Editor’s note: This post talks openly and in some detail about depression, cutting and suicide. This post was sent to us after Q&A aired last night and for the time being, the author wishes to remain anonymous.
This week, ABC launched it’s Mental As campaign, a week dedicated to talking about mental health. Popular program Q&A last night dedicated its episode to speaking of mental health. An interesting debate happened, but one aspect was skipped over significantly: mental health concerns when it comes to the younger generation.
It’s said that younger people are more prone to experiencing depression or anxiety. There’s certain groups on Twitter and Tumblr that openly talk about their experiences. Then there’s those that dismiss younger people’s concerns because they see the ones able to talk and help others, and consider it a ‘thing’ that young people do. They bond over their mental health disorders. They talk about it with each other. And others seem to dismiss it because if your open about it, you can’t be too down right?
For every young person that is brave enough to open up and talk about their experiences, there’s another five crouched behind them too scared. It might be a repetitive, long-lasting battle. It may just be a time period of a few months when things were really really shitty.
I have friends who can openly talk about the horrible times they’ve gone through – regardless of whether it was years or months or even days. I have friends that can write about it, or tweet about it, or share their stories with the wider world. I admire them for that. And sometimes I begrudge them for that also.
Mine’s the typical story: Outwardly I’m happy. Outwardly I have everything needed that deems the success of an individual. A loving family. A stable relationship. A solid job. A bunch of friends. But I rarely talk about mental health – at least not in terms of my own experiences.
I am in no means a writer, or someone that’s good at telling their side of the story. But with a week dedicated to raising awareness on mental health issues, I felt it was time to do something, even if I don’t want my name and identity attached to it just yet.
I was 14 when I first shoved a toothbrush down my throat in a bid to throw up my dinner. 14 was also the age where I was first bullied, carrying home my school bag heavy with the stench of dried up yoghurt that spelt out the word ‘Slut.’ The people in my ‘friendship’ group did it, because what is high school without the heady rush of bullying a weaker target?
I was 14 when I kept skipping meals, sipping water and holding onto my stomach tight in class so it wouldn’t rumble. The people in my group watched me, then ate my food when I wouldn’t. But they still really didn’t bother talking to me, because I was a loser.
I was 15 when I scratched myself until I bled in the shower. All up and down my arms and legs. The scratches turned into a mess of scabs. But I didn’t care. I didn’t really care much about anything at that stage.
I was 16 when that scratching turned into cutting. And I was happy. Because I was finally in control.
I was 17 when I stared at a bunch of pills and imagined what it would be like to swallow them and not wake up. One by one, I started then stopped myself after I took about 5 because I freaked out. Don’t worry though, I later punished myself for not carrying through.
I was 19 when I first visited a doctor and said ‘Sometimes I can’t get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes I stare listlessly at walls and hours pass me by, then days pass me by and I’m so tired but I can’t sleep and I’m so so desperately unhappy.’ She barely blinked, but threw at me a prescription for anti-depressants.
I kept it in my draw beside my bed for months.
I was 20 when I started to get my life on track somewhat, but then succumbed to drinking alcohol and using it as a social lubricant. I depended on it to make me happy. I depended on it up to four or five times a week to help me have fun. I depended on it so much it turned negative and I quickly became a destructive, abusive drunk, drinking so much in one night I would barely remember anything the next day. But that’s okay, I was a party girl, all just a bit of fun right?
At 21 I vowed to stop cutting myself…it worked for a while, but then I was cyber-bullied by spiteful internet trolls. It was the only trigger I needed to relapse. For another few years.
The thing that all these years have in common, was it was (mostly) a silent battle. I talked to doctors and never went back. I ripped up prescriptions, because I wasn’t one of ‘those’ people. I listened to my friends cry over broken hearts and throw around the word ‘depressed’ so lightly, again and again. I counselled friends with more serious issues, but never once let my guard down to tell them I could relate. After all, other people have it worse off right? Some people don’t have families, or friends or jobs or money, a partner, or an education. Why should I be so down when I have all of these things?
Sometimes I got mad at people. I would get irrationally angry at the people who used the word depressed lightly. ‘I’m so depressed and stressed, uni is shit, work is shit, my partner is shit.’ I wanted to grab them, and shake them and say ‘I know you’re sad, but have you ever been so sad that you sat there in the drivers seat of the car and wondered if you should drive at full speed into that tree right in front of you? If the answer is no just SHUT THE FUCK UP.’ Then I’d get mad at myself. Because that was so hopelessly selfish. My problems were selfish. I was selfish. My depression was selfish.
And that’s what many other people suffering may still think, and why they may still be so scared to talk about it. I applaud all those people who are open I really really do. But it’s not always as simple as finding a medical cure, or one day waking up and it’s all gone away. So many stories online have a common denominator: “I was depressed but now I am okay.” In the twelve or so years from when I first realised something wasn’t wired completely right in me, I still wonder if I’ll ever really be ‘okay’ or ever really be ‘normal.’
Regardless, this is the reason I did decided to write something. It’s for all those questioning why we need a week dedicated to mental health and the answer is simple: We need to give voices to those who can’t talk. That’s why recognising mental illness is so important.
If this article has bought up any issues for you, you can contact Lifeline on 131 114. Beyond Blue and The Black Dog Institute are also a fantastic resources for you to learn more about depression, suicide and for any help you may need. Remember that you’re never alone in this.