I’ve thought long and hard about writing this piece. I’ve been in two minds whether to ‘go there’ or not.. It’s a subject I’m not entirely comfortable talking about, I wasn’t sure how to approach it and I’ve already experienced the type of response that really annoys me first hand, ‘in real life’ and I didn’t want to open myself up to that again. So I’ve been torn.
Then I thought about people’s attitudes and responses that have hurt, upset or annoyed me… Thought about why they have the attitudes they do and realised it is largely down to ignorance- that isn’t necessarily their fault though. If you don’t have any personal experiences or look in to a certain subject off your own back, how would you ever know about it? Begin to understand it? Ignorance is there because people tend not to talk about these subjects. The subjects they find distasteful or unpleasant. And so my decision was made. I wanted to write this piece. I wanted to talk about it and try to eradicate some of the ignorance.
Mental illness is still a subject people run away from. A few people I know are speaking up about their personal issues, about suffering from social anxiety and depression…. But on a wider scale, sweeping generalisations are made and I feel it is still pretty much swept under the rug. For many years it was almost considered a joke- people called crazy or a loony. Any sign of emotional weakness or fragility being placed in the same one, tiny pigeon hole.
With it being the norm to shun or ridicule those who were open and honest about having these particular illnesses, a lot of people either denied themselves proper diagnosis and treatment and lied to themselves that they were ‘fine’, or those who did acknowledge that they perhaps needed help, felt the need to hide it and keep it a secret. I totally get why they felt that way, but it is surreal that they had to! Any other illness people would feel free to talk openly about it. A cold, flu, broken limb, diabetes, heart conditions…. why do we deem it inappropriate to discuss mental health?
Mental issues are often seen as a weakness and people shy away from being open about them as they fear they will be looked upon differently. Nobody likes to display their weaknesses. The reality being that friends and loved ones I know with mental health issues are among the strongest people I know. They display courage and strength on a daily basis that most people cannot even comprehend.
I myself have battled my own demons in the past. As, I’m sure, a lot of people have. Very few of us have had ‘an easy ride’. I rarely discuss them because for one, it’s my past and doesn’t define who I am today, but also when I have been involved in a conversation that covers this topic, I hate the look on people’s faces when I do discuss things openly. That look of sympathy, the meaningful furrowed brow and rub of my arm or pat on the back. The look of pity or even shock or horror. Their embarrassment or quick change of subject. I don’t want anyone’s pity. I don’t need anyone’s sympathy. Do not judge me. Take me as you find me today, for how I treat you. An illness does not define the person.
During my teenage years I had some very dark thoughts. My mind was often a lonely place and I spent too much time dwelling on things by myself. I let a heavy heart and negative emotions overwhelm me to a frightening level. For quite a long time I felt like a freak or an outcast. I was bullied a lot in my school years for either my weight or as I got older, for how I chose to dress/ express myself and for generally just being me. I’ve been physically attacked several times, verbally abused, spat on… I felt worthless and quite often it would just become too much.
I did develop a hard exterior and pretended I didn’t care, I don’t know who I was trying to convince more- my loved ones, my tormentors or myself. ‘I could handle it.’ My handling of it, my coping mechanism, became self harm. I’m not entirely sure why or when it started, but it did. I didn’t enjoy it, the opposite. I hated it. I suppose I felt I deserved it in some way. Pretty much everyone else thought I was worthless, so maybe I was…. It was a vice, a control. A middle finger up to everyone who thought they could hurt me- try as they might, they could never hurt me or hate me as much as I could myself. It disgusts me when people make flippant comments along the lines of self harmers being freaks or pervs or doing it for attention or as a misguided fashion statement. Really!!!?? How dare you pass comments in such a heartless nature when you really have no idea what is going on in that person’s life. You have no idea what they are trying to deal with or what their breaking points are. You don’t need to have sympathy or treat anyone with kid gloves. Basic respect, human understanding and decency is all that is asked.
Fashion statement? It is a misguided preconception that only punks or goths self harm. Yes, I was a ‘punk’ but I didn’t see it as a fashion statement. That didn’t even enter my head. No one wants to have a ‘fashion statement’ of their darkest days that lasts the entirety of their life. Nobody wants to be scared forever. People from all walks of life, all different backgrounds suffer from mental health issues and have self harmed. It’s just that nobody wants to talk about it. Nobody wants that attention. I don’t. I have kept my secret for years. I kept it from my family for a long time as a teenager before they noticed. I kept it from friends and as I got older, loved ones could see my old scars but it was never commented on. Usually only assholes who thought it was OK to talk about me- rather loudly- and surmise instead of actually talking to me and getting facts, would comment.
I can’t pin point when or why I started and I can’t pin point when I stopped either. It was all during my teens. I’m rather good at blocking out a lot of memories and I struggle to remember. I don’t want to remember. I choose to forget. The one thing I can recall is trying. Every day was a struggle, self harm and my dark thoughts had a hold over me. I felt like I had to earn any sort of happiness or high point, I didn’t just deserve it. I didn’t want that kind of life for myself. I wanted to be free, I wanted to be happy and not feel guilty about it.
