From Suicide to Student - My Mental Health Journey
Three years ago, I wanted to die. Every moment of every day was filled with this compulsion to slit my wrists, or walk out in front of a car, or to jump on the railway. Knowing I couldn’t swim, I was even tempted by a long walk off the pier. Every moment was filled by a lack of meaning and a morbid curiosity about what death would feel like. It was a dark time.
Winding It Back a Little
I was diagnosed with Depression and what I would later find out is called Generalised Anxiety Disorder when I was 16 years old. Looking back, it was likely triggered by a number of deaths in my family and friends over a short period of time, mixed with confusion about my sexuality and stress at home and school.
At the time, the done thing was to put you on an SSRI, hope you didn’t get too bad symptoms, and put you back into the world. Needless to say, this wasn’t a good strategy.
For the next 8-9 years, I stumbled through life with these two demons on my shoulders. One always making me aware of what I’d done, and the other of what I could have done. I processed multiple outcomes for every conceivable decision and often replayed conversations and interactions in my head, determined that I’d fucked up in some way.
Work was always one way I had to delay the feelings, but only for so long. By the summer of 2013, when I was working in London and commuting everyday, I was getting physical symptoms of my anxiety. Manifest as a strange feeling in my head and down my left arm. Something that, though much rarer, happens to this day when I’m particularly anxious.
At that point, I decided to take a short break from working set hours, and went freelance. This helped with the anxiety of travel and having to work every day, but did mean a drop in income as I learned the ropes.
When I moved to Barcelona, in February 2014, I started a new life. And for a while, my anxiety and depression were left behind. Until, that is, I had to freelance again.
After a very successful first year, my second year was terrible, and the financial stress triggered something. I was again depressed and anxious, to the point where I couldn’t work properly and ended up moving back home to the UK with my parents.
It was this admission of defeat. This “huge step backwards” that lead to the suicidal thoughts for the first 9-10 months of 2016.
Midway into 2016, I was introduced by my GP to an organisation called Insight. Specialising in Mental Health, they operate NHS-supplies Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in the South East of England.
It was during this therapy that I learned to understand my Anxiety and Depression, see that I wasn’t the only one suffering, understand what was normal and what was not, and learned tools that would help me.
These tools included:
- Breathing Exercises
At the time, I was not on medication, and found that these tools greatly helped with my mental wellbeing day-to-day.
It was also during this time that I realised the damage Facebook was doing to my mental health, so I archived my account so that I couldn’t access it. This is something I do whenever the work I’m doing doesn’t require Facebook.
My Mental Health in 2019
Skip forward to today, and it has been two years since my therapy ended. And two years since I started again on medication.
Whilst the CBT was able to greatly reduce my depression, my anxiety was still a monster to deal with, and still is to this day.
I’ve currently worked myself into a routine - whether for better or worse - that looks like this:
Monday: College Tuesday: College Wednesday: Rest (Socialise in Evening) Thursday: Work Friday: Rest + Self Improvement Saturday: Rest Sunday: Work
This changes when bigger projects are on, like my recent work with the Friends of the Leas Pavilion, to a stage where I’m working a more “normal” week, but after those projects end, I’m back to the above.
I still suffer from the occasional anxiety attack. I still feel a little low about the situation I’m currently in. And I think there is always a little morbid curiosity in each of our minds. But, overall, I’m in a way better place now than I was in 2016 or 2007. And I’m constantly looking for ways to make the next 12 years even better for me and my brain.