Then… And Now.

First of all, my apologies. This was going to be a two part post, with the first part to be posted yesterday. However, I didn’t get a chance to finish writing the first part yesterday, so I’ve decided to tie them both into one post. As today is World Mental Health Day, I think posting this today is especially appropriate.

This is then… And now.

My experience with mental illness began at the age of 7.

It was at this time when I first began to engage in philosophical thought, to the detriment of the belief system I was raised in. I began to realise that there was a possibility that God did not exist, or if he did, that he enjoyed making people miserable for his own enjoyment. I didn’t feel safe expressing my views to my family, or to anyone else. I felt trapped. I felt that no one cared, about me or my thoughts. And if they didn’t care, then maybe I just wasn’t that important.

From that point on, depression had me in it’s shadowy depths. When these kinds of thoughts begin, they continue to pull you in, deeper and deeper until you can’t escape. Some days you’re able to pull yourself together enough to get things done, to make people believe that you are fine. Some days you can actually see the sunlight peaking through the cracks in the shadows.

Other days, you’re barely able to do anything except retreat into yourself in an attempt to conserve what little energy you have and wonder why you even bother when it feels like no one gives a damn, not even you.

My first suicide attempt was at the age of 8.

I’d snuck into the kitchen by myself and taken a knife from the knife board. I had every intention to use it on myself, but I was lucky. I was lucky in that, at that moment, a single ray of sunlight found it’s way through and one thought filled my mind: There must be something else.

I’ve always had a good imagination and been creative, most of the time it had gone to use in expressing my cocktail of negative, positive and numbed feelings through writing and the performance arts (which helped me keep others believing the happy external mask I had up). This time, however, it began to imagine what else there might be. The things it brought up ended up being enough to convince me to put the knife back.

Over the years, I was still depressed, with it getting better and worse alternately and I attempted to take my life several more times, sometimes not going through with it (with the stove lighter and knife) and sometimes getting half way through (plastic bags and trying to keep my breath held both in and out of water), but each time, that thought managed to find it’s way in. It saved me from doing any permanent damage to myself and needing to be hospitalised.

I journaled about my life, documenting both the positive and negative experiences alike and the process of it helped me to celebrate the times I was feeling better and pull through the times when I wasn’t sure how much more I could take.

When I was 15, I met a new friend which, for the first time, I felt that I could trust with more than the external mask I wore. I let him in and revealed the darker inner working of my mind on depression. I allowed myself to trust, to stand and dance in the rain, to cry and to laugh, when previously I hadn’t dared to. It was the first time since depression had taken residence in my mind that I truly began to believe that everything could have the potential to turn out okay. It was no longer just a thought to keep me alive, but a thought to make me want to live.

It was around that time that the anxiety and OCD came into the picture. What was just a simple case of someone attempting to break into my locker in the 10th grade became a full on fear of losing things. I began to repetitively check that my locker padlock was properly done up, which then turned into checking the front and back doors of my parents house, which turned into checking my car doors when I got my P Plates.

They’re still in the picture today. It takes long routines of repetitive checking to convince my mind that things are shut, locked and off, so that the anxiety doesn’t raise it’s ugly head and feed my mind constant thoughts of worry and trigger panic attacks. However, depression doesn’t come around much anymore and suicide has left the picture completely. My life has changed so much for the better that I find it hard to stomach the idea that it was ever an option in my mind.

That mental image of what could be when I was at my lowest, darkest points in my life have become my reality. Not everything is the same of course, but I’m happy. I’m finally enjoying life and I know what I want and need from it. When something feels out of alignment, I take action to fix that. I find peace in being alone and have people in my life that make me feel important and wanted. My relationship with my parents that the depression did damage to has been repaired.

As for the anxiety and OCD? Well, they’re things that are out of alignment that I’m taking action to fix at my own pace. Rushing these things can make them worse, but moving at a pace that works for you helps immensely. As long as you are taking steps towards healing and happiness, it doesn’t matter how big those steps are.

Writing and creating have been so important in helping me reach this state of mind and life. It is my hope that being brave and vulnerable in sharing a part of my life that none but one other has ever known about will help others to be brave and vulnerable in reaching out to those around them for support and friendship.

Be Brave. Be Vulnerable.

Who knows? Maybe, just maybe, you might inspire someone you know to do the same.

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