Yes, I did seek medical help and I was prescribed all sorts over a certain time span. But they didn’t work for me. I found them too altering and I didn’t feel ‘real’. Every person is different and heals differently. Medication works for some people, therapy for others, meditation… and sometimes self preservation and realisations are enough. As it was for me. It doesn’t matter which route is taken, as long as it works.
I know I wanted to be happy. I wanted to be able to smile and laugh and just lighten the load, without having to feel guilty about it afterwards. At the end of the day, I was still a child and I didn’t deserve such a weight on my heart. It wasn’t instant- it wasn’t like flicking a switch. It took a lot of hard work, but I got there.
Another low point for me was a few years later, around about the time of my first marriage ending. (Well, the entire time spent in my first marriage full stop. But this specific instance was at the end of the marriage) At the end it did reach it’s pinnacle and I was over loaded and very low. I was going through all sorts of turmoil. I had reached breaking point. I thought I had lost everything that I had hoped and dreamed for in my future, I couldn’t see a way out, I felt trapped and alone. I felt as though I just couldn’t do it anymore. I genuinely thought those few who did actually care about me would be better off without me. Although I did question whether anyone would actually notice if I died, I thought I could just fade away. I really thought I was doing the right thing for everyone. I was desperate, in a corner and didn’t want to be a burden to anyone. It pisses me off beyond belief when people describe suicide as ‘selfish’.
I did a tour of all of the local shops and bought the maximum amount of painkillers I could from each place over the counter. I went back to the house (it was never a home) and locked myself in my bedroom. Then I sent a text to my parents, sister and a few other loved ones, telling them I was doing OK. I was fine, I loved them very much and I’ll see them soon. I then sat and swallowed a concoction of pills, all of the pills I had bought, along with all of the pills and prescriptions I could find in the house. All swilled down with alcohol, then I fell asleep with the intention of never waking up.
I did wake up though, not entirely ‘with it’, just awake enough to remember being sick and feeling disillusioned that I had failed yet again at something else. I dismantled a safety knife I had been issued with at work and used the blade to cut my wrists. I then fell back asleep. I have no idea how long I was out for. I woke up to a pretty grim scene and felt numb. I couldn’t even begin to reassess or deal with anything. I totally shut down emotionally. I dressed my wounds, tidied myself up and rang work! -Thinking back now, it’s so surreal! I explained something had cropped up and I couldn’t attend my night shift that evening. I honestly don’t know what was going through my mind. I was on auto pilot for a very long time and didn’t even try to deal with any of my emotions or feelings, never mind my practical situation of being in the same house as my (now ex) husband, everything that came with the end of such a poisonous relationship. Finding myself alone and homeless with no clue as to what I was going to do or where I was going to go. I didn’t tell anyone. I just got up, did what I had to do, put a brave/fake face on- all smiles and chipper and then went to bed.
I did have my current husband in my life from this point and I truly believe he saved my life. He was a big turning point for me. Physically and symbolically. Again, I wanted to live, I wanted to be happy. I deserved a shot at life. I loved my husband so much, I didn’t want this kind of life for him either. Having that realisation, that I deserved something better, helped a lot.
From there, I haven’t looked back! Everyone on the planet has good and bad days. More often than not, people with mental health issues just feel the extremes of these highs and lows. So they’re above average! That’s all. A bad mood or a crap day does not automatically mean someone has an illness. And an illness does not dictate who we are either. I am my own person, as is everyone else. I do not want to be judged or thought of any differently just because I’ve gone through some tough times.
I know this blog will probably shock some of my nearest and dearest as this will all be news to them. I hope it does open a few eyes though. Who are these faceless people who have self harmed, attempted suicide, been through some immense, dark times….? People just like me. We usually just choose not to divulge such information. It’s in my past and I don’t dwell on it and it doesn’t define me as a person. But equally, I’m not ashamed of any of it either. Preconceptions, nasty attitudes and genuine ignorance makes me want to tell my story.
I don’t want a pat on the back or a congratulations for ‘getting through it’. I would, however, like for people to recognise that mental health issues can and do affect anyone and everyone. Do not be judgmental. Mental health issues are genuine illnesses. They are not a taboo. Do not be embarrassed or ashamed by any of it.
You may not want to talk about it, which is fine- especially if it’s a past you are trying to forget. Just know that you can talk, if you want to. Help is there if want it, don’t not feel ashamed in any way, shape or form. And know that there is light at the end of the tunnel, for everyone. Just because you felt a certain way yesterday, today, it does not mean you will feel that way tomorrow. Anything is possible.♥
I am a firm believer in ‘everything happens for a reason’, even the darkest of days have their purpose. I really, really believe that. After everything I’ve gone through in my life, I am extremely grateful- beyond grateful- for all that I have and all that I am today. I appreciate the little things and know exactly what value they hold. ♥ I’m happy.
With much love,
Miss Kimmy Cupcake xx