Not everyone knows this about me, but there was a time in my life where I did not speak- I only wrote things down on little scraps on paper. I rarely left the house, and some days I could not get out of bed. I remember lying face down, feeling my breath on the sheets and wishing my lungs could stop being filled with air. It pained me to be aware of my breathing, because all I wanted was to die.
I saw life through a lens of anguish and despondency. Every day was steeped in dread. It was not surprising then, that I could barely look people in the eye. I would sit in lectures at university with the thought ‘I hate myself. I don’t want to be alive.’ playing endlessly in my head – over and over and over. I was consumed by my belief in my own wretchedness. I was incapable of feeling anything positive. The sounds of other people talking and laughing around me were alien.
‘Depression made me feel sub-human.’
When I skyped my mum from my student room I broke down and told her how I was dying inside, and that it wouldn’t be long before it became a reality. I believed my mind and soul were slowly rotting within me. I viewed myself with utter abjection. Time crawled by so slowly, as if to intensify the hell I was living in to the most excruciating and harrowing degree possible. I wanted to be unchained from myself, the world, and the torment I couldn’t escape.
Somehow, in spite of everything going on in my head, I endured these cavernous depths of depression, and- most crucially- managed to navigate my way through the darkness when all the lights were out. Though I sometimes think I haven’t achieved much, when I reflect on this I cannot believe how far I have come; just to be sitting here today, typing this out and looking forward to the life I have ahead of me.
The strength, gratitude and pleasure I feel I will never take for granted. They are so wonderful to me. I consider myself lucky to be able to experience feelings such as joy and contentment, and to know what it is like to wake up with an eagerness and curiosity for life. I didn’t know these things could exist for someone like myself: someone who felt defined and shackled by their mental illness. If I have learnt anything from this, it is that even the most unbearable pain will eventually pass.
These days my aim is to help other people manage their own mental health and to find their own sense of wellbeing – whatever that means to them. I think everyone deserves the chance to live as fully as possible, but that means we need to start being more open and having honest conversations. I believe that the mind is the most powerful tool we have; for it rouses our emotions, controls our behaviour, and has the infinite potential to develop, grow and change. Resolve, courage, knowledge and self-awareness are the keys to unlocking it. Where you go from there is up to you.
.. And most importantly: When all else seems bleak or hopeless, never give up on yourself. Hope can be always restored, even after years of being lost.
I like to feel the orange peel.
Today I slipped up. Fell flat on my face.
But tomorrow I’ll be up and get back in the race.
We only live once
So make the most of each day
For time can’t bring back
A lost chance swept away
The gold leaves on the street. The rose-blush of my lips. The siren red in the sky.