story for you. This is the story of a boy I’m calling “The Fighter”.
My mental health story is one which I feel many people may sympathise with.
I guess, it all started due to school. I was bullied every single day I was there, from day one, until the last day. I remember being teased because I was overweight, and due to being top of my class. So yes, I was the stereotypical nerdy, fat kid. But hey, when you’re five this doesn’t sink in. It wasn’t until secondary school that I noticed the impact that the bullying had on me. As I grew up, the insults got worse, the people got worse, and my mental resolve was lowered.
School was awful for me, not only because of bullying, but because the pastoral care I received was almost non-existent. As the bullying got worse, I was repeatedly having to leave classes due to my mental decline. I would have to run out of class to avoid breaking down in front of my bullies.
When I was thirteen, this reached a peak, and I would say was the beginning of my mental illness. I began cutting. Over a period of time this got worse, but I remained silent about it. I kept it to myself, not even my friends knew. It wasn’t until someone in my Spanish class saw the cuts, almost a year later, that I opened up to my closest friends.
When my friends told my Head of Year, because they were worried about me, and saw how bad my mental health had become, I agreed to enter counselling; now aged fifteen.
HOWEVER, this period of counselling was not helpful for me. The rapport between my counsellor and me was non-existent, and she proceeded to make assumptions about my person which led to my mental health decline even more. I even went to my GP, and was turned away saying my feelings were “typical teenage angst”. This made me feel worse, and as if what I was experiencing was natural, and I just couldn’t handle it – and it was me who was weak for reacting so badly to normal stressors.
When I was sixteen, I moved schools for sixth form, and had a fresh start. It was here I developed some of my closest friendships, and met some of the people who support me to this day. Moving school also provided me with increased pastoral support, and provided me access to a support worker who understood me, built the rapport I needed, and could provide me with the opportunities and coping strategies to support me in my journey.
After completing my A-Levels, I headed to university, at this point my mental health was the best it had been since I was twelve. I was in a committed relationship, had an amazing support network of friends, and was about to go and study on my dream course.
However, things went wrong, very quickly; within two months of being at university I tried to kill myself. I had just broken up with my girlfriend, and was binge drinking. If it was not for my best friend, Ben, I would have jumped off a bridge.
At this point, Ben – amongst many others – dragged me to the GP to get professional help. On meeting with my GP, I was referred to a Mental Health Institute, to gain a diagnosis of my condition, and receive any care I needed. (this was perhaps the best thing to happen to me).
After an hour of consultation, I left with an official diagnosis of Mixed Anxiety and Depressive Disorder. From gaining this diagnosis, I was prescribed Sertraline (50mg). I noticed very little change in my mental health. Alongside this, I continued binge drinking, and living an awful lifestyle, and this pushed me further down, to the point I was contemplating suicide again.
So, I went back to the GP, and upped my Sertraline prescription, to 100mg, alongside this I was prescribed a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
With the upped dosage of Sertraline, as well as a course of CBT, I was noticing a huge change in my mental health. I saw that I was breaking down less, had the motivation to do things I used to enjoy again (cricket and football), and my sleeping pattern became regular – I was sleeping eight-hours per night.
Since this point, my mental health has continued to grow. I am still taking 100mg Sertraline daily, and I notice the differences in days that I forget to take a tablet, but all in all, I am in the best place I have been since I was twelve, or thirteen. I am committed to my university course, I have hobbies again, I have a great friendship group, and am (trying) to rebuild the friendships I caused to end when I was at my worst.
For me, CBT helped me re-evaluate my perspective on the world, and the events which triggered me, as well as the anxieties I have.
I would have to say, personally, the prescription of Sertraline was the most helpful and important part of my (continuing) recovery. I’m sure the fact it boosts my serotonin production helps hugely, but I find the symbol of taking the pill helpful, it reminds me of my continual journey and recovery, and the fact that I can overcome these issues.
I’m not saying it is plain sailing, and I still have my moments where my depression or anxiety, gets the better of me; but that’s okay. I’m human, it’s healthy for me to be vulnerable and have moments where I cry and am very low – but all-in-all I am the happiest I have been in a long long time, and cannot thank my friends, and family, enough for the support they’ve given me.
The one thing I wish I had done earlier was see someone, and force through what I needed. I know when I saw my GP I was turned away, but I wish I had pushed it, and argued against them. Just because one doctor turned me away, doesn’t mean the others would have. One doctor doesn’t represent the whole of the NHS, or the entirety of the medical profession. They do care. They will help. And, they want you to be okay.
Yes, Mental Health Services are very stretched, and resources are decreasing, but those involved care, and want to help as much as they can. The services get an awful reputation, but that’s because government funding for mental illness is shocking, and only getting smaller, not because the profession doesn’t care.
So, to conclude, my one piece of advice, talk to someone professionally. Find someone who will listen, and will help. Fight for it, and don’t give up until you get it.
If you’d like to get involved, I’d love to hear your story. Please get in contact with me via Instagram, Twitter or through the contact page on this site. Together we can defeat the stigma